The Art of Kintsugi: The Inspiring Japanese Technique
We are going to explain the secrets of Kintsugi. A technique used in the repair of objects that has become a whole philosophy of life that more and more people are falling in love with.
Since ancient times, we have searched for the best way to fix broken objects. Whether for its practical or sentimental value, it is painful to see something that was once beautiful and useful become an unusable object. In the case of ceramics, it was customary to repair broken pieces without the joints showing, as if it had never been broken. Something that in many cases is impossible.
Kintsugi is an ancient Japanese art that approaches this problem in a unique and surprising way. Instead of hiding the scars of the object, the Kintsugi technique embraces them, making them an integral and beautiful part of the design.
© Kanela Suri
What is the Kintsugi technique?
Kintsugi is a ceramic repair technique that uses an adhesive material mixed with gold, silver or platinum powder to join broken pieces. In the past, the pieces were sometimes soldered directly with gold to join them together. Nowadays, industrial glues are used and more materials are applied in addition to the gold powder.
It is one of the most fascinating ceramic techniques that has come to us from Asia, and one of the most philosophical, which enriches the usual way of thinking in the West.
What does Kintsugi mean in Japanese?
The word Kintsugi is spelled in Japanese 金継ぎ, which means to join or union with gold.
It is also called Kintsukuroi, which includes the concept of repairing 金繕い
These Japanese letters are ideograms, each representing a different concept. The common element in these definitions is the ideogram or Kanji 金
What means gold
This has been a more literal explanation of its translation, however, the meaning of Kintsugi is somewhat deeper and applies to more facets than just repairing broken pottery.
Ceramic bowl repaired with Kintsugi by Kanela Suri
Where does the art of Kintsugi come from? Its history and legend.
There are many theories and historians offer several versions, here are the most widespread ones:
- In the 14th century, when the Japanese shoguns or feudal lords began to bring in Chinese and Korean ceramics, they learned this technique directly from these countries.
- On the other hand, its birth is attributed directly to Japan due to the influence of Zen philosophy on ceramic art during the Muromachi era (1336-1573).
- XV the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, seeing the repair with staples that was done in China with the broken ceramics, devised this way of joining the pieces and that the joints were still visible.
- The daimyo (another type of feudal lord) Hideyoshi Toyotomi, as early as the 16th century, ordered a broken pottery to be repaired and, seeing that the repaired piece could have a new beauty by highlighting the joints, had potters begin to repair them in this way, using gold and precious metals to join the broken pieces of pottery together.
The origin of Kintsugi is as debated as that of ceramics itself, with no agreement on whether it first came from China to Japan or was born directly in this country. In a way, its origin falls into the realm of legend. What is important is that its philosophy has arrived intact.
What does this Japanese art represent?
In Japanese philosophy, Kintsugi is associated with the idea of wabi-sabi, which celebrates the beauty of imperfection, simplicity and modesty. The repair technique is seen as a way of honoring the history and life of the object, and transforming scars into beauty. Kintsugi is also associated with the Japanese concept of “ma” (間) , or the space between things. The space in the repaired object becomes an integral part of the design, and the object becomes something new and unique.
The idea of ma can also be applied to our relationships with others. Instead of trying to eliminate differences or tensions, we can learn to value and accept the space between ourselves and others, and find ways to turn those differences into something beautiful and meaningful.
Its presence in popular culture:
This type of artistic pottery, which was made centuries ago, has inspired works of art and design all over the world. American artist Rachel Sussman created a series of artworks inspired by Kintsugi, which included photographs of broken objects repaired with a thin gold line.
Japanese fashion brand Kapital launched a Kintsugi-inspired collection, which included denim and knitwear featuring patches of fabric held together with gold thread.
Apply this technique in everyday life:
Kintsugi is not limited to repairing broken objects. The technique can be applied to everyday life, helping people to accept their own scars and transform them into beauty. Instead of trying to hide or deny our imperfections, we can embrace them and make them an integral part of our identity.
In addition, Kintsugi also teaches us the importance of patience and perseverance in life. The process of repair can take a long time and requires careful attention to detail. By applying this mindset to our own lives, we can learn to be patient with ourselves and others, and to work with care and attention to achieve our goals.
Where to buy Kintsugi
There are many contemporary artists who make these works and who have been caught up in this technique, which also has the ability to mold character.
You can acquire incredible pieces without going to art galleries. You can find wonders at an affordable price on portals like Etsy, which specializes in showcasing artists and artisans from around the world.
Obra de Brian Ohlsen the Broken Bowl Project
How to make Kintsugi at home
If you feel like trying this technique with objects that you have in your home and transform them, it is not complicated, since it does not require knowledge of ceramics, but simply cultivate patience and relax by joining the pieces of a broken piece.
There are tutorials, workshops and courses to learn how Kintsugi is made.
In a very summarized way, one way to use this technique would be to clean each part to be joined. Then take into account the order in which to glue the pieces together.
Prepare a mixture with the gold powder and an adhesive such as epoxy.
Join the pieces together.
Gold dust is then applied directly with a brush.
The part that has not adhered is removed, using a cloth or sandpaper depending on the material.
You can use gold dust, other gold material or any other shade of your choice, in silver and more colors.
Kintsugi is a unique and surprising technique that embraces imperfections, making them an integral part of the design.
In addition to being a way of repairing broken objects, Kintsugi can be applied to everyday life as a philosophy that celebrates the simplicity and beauty of things as they are.
Through Kintsugi, we can learn to be patient and persevering, to value the differences between ourselves and others, and to transform our scars into beauty.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is Kintsugi?
It is a Japanese art that repairs broken ceramic objects with a mixture of gold, silver or other materials, transforming them into new works. This gives the piece a unique look, as the repair is seen as a beautiful integral part of the piece.
What is its philosophy?
This technique and art is a transmitter of aspects of Zen Buddhism and its way of life. Life is a process of repair. It teaches us to accept imperfections and to see their beauty without conditioning. The philosophy of Kintsugi teaches us to see the world with less prejudice and more acceptance.
Why do the Japanese fix things with gold?
This has caught our attention in the West. Gold is a valuable metal. It is often used in jewelry or other decorative items. For many Japanese, gold is also a valuable material for repairing things, and the repairs themselves are not defects but have their value as well.
How is the Kintsugi technique performed?
A broken ceramic object is taken and the pieces are firmly joined together with an adhesive material that may contain a precious metal such as gold. Once joined, powder of the same metal is applied with a brush to highlight the joints. The end result is a ceramic piece with beautiful joint lines that highlight the beauty of the broken piece instead of hiding its imperfection.
How does Japanese Kintsugi relate to resilience?
This technique teaches that brokenness or scars can be beautiful and that repair and transformation can be a process of growth. Kintsugi celebrates resilience by showing how broken pieces can become something even more valuable and beautiful, just as difficult life events can strengthen and enrich us.
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