Kintsugi, the art of Japanese repair

Repairing broken porcelain or ceramic with gold instead of throwing it away, this is the principle of kintsugi. This traditional Japanese art consists in sublimating the imperfections of an object, notably leaving its visible cracks.

What is kintsugi?

How about we throw away our broken dishes to give them a second life? This is the whole principle of kintsugi, the art of Japanese repair. The word kintsugi comes from the Japanese Kin (gold) and Tsugi (join), and literally means: join with gold. This ancestral technique, discovered in the 15th century in Japan, consists in repairing an object by highlighting its "wounds" with real gold powder, instead of trying to camouflage them. The art of kintsugi is part of the current wabi-sabi, which invites you to admire and highlight the beauty of imperfections. "The art of imperfect perfection", as Julie Pointer Adams defines in The book of wabi-sabi. Broken porcelains and ceramics are thus repaired but their scars remain visible.

Healed, then honored, the broken object assumes its past and paradoxically becomes more resistant, more beautiful and more precious than before the shock

The kintsugi step by step

Also called kintsukuroi, the art of kintsugi therefore consists in loving and assuming the imperfections of a broken object. In other words, it's simply making it beautiful by highlighting its flaws. If gold is mainly used to sublimate the scars of broken objects, it is also possible to use other metals such as silver, the technique is then called gintsugi. But also to use the lacquer alone, without decorating it with fireworks, it is a question ofurushi-tsugi. The art of kintsugi is divided into six stages: breaking, assembling, waiting, repairing, revealing, sublimating.

A fall or a shock and our favorite vase is found in crumbs. But before throwing everything in the trash, get your bearings, put the pieces together and then think about giving it a second life. Once you've kept everything, study the different repair techniques that exist and select the one that works best for you.

Once you've gathered and cleaned the pieces, prepare for the repair. Try to put the puzzle together as best as possible and get the necessary equipment. Then start to glue the pieces together with a mixture of hairspray (Urushi) and rice flour glue (Mugi-Urushi).

The cracks filled with a mixture of lacquer and tonoko (terracotta powder) called Sabi, the damaged object must then dry for at least eight days. The lacquer hardens best when it is kept at a humidity level between 75 and 90%, and ideally at more than 20 degrees.

When the object is perfectly dry, sand its surfaces so that they are very smooth. Once it no longer exhibits any irregularity, apply a first coat of black lacquer (Roiro-urushi) to all the scars of the object using a very fine brush.

The last layer is a red lacquer based on urushi and iron oxide which will serve as an adhesive for the gold powder. Then place the gold powder on a brush and sprinkle it gently on the still sticky lacquer. Once the lacquer has dried, apply a thin layer of protective lacquer to stabilize the gold and let it dry again.

After drying, the gold is polished with an agate for a perfectly imperfect finish. Now is the time to admire your repaired and sublimated object with its gold scars, and above all reincarnated into a unique and precious little work of art that you will proudly display at home.

Kintsugi, a form of art therapy

If kintsugi is basically an art intended to repair and give a second life to our broken objects by applying gold on the cracks, it can also be a philosophy of life. Applied to oneself, kintsugi then consists of accepting one's wounds and making them a force, just like the scars of porcelain or ceramic pieces. In his book, "Kintsukuroi – The art of healing emotional wounds", Tomas Navarro, psychologist, states that there is indeed an intimate analogy between our history and kintsukoroi.

"We all have to face trials, mournings. To surpass them is like putting gold on our cracks, taking into account our past, our history, the possible accidents that we may have known. Symbols of fragility at first, the exposed fractures truly become our bill. What makes our value, our uniqueness. Embellished, transformed by the experience of adversity, we acquire new strength.", writes the author.

The kintsugi reminds you that your scars, whether visible or invisible, are proof that you have overcome your difficulties.

For Céline Santini, the art of kintsugi was also a form of personal therapy. In her book "Kintsugi – The art of resilience", the author explains that the energy of kintsugi can help us and accompany us in our healing process. She thus invites her readers to live with their wounds, to accept them and even to embrace them. "Consider that, as a path of evolution, your wound is initiatory, and slowly and patiently change it into gold, into an alchemical process", she writes in her book.

Focused on resilience and optimism, kintsugi helps us consolidate and heal our wounds. But more than that, it offers us the possibility of opening a new chapter in our history and starting a new cycle. Just like the second life that we offer to our broken object. And to illustrate this point, we will end with a quote from Céline Santini which pretty well traces the art of kintsugi: "Bandage your wounds, transform your fault lines into lines of force, and the bursts of your life into bursts of laughter!".

Books to read to adopt the art of kintsugi

Kintsugi – The art of resilience, Céline Santini

Kintsukuroi – The art of healing emotional wounds, Tomas Navarro

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Video by Clemence chevallet