Japanese Kintsugi translates to “golden joinery,” and can also be called Kintsukuroi, which translates to “golden repair.” It is a traditional artistic method of repairing broken pottery by rejoining the pieces with gold-dusted lacquer. Kintsugi’s beginnings aren’t entirely known, but it is believed to have started in the 15th century and become a commonplace technique by the 17th century. A widely popular legend has it that the art form was invented when a Japanese shogun, an ancient military position, named Ashikaga Yoshimasa, broke his favorite piece of pottery. He then sent it out to be fixed. When the mended item was returned to him, he was saddened to see that it was put back together with unattractive metal staples. Dissatisfied with this result, he consulted some local craftsmen who invented a new solution to replace the crude stapled look – Kintsugi!
The theory behind the art is that an object can still have meaning and life after breaking. Moreover, the object breaking is not something to be concealed; rather, it should be highlighted, for it is a part of its history. The art form aims to highlight these scars instead of erase their existence. The idea behind Kintsugi integrates a few Japanese philosophies like wabi-sabi, which embraces and celebrates flaws and imperfections. Then there is mushin, which teaches us to accept change and fate. Kintsugi also incorporates mottaini, which focuses on the feeling of regret brought on when something is wasted or not used to its fullest. Gaman refers to practicing endurance and perseverance in the face of something that feels unbearable.
Kintsugi results in an incredibly elegant pattern; the pottery is crisscrossed with striking gold lines, almost like lightning bolts. There are three main styles of Kintsugi. The first is called “Crack,” which entails using gold dust lacquer or resin to re-attach the broken pieces like a puzzle with few fill-ins for missing pieces. This is the most commonplace version of Kintsugi. The second is called “Piece Method,” where whole gaps that are left over from missing fragments are filled with lacquer, leaving bigger areas of continuous gold. The third is called “Joint-Call,” where gaps from missing original fragments are filled in with similarly shaped fragments from totally different pieces of broken pottery, creating a collaged look. All three forms of this art form breathe new life into an item that many might assume has reached the end of its life. Instead, the breakage is incorporated into the piece, making it unique and more valuable.
Kintsugi is alive and well today; Japanese artists Tomomi Kamoshita and Yee Sookyung use Kintsugi methods in their ceramic pieces like earrings, chopstick holders, and trays. It is also a very prevalent therapeutic and cathartic art form because it is an example of how something that may seem damaged can still be made beautiful again. No one event, like pottery breaking, has to define the piece’s entire story or history. Instead, like in life, Kintsugi demonstrates how we can heal, learn, and grow from fallibilities and sudden fractures in our sense of identity.
Now that you have the concept behind and history of Kintsugi down pat, are you ready to try it with your own two hands?! Yes, DIY kintsugi is very possible and is only a mere Etsy order away. We compiled a list of a few great at-home kintsugi kits that will allow you to put your newfound knowledge to use! You can get a DIY repair kit that gives you all you need to learn how to fix your own broken vessels. Alternatively, you can order a kit that has a wide range of fill-in colors in addition to the traditional gold, like neon green, cobalt blue, and rosy pink. Note that you can even buy the individual powders on their own if you just can’t decide on one color! However, if you do not have a broken bowl or plate of your own to fix, don’t worry. Instead, we suggest going with a full kit complete with a ceramic bowl to break.
Enjoy your new Kintsugi adventures, and hopefully now you will see a broken plate or bowl in an entirely new light! If you try your hand at a Kintsugi repair, hit us up on social media, we would love to see your golden creations!
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