I'd recently been deeply fascinated with kintsugi, a Japanese art of repairing broken bowls. Kintsugi (金継ぎ), or kintsukuroi (金繕い), literally means golden (“kin”) and repair (“tsugi”). Also often called golden joinery. Broken crockery like bowls, cups and plates are joined back together again by a combination of lacquer and gold. The bowls can then be used as per normal again, but these days, kintsugi is done more as an art form, and the repaired bowls are more often used for special occasions like tea ceremonies, or appreciated as art pieces. But it gets really deep and interesting when we get to the background philosophy:
"As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise." - Wikipedia
This is similar to what I mentioned in my previous post on how wabi-sabi embraces imperfections - in fact, you can say that kintsugi's philosophy comes under wabi-sabi.
I love how, in kintsugi, the breakage becomes something defining about the object, rather than something to be repaired, smoothen out and hidden away. The cracks become a key part of the identity, in fact. I came across many writings about how practising kintsugi became part of a healing process for many patients with serious medical conditions, and it's easy to see why. It's almost like a healing by analogy. One repairs a broken bowl like how one heals one's broken body - with acceptance, care and celebration. We accept that bad things happened and try to learn from the event and make some positive out of it. We carefully put them back together again, just as we care for our bodies in healing. The cracks are made more salient with gold, not less, and the brokenness is celebrated. The cracks are where the light shines through.
Now that's so counter-culture, especially in our age of social media perfection and sameness - even though kintsugi had been around longer. We don't show blemishes. We're expected to show our best front forward. Open vulnerability is rare. And that's tiring as hell. Kintsugi is also counter to our rampant disposable consumerism, and our overall unhealthy relationship with material things. When something is broken, it doesn't mean that it's no longer useful. We can recycle, repair or reuse.
I must admit I don't understand kintsugi well enough. Conceptually, I'm enthralled by it, but it's a hands-on art form, after all. I suspect we learn its living philosophy best via our hands, not head. That's why I'm going to Kyoto for three weeks in March to try to learn more about it. Hopefully take some classes, meet some shokunin (traditional Japanese craftsmen) who still practise kintsugi.
Does anyone know any contacts in Kyoto who do kintsugi? Would love to connect please!