Kintsugi - The art of recovering from scars and imperfections


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In Japan there is a Japanese technique that transforms both objects and people that are broken into something valuable and beautiful. In this article we will talk about the Kintsugi [金継ぎ] the Japanese art of healing scars with gold.

In reality Kintsugi is an art that consists of restoring broken pots and ceramics with molten gold. To be more exact, a mixture of lacquer and gold powder. Sometimes this restoration makes the object as valuable as the original.

Symbolically this shows people who are broken can easily learn from these situations, becoming stronger and more valuable. It also shows that we should not be ashamed of our exposed wounds.

The word [金継ぎ] is derived from the ideogram gold [金] and linking [継ぎ] where it literally represents the bond or repair using gold. Of course, the alloy is not entirely made of gold, but mixed with a lacquer or resin.

Kintsugi - a arte de transformar cicatrizes e imperfeições

The origin of Kintsugi

Lacquered objects [connected, joined] are very traditional in Japan, there are several techniques involving lacquer that probably gave rise to the technique. One of these techniques is the maki-e which consists of using gold or silver powder lacquer to make decorations with a brush.

The origins of kintsugi are uncertain, but it is likely that the practice became common in Japan during the 16th and 17th century. It is likely that the tradition began at the time of the rise of tea cups, which was a very valuable object for its owners .

Some believe that the kintsugi emerged when Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke his favorite tea bowl and sent it for repair in China in the 15th century, he sent it all patched up with staples.

Dissatisfied with the result, he sought out Japanese artisans who worked using a resin sprinkled with gold. Artisans influenced by Buddhist ideals of detachment and acceptance highlighted scars when using this technique.

The first kintsugi reference speaks of a warrior in the 17th century who was breaking cheap tea cups and using the repair technique to later sell and generate a good amount of money.

Kintsugi - a arte de transformar cicatrizes e imperfeições

Kintsugi's philosophy

Kintsugi has become a philosophy of life similar to wabi-sabi which consists in accepting the imperfect and defective. Soon this technique became popular and spread to other objects and countries like China and Korea.

The Japanese constantly seek to remain perfect, but in reality everyone makes mistakes, some try to hide them. Kintsugi's philosophy is not to hide these flaws but to consider them in a positive and valuable way.

Kintsugi is believed to be related to the Japanese philosophy mushin [無心] which means "not important" and encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, accepting change and destiny.

Another philosophy besides wabi-sabi and the mushin present in kintsugi is the feeling mottainai which describes regret for wasting something. There are several things that we can learn from this art and apply in our lives.

Kintsugi - a arte de transformar cicatrizes e imperfeições

Another interesting factor is in the Kintsugi process where it takes a long time (weeks and even months) for the resin to dry. This means that the healing process can be time-consuming and requires patience.

While other forms of repair end up deteriorating over time, kintsugi is very resistant, just as resistant as the original object. Thus showing that the wounds make us stronger and stronger, so we should not hide them.

Types of Kintsugi repair

There are three methods or types of repair that use the gold lacquer technique:

  • Hibi [ひび] - Consists of concerting cracks and attach broken parts with minimal overlap or fill in missing parts.
  • Kake no kintsugi rei [欠けの金継ぎ例] - When using resin and gold to fill missing pieces.
  • Yobitsugi [呼び継ぎ] - When using scraps or pieces of other objects to fix or create a new one.

The resin used in kintsugi is called urushi and is made from the stem of a tree. This material has been used for about 9000 years as a glue, putty and paint. Some end up thinking that only gold is used, but sometimes they mix silver and use the other only on the surface.

Kintsugi - a arte de transformar cicatrizes e imperfeições

The influence of Kintsugi in the World

In the past, kintsugi was seen only as a beautiful way to fix things, even because using gold is very valuable. Nowadays the practice of gold restoration is popular with the main Contemporary Artists.

There are even self-help and wellness courses and books that use these ceramics as a metaphor to embrace flaws and imperfections. These works of art usually attract people from all over the world and are even used for marketing.

What do you think about this traditional Japanese vase repair? Did you know that term? Do you find its application in life interesting? What do you think about it? We look forward to your comments and shares.

Kintsugi Course - Restore your pottery with Gold

Do it yourself! Learn to see beauty in imperfections by restoring pottery with the ancestral Japanese kintsugi technique in this introductory course by Clara Graziolino.

Kintsugi potter and specialist Clara Graziolino describes this Japanese method of restoration as an active meditation, which has helped her find inspiration in difficult times. 

In this course you will get to know the history and philosophy of kintsugi with the company of Clara at every stage of the journey. You will learn how to create two restoration projects using the techniques of filling fillings and rebuilding parts.

To find out more about Clara Graziolino's Kintsugi course just click the button below: