Kintsugi: A Centuries-Old Japanese Art Form for Embracing Damage

If you’re about to throw away that broken vase thinking it’s worthless, think again. With the Japanese art of kintsugi, you can turn it into gold with the power of upcycling!

This traditional Japanese art can be used to repair porcelain, ceramics, and potentially even fabrics. The idea is to transform the cracks of a broken object into aesthetic lines and marks, using a special lacquer embellished with gold powder.

In Japanese, “kintsugi” means “golden carpentry”. And the concept goes back a long way, perhaps dating back to the 16th or 17th century. It is believed to have taken place after a broken bowl during a tea ceremony was first patched up with metal staples, before being repaired in this more aesthetic way. And this ingenious idea, emphasizing rather than hiding the cracks, has endured.

Kintsugi prevents objects from being thrown while giving them more character. But much more than a simple technique of patching up, it also seeks to go beyond the cachet of the smooth and spotless object, to celebrate and embellish cracks and imperfections. The idea is to shake up the ideals of perfection, to celebrate the beauty of fragility. In a way, it’s a philosophy that could be compared to that of the body positive movement. The difference is that here, it applies to everyday objects.

How to start kintsugi?

In the West, the art of kintsugi is all the rage right now. It’s not about intentionally breaking things, but rather knowing what to do if you accidentally drop a plate or vase, or (even worse) if something breaks while you’re a guest at someone’s house!

The technique consists in assembling the broken pieces of the object, (then possibly cleaning them) before regluing them with natural lacquer. One of the most recommended products for restoring porcelain and ceramic objects is epoxy resin or glue.

It is advisable to wear latex gloves throughout the process. For a helping hand, there are plenty of tutorials online to guide you. There are also expert-led workshops to learn the art of kintsugi. -AFP

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