This week’s Fab Friday Find celebrates imperfections with the 400-year old Japanese repair technique of Kintsugi. When I first read this story it resonated with me as a means of hanging onto treasures that at first glance appear damaged but with a little love and care can be transformed into something even more beautiful than before. Enjoy!
We’ve all had the heart-breaking experience of watching as a favorite mug or plate inadvertently slipped from our hands and shattered on the kitchen floor. Maybe you tried to glue some of the pieces together or researched repair options, only to realize that it was a lost cause—either too time-consuming or too expensive. While the goal of traditional Western-style ceramic repair is to make the piece look like it was never damaged, there’s a four-hundred-year-old Japanese tradition that may have saved your fragile treasure from the garbage bin.
This repair technique is called kintsugi, which translates as “golden joinery” and uses a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum, to fix the object in a way that highlights (rather than hides) the damage. It’s a way of repair that celebrates the breakage as part of the object’s history, rather than as the end of the story. More than merely a craft technique, kintsugi is an outgrowth of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, a belief in the beauty of imperfections.
According to legend, the craft was invented when 15th-century shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke his favorite Chinese tea bowl and sent it back to China to be repaired. The bowl was returned, fixed, but held together by ugly metal staples. The coarseness of the repair spurred the Japanese craftsman on to find a more elegant repair solution. Kintsugi arose as a way to not merely fix a broken object but to transform it into something beautiful.
- Architectural Digest