The Japanese art of Kintsugi 金継ぎ
Kintsugi: the art of Japanese ceramics repaired with gold
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of crack with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, and sometimes in silver or platinum giving a beautifully scarred appearance embracing the flawed or imperfect as in wabi-sabi.
Kintsugi: repairing broken dishes
Why should our favorite things, once flawed or broken, be discarded leaving behind memories of good and loyal services it offered for many years?
The Japanese frown on the idea of having to throw away old and loyal tableware and this is where an ancestral technique called kintsugi, or sometimes kintsukuroi comes into play.
What is the meaning of this word, contraction of " kin ", gold, and "sugi ", dedicated to broken and cracked objects? Craftsmen working with the kintsugi method will repair broken porcelain or ceramics with a lacquer which will then be covered with gold powder.
- Read also: Choosing and buying ceramics in Japan
The history of kintsugi
Cups, bowls, teapots, dishes, and plates all live on, with, by way of lifelines, these golden scars. It dates the appearance of this technique at the end of the 15th century when the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke his favorite bowl during a tea ceremony. Rather than discarding it, he sent it to China, its origin to have it repaired.
Upon receipt of his new bowl, he found it patched up with metal staples. Disappointed with its rather indelicate work, he decided to call on Japanese craftsmen to save the container with grace and poetry. This is how the art of kintsugi was born.
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The philosophy of kintsugi
Taking into account the past of its objects, their stories, and the accidents it may have experienced, this is the philosophy that permeates the art of kintsugi. Kintsugi is closely related to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, derived from concepts of Zen and which advocates acceptance and contemplation of what is imperfect and impermanent. This concept connects two principles: wabi which refers to the plenitude and modesty that one can experience in front of nature and sabi, which is the sensation one feels when one sees weathered objects in time.
- Read also: Zen in Japan
Breakage is a sign of renewal, not by concealing but on the contrary, by enhancing it. The object thus symbolizes the start of a new cycle.
If gold is mainly used to aestheticize the scars of objects, it is also possible to use other metals such as silver, the technique is then called gintsugi. But also to use the lacquer alone, without adorning it with artifices, it is then a question of urushi tsugi.
- Read also: Urushi, Japanese lacquer
Poetry of great appeal is appreciated around the world. It is even said that some people would deliberately break their objects to be able to offer them a new life, adorned with new colorful artifices.
Today, the art of kintsugi is even taught and put forward in the workshop as a kind of therapy - based on the analogy between repairing an object and repairing its soul.
Discover a Japanese craftsman and his kintsugi work: