Kintsugi is the art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin, dusted or mixed with powdered gold.
The History of Kintsugi
The history of Kintsugi reportedly begins in the 15th century with the Japanese military commander, Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. The story goes that Yoshimasa broke one of his prized Chinese tea bowls, so he sent the item back to China for repair. What he got in return was his bowl mended with bulky and ugly metal staples. Dismayed, Yoshimasa prompted Japanese craftsmen to search for a more aesthetic means of repair.
The Art of Kintsuki became famous for turning broken objects into pieces more beautiful than the original product. Some artists or pottery owners break their own possessions on purpose so that they can be mended with kintsugi.
Kintsugi and Wabisabi
Kintsugi follows from a broader Japanese aesthetic called Wabisabi, that finds beauty not in traditional western ideals of symmetry or geometry, but in Buddhist concepts of impermanence and imperfection. In the case of pottery, the fractures on a ceramic bowl don’t represent the end of that object’s life, but rather an essential moment in its history. The flaws of a shape aren’t hidden from inspection, but emblazoned with golden significance.
The fading art of Kintsugi symbolizes that repair requires transformation, that the pristine is less beautiful than the broken, and that the shape of us is impossible to see until it’s fractured.
The idea of embracing our wounds and scars to become a better version of ourselves is represented quite poetically in the Japanese art of kintsugi.