‘Kintsugi’ is the Japanese Art of Restoring Broken Things
Creating something beautiful from something broken
In a world where almost everything is disposable, we tend to forget that given time, shattered things can be put together again. While it can go against instinct to keep something broken, restoring it—especially one that has sentimental value—can be so much more satisfying than buying something new.
The art of kintsugi
For the Japanese, this resurrection of damaged but valued items is called kintsugi, which comes for the words kin, which means “gold,” and tsugi, which means “to join.” Kintsugi rejoins pieces of broken pottery, highlights cracks with gold, and creates uniquely renewed objects. Also a parallel to life, it embraces the reality that everything can be destroyed, and that there is beauty in being restored, scars and all.
“I think being broken or damaged is never a bad thing,” says Kyoto-based kintsugi master Hiroki Kiyokawa in an interview with BBC. “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 a long journey for both the practitioner and the item being restored. It is a very meticulous process of putting together all the broken parts—filling in, adding, scraping off, and filling in again. For periods of time, each joined fragment is allowed to rest. When the piece is once again whole, it is set aside to allow it to dry for weeks, or even months. It is only then that the cracks are powdered with gold.
Each person has a different way of doing kintsugi. Traditional materials can be hard to source, especially since the lacquer used prior to setting breaks with gold comes from a sap of a tree indigenous to Japan, but the philosophy behind the act can still be practiced.
Slow-drying, food-safe glue is an option if you wish to do kintsugi at home; however, this adhesive often cannot withstand high temperatures, so you may want to ask your supplier about it first, or refrain from using your restored item for hot liquids. Real gold powder is edible and can be sourced from stores that sell cooking and baking goods.
If you want to experience a bit of kintsugi yourself, here’s a simplified version you can easily do:
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