How to find beauty in the broken with the Japanese art of kintsugi

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f it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, so the saying goes. But what if ‘it’ is a) actually broken and b) a treasured ceramic piece? That’s where the Japanese art form of kintsugi comes in.

Roughly translating as ‘joining with gold’, the ancient repair technique uses urushi lacquer and powdered gold to restore broken teaware, based on the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi: finding beauty in the imperfect.

Instead of covering them up, fractures become a feature, highlighted to tell a story, making the restored piece much more valuable than the original.

The practice dates back to 16th-century Japan, when a samurai servant accidentally dropped and broke one of his master’s favorite bowls. He glued the pieces back together with gold-gilded lacquer, much to the delight of his master of him, and so a new restorative art form was born.

Kintsugi involves calming glueing broken pieces of pottery back together with gold lacquer

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Kintsugi involves calming glueing broken pieces of pottery back together with gold lacquer

/ @seletti

Fast-forward to today, and in an age of mass production and throwaway culture, kintsugi has never seemed more relevant. It encourages us to repair and reuse, to embrace the old and broken.

Instead of throwing a tantrum when you smash a favorite piece of pottery, kintsugi involves calmly gluing the broken pieces back together. Which, when you think about it, isn’t a bad mantra for life.

Feeling inspired? Here are five kintsugi-inspired Instagram accounts to help you fix your broken art:

@selettiuk

Seletti’s hybrid range puts a fresh spin on an age-old technique. Fusing the styles of East and West, these objects are crafted from bone china as a single piece, with colored lines and asymmetric edges separating the two designs. So not strictly kintsugi, but a modern take.

@amydouglas71

A featured artist in House of Hackney’s newest showroom, Amy Douglas’ anarchic ceramic creations are fully at home in a place of timeless and maximalist wonder.

Having trained in The Decorative Arts at The City and Guilds of London Art School, she now specializes in gilding and restoring objet d’art.

@wearenomads.co.uk

As well as mending and selling her own broken pieces of pottery, Jane Badu offers a kintsugi repair service. Send her your broken item in the post and she’ll take care of the rest, carefully restoring your object with food-safe gold resin before posting it back to you. How lovely.

@japanhouseldn

Head to Japan House London on Saturday 28th May for an afternoon of live demonstrations, led by Nishikawa Iku from @KintsugiOxford.

During each session, Nishikawa gives an introduction to the art of kintsugi and its meaning, before providing a practical step-by-step demonstration of how to use kintsugi techniques at home to repair your own broken or chipped ceramic items.

@humade.nl

Making kintsugi happen since 2009, Humade’s repair kits make for beautiful gifts. With one kit, you can fix up to ten broken items, including everything you need to make a perfectly imperfect repair. Buy directly online or at places like the Design Museum and V&A shop.

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