Kintsugi: The Centuries-Old Art of Repairing Broken Pottery with Gold

kintsugi Japanes art broken pottery

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Translated to “golden joinery,” Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece.

This repair method celebrates each artifact's unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with new life.

History

Kintsugi art dates back to the late 15th century. According to legend, the craft commenced when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a cracked chawan—or  tea bowl—back to China to undergo repairs. Upon its return, Yoshimasa was displeased to find that it had been mended with unsightly metal staples. This motivated contemporary craftsmen to find an alternative, aesthetically pleasing method of repair, and Kintsugi was born.

Since its conception, Kintsugi has been heavily influenced by prevalent philosophical ideas. Namely, the practice is related to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which calls for seeing beauty in the flawed or imperfect. The repair method was also born from the Japanese feeling of mottainai, which expresses regret when something is wasted, as well as mushin, the acceptance of change.

Ancient Kintsugi Japanese Art Broken Pottery

Photo credit: Awaken

Ancient Kintsugi Japanese Art Broken Pottery

Photo credit: June's Child

Methods

There are 3 predominant styles of Kintsugi: crack, piece method, and joint-call. While, in each case, gold-dusted epoxy is used to fix the broken pottery, the methods themselves vary. Objects mended using the crack approach are touched up with minimal lacquer, while works restored with the piece method feature replacement fragments made entirely of epoxy. Finally, pieces fixed using the joint-call technique employ similarly-shaped pieces from other broken wares, combining 2 aesthetically different works into 1 uniquely unified product.

Crack

Kintsugi Japanese Art Broken Pottery

Photo credit: The Book of Life

Kintsugi Japanese Art Broken Pottery

Photo credit: The Book of Life

Piece Method

Kintsugi Japanese Art Broken Pottery

Photo credit: Amusing Planet

Joint-Call

Kintsugi Japanese Art Broken Pottery

Photo credit: Tom Is Not a Boy

Kintsugi Japanese Art Broken Pottery

Photo credit: Kintugi

Kintsugi Today

Many artists and craftspeople today—both in Japan and abroad—continue to keep this ancient tradition alive. English embroidery expert Charlotte Bailey, Japanese artist Tomomi Kamoshita, and Korean creative Yee Sookyung incorporate the practice into their art.

Charlotte Bailey

Charlotte Bailey Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Charlotte Bailey Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Charlotte Bailey Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art

Tomomi Kamoshita

Tomomo Kamoshita Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Chopstick Holders Tomomo Kamoshita Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Chopstick Holders Tomomo Kamoshita Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Chopstick Holders Tomomo Kamoshita Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Chopstick Holders Tomomo Kamoshita Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Chopstick Holders

Yee Sookyung

Yee Sookyung Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art   Yee Sookyung Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Yee Sookyung Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Yee Sookyung Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art

Additionally, other artists, like Tatiane Freitas and Rachel Sussman, have put their own creative twists on the traditional practice by replacing the pottery with unconventional and unexpected canvases.

Tatiane Freitas

Tatiane Freitas Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Furniture Tatiane Freitas Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Furniture Tatiane Freitas Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Furniture Tatiane Freitas Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Furniture Tatiane Freitas Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Furniture

Rachel Sussman

Rachel Sussman Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Rachel Sussman Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Rachel Sussman Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Rachel Sussman Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art Rachel Sussman Kintsugi Broken Pottery Gold Japanese Art

If you're interested in channeling your inner artist and exploring the craft yourself, Humade and Mejiro Japan sell Kintsugi repair kits, and A Cozy Kitchen also offers a DIY tutorial for those who have the supplies on-hand. These do-it-yourself projects allow you to experience the art of repairing pottery in the Japanese tradition while simultaneously transforming your broken ware into a piece of art.

See some more stunning examples of Kintsugi below.

kintsugi gold repairing art broken pottery Japanese art

Photo credit: Kinzugii

kintsukuroi kintsugi art japanese pottery

Photo credit: Tokyobike

japanese kintsugi broken pottery

Photo credit: Humade

repairing broken pottery kintsugi art

Photo credit: Voiceblog

Ancient Kintsugi Japanese Art Broken Pottery

Photo credit: Amusing Planet

Ancient Kintsugi Japanese Art Broken Pottery

Photo credit: Amusing Planet

This post has been updated.

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