【Culture】Kintsukuroi, the art of embracing damage2015.11.20

150924★ 金繕い

What do you do when you break ceramics? Do you throw them away? Do you put soil in and plant a seed? That sounds like a good way to recycle damaged pottery. But what if there is a more beautiful and sophisticated way to mend cracked porcelain? The Japanese went further when mending broken pottery. They make it more valuable and beautiful with a method called “Kintsukuroi” (or “kintsugi”). This method is the Japanese traditional techniques of repairing damaged ceramics using Japanese lacquer (“Urushi”) and powdered gold. It has been used for 400 years. Broken pieces are bonded together and the line of the repair is decorated with gold dust. With Kintsukuroi method, people see how old items can be given new life and made even more beautiful than before they broke.

The edges of the broken fragments are coated with the glue made from Japanese lacquer resin and are bonded back into place. The joints are rubbed with an adhesive until the surface is perfectly smooth again. After drying, more lacquer is applied. This process is repeated many times.

“Kintsukuroi” is more than repairing damaged crockery. Using gold to emphasize the line of the repair actually adds more beauty to the pottery. A method for mending breakages became an artistic technique. Have a look at the plate in the photo here. The gold repair looks like vines. It shows how the accidental crack now adds to the design.

“Kintsukuroi” has a long history among many artists. The famous work called Seppo (Snowy Peaks) by a ceramic artist Honami Koetsu dates from the 16th century. It still attracts us today. “Kintsukuroi,” as a general concept of emphasizing imperfections, has great influences on modern art.

You can purchase a “Kintsukuroi DIY kit” and even apply for a “kintsukuroi” class. It is important to remember however that Japanese lacquer can cause a skin rash, so make sure you wear a proper pair of gloves when using this technique.

Unexpected lines of the crack may inspire you with a different view of seeing things.

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