Kintsugi and the Art of Beautiful Repair

Craft & Design
Kintsugi and the Art of Beautiful Repair

I first heard about kintsugi, which Wikipedia defines as “the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a lacquer resin sprinkled with powdered gold,” back in February, when Elizabeth over at the iFixit blog ran a piece called Kintsugi: Broken is Better Than New.

Often, we try to repair broken things in such a way as to conceal the repair and make it “good as new.” But the alternative “better than new” aesthetic—that a conspicuous, artful repair actually adds value—has obvious symbolic appeal for the DIY community, for iFixit in particular, and for anyone else interested in promoting a more hands-on, repair-friendly culture.

Here’s an authoritative definition of kintsugi from Charly Iten, a noted expert on Japanese art:

…the usage of sprinkled gold powder is specifically denoted in Japanese as kintsugi (“to patch with gold”) or kintsukuroi (“to repair with gold”). Additionally, these words are also used to refer to lacquer restored with silver powder, so in this context it would be more appropriate to use the phrases “to patch with metal” or “to repair with metal”.

This excerpt is taken from Dr. Iten’s essay Ceramics Mended with Lacquer – Fundamental
Aesthetic Principles, Techniques and Artistic Concepts
, published in the 2008 catalog of a kintsugi exhibit that appeared, among other places, at Cornell’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. The entire catalog is linked below, from the site of Swiss art dealers Bachmann-Eckenstein. It contains many more beautiful pictures of metal-patched ceramicware as well as two more scholarly essays, and is by far the best reference on kintsugi I’ve been able to find online, from both a practical and an academic standpoint.

Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics (PDF)

14 thoughts on “Kintsugi and the Art of Beautiful Repair

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  2. In My Deepest Sighs « Hunting for God says:

    […] Kintsugi is the japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a lacquer resin sprinkled with gold powder. The end result is a piece that is stronger and more beautiful than before it was broken. Some even intentionally break their most valuable pottery in order to obtain more interesting and lovely pieces. […]

  3. Tea Cup: A Study in Brokenness | Be Small Studios says:

    […] break and printed the first round for the shop that an old friend asked me if I was familiar with kintsugi. She told me about the way craftsman in fifteenth century Japan repaired broken wares with fine […]

  4. 3 WAYS TO RESPOND TO A RELATIONSHIP CRISIS | Creating Healthy Relationships Blog says:

    […] with a new beauty that was not possible before the break. I invite you to take a moment to check out a photo of Kintsugi. You may find this picture helpful in seeing how something rises above brokenness, transforms into […]

  5. The Prodigal Pain | An Everyday Mystic says:

    […] *photo from Makezine.com  […]

  6. Kintsugi, The Japanese Art of Repairing Broken Pottery with Gold | College Millionaires says:

    […] Kintsugi | via […]

  7. Kintsugi, The Japanese Art of Repairing Broken Pottery with Gold | Content inspirations says:

    […] “Kintsugi” is the centuries-previous Japanese artwork of mending damaged pottery with a particular via […]

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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