What happens when things break? Most of us throw that thing away, but is it time to consider a different approach? One that instead fosters adaptation and embracing flaws.
Western society has led us to believe that it’s best to buy new, continuing our pursuit of perfection. Although we’ve seen climate-change movements and drives towards eco-friendly living challenge consumer habits, many of us have not yet changed our materialistic approach to a more sustainable lifestyle.
Perhaps we could look to the east and the ancient Japanese zen Buddhist approach to mending – Kintsugi, for inspiration.
Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as kintsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The practice teaches us how to fix things beautifully, embracing mistakes and vulnerability with a little bit of creativity.
Origin of Kintsugi
According to art historians, the origin of the practice dates back to the 15th century. When shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, a hereditary military dictator who helped promote one of Japan’s greatest cultural eras sent his favourite tea bowl off to be repaired in China. He hoped that it would come back like new, but instead, it came back stapled together. Unhappy with the returned bowl and the metal pins that were fixing the bowl back together, they tried something else. Local artisans came up with a solution — they filled the cracks with golden lacquer. The golden lines added value and charm, making the piece even more beautiful.
After this, it is said that collectors became so fascinated with the new art technique that some were accused of deliberately smashing valuable pottery so they could repair them with the gold seams of kintsugi.
Cultivate inner strength and rebuild your life with the ancient principles of kintsugi.
The Philosophy of Kintsugi
Kintsugi is not just an art and mending practice – many have found solace in the technique’s philosophy. Pushing aside the idea that everything should be perfect, many people see kintsugi about accepting imperfections and flowing with our mistakes. If we learn to do so, picking up the pieces and putting things back together, these mistakes and flaws can ultimately make us stronger, adding beauty and telling a unique story.
Japanese philosophy is full of wisdom, for example, wabi-sabi is another similar philosophy that teaches us to embrace the flawed or imperfect. In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi is a view focused on accepting imperfection and can be described as appreciating impermanent beauty.
Although the practice has been around for 500 years, it seems to be picking up in popularity today. You can now buy at-home kintsugi kits to try if you are a keen crafter or are just interested in having a go!
The philosophy is also growing in popularity in recent years and has inspired many other artists and creators. There’s now kintsugi-inspired jewellery, books, art, lego and even a song named after the practice…
Japanese Kintsugi masters delicately patch up broken ceramics with gold adhesive, leaving the restoration clearly visible to others.
Like the lines on our palms, each Kintsugi piece is unique, offering its own story and its own pattern. For an ancient practice, its powerful philosophy and unusual beauty still resonate with people today, inspiring artists, crafters, Japanese culture enthusiasts and others to think twice about throwing broken pottery away and going with the flow to repair and work with mistakes.