Kintsugi — The Ancient Japanese Mending Practice Making A Comeback
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.
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.
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…