Translated to “golden joinery,” Kintsugi is the art of repairing cracked pottery with glistening seams of gold. Though the practice dates back to the 15th century, contemporary artists are constantly finding new ways to reimagine the centuries-old craft, from pieced-together pavements to patchwork chopstick holders. One adaptation that captures the symbolic spirit of the practice is Kintsugi Eggshells, an ongoing collection of exquisite installations by Elisa Sheehan.
Sheehan describes this series as “a visual representation of imperfection as a true value and where flaws are celebrated and viewed as beautiful.” In order to showcase the shells’ underlying beauty, she covers them in delicate washes of paint and abstract ink forms. She then carefully coats any cracks or flaws with gold leaf, which both mends the delicate shells and, most importantly, emphasizes the presence of their imperfections.
To Sheehan, this symbolism transcends the eggshells existence. In fact, she believes that it is equally applicable to our own lives—an idea that is at the core of her Kintsugi Eggshells practice. “I’ve always loved the Japanese art of Kintsugi, “she says, “wherein broken pottery is repaired with gold and rather than trying to disguise the break or flaw, it is highlighted and therefore elevated to a status of beauty. Its age is celebrated, its history is seen, its flaws are revered. I think it’s a good way to think about ourselves, others and our relationships as we age – not to try to look like our former, younger selves but to embrace our ‘breaks and flaws’ and to honor them and see the beauty in them.”
While crafting these shells started as “a small meditative warm-up” for Sheehan, it has since become a major part of her artistic practice. If you’d like to purchase a Kintsugi Eggshell—or paintings and prints—stop by her online shop.