Kintsugi – Embracing the imperfect - A Japanese ritual

Kintsugi is Japan’s centuries-old art of repairing broken pottery. It is a technique that involves repairing broken things with lacquer and decorating the cracks with gold. Instead of covering up the flaws, Kintsugi beautifies the breakage. The powdered gold highlights the fracture as an important part of the object’s history.

It follows a belief that all things are created and destined to be broken someday. Being broken or damaged is never a bad thing. All of us develop scars throughout our lives but these scars should never be hidden. Our imperfections can be the birth of something new.

Kintsugi is mainly used in pottery. It is often used on pottery that has been inherited or on people’s favourite pieces, so it’s usually used to restore objects that have sentimental value. The fractured part, where Kingtsugi is applied, becomes a new landscape in itself.

The lacquered cracks are covered with gold to transform the pot into a special work of art which will be used and preserved for a long time. The restored ceramic becomes a symbol of fragility, strength and beauty. Many see Kintsugi as a powerful metaphor for life where nothing is ever truly broken.

Kintsugi is produced from the sap of an indigenous tree. It has been used in Japanese art since the prehistoric Jomon period.

The Japanese lacquer is extremely precious because the tree will be cut down after the sap is extracted (about a cup of sap per tree). The sap is like its' blood and extracting it ends the life of the tree. The practitioners of this art spend a lot of time processing this natural material by hand. It is considered a sustainable way to live with nature. The restoration process can take up to three months. The lacquer must be dry and harden before it can be dusted with gold. The process teaches the student of Kintsugi to cherish things more. We live in a “use and dispose” era. Many believe that Kintsugi teaches us resilience and helps us put together fragments of ourselves.

We should consider this and think about how we can adapt it in our own lives.  How can we use such a process to restore our own broken parts, both physical and psychological? Kintsugi teaches us that our broken parts can not only be mended, but indeed made more beautiful, so we should never give up on life.

The celebration of broken objects is an extension of ‘Wabi-Sabi’, an Eastern philosophy that finds beauty in imperfection. Try not to hide what you’ve gone through in your history, even if it was traumatic. Embrace it and you will be reborn because of that trauma and emerge better and more beautiful.

 

 

From BBC Reel July 2020