kintsukuroi

I recently learned a new Japanese word called “kintsukuroi,” which means “to repair with gold” and is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a lacquer resin sprinkled with powdered gold. I have come across articles referring to this idea that these bowls are more beautiful for having been broken. I think about a piece of ceramic pottery made my hand with thoughtful care and consideration. It accidentally breaks. Because it was such a lovely bowl, it is put back together, sealed by gold so the resulting piece has these gold veins coursing though the object, which has even more history. Today, we so easily dispose things, from clothing and accessories, household appliances, furniture bought from H&M, Walmart, and IKEA without a second thought because the quality and craftsmanship was probably not that great to begin with. But if something is lovingly made, I would want to lovingly put it back together.

I love this excerpt from Cami Travis-Groves’ blog:

Some people, more scholarly and patient than I, attribute the origin of the repaired-ceramics artform to story from the mid-1500s. The story goes like this. A great military leader (with a supposedly hot temper) was given a beautiful bowl for an important tea ceremony. Someone dropped the bowl, which broke into five pieces (a more complete essay can be found in “Flickwerk, The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics”, available here). One of the guests spoke up with an improvised poem cleverly linking the name of the giver of the bowl, the style of the bowl, and the five broken pieces, making them all laugh and avoiding the wrath of the hot-headed leader. This specific bowl has since become quite famous, and is considered now an “Important Cultural Property.”

This essay goes on to say that instead of the break “…diminishing [the bowl’s] appeal, a new sense of its vitality and resilience raised appreciation to even greater heights.” The bowl has become more beautiful for having been broken. The true life of the bowl “…began the moment it was dropped…” 

“So it is not simply any mended object  that increases in its appreciation but…the gap between the vanity of pristine appearance and the fractured manifestation of mortal fate which deepens its appeal.”

In other words, the proof of of its fragility and its resilience is what makes it beautiful.

kintsukuroi