Kintsugi: The art of beautiful repair with gold

Kintsugi Art

What does Kintsugi mean?

Kintsugi– the art of gold, is an ancient technique, discovered in Japan in the fifteenth century, invites us to restore a damaged object by enhancing its scars with real gold powder, rather than covering them.

The word Kintsugi comes from the Japanese Kin (gold) and Tsugi (join) and thus means literally: join with gold. Kintsugi art is called Kintsukuroi, which means ‘mending with gold.’

Where Does Kintsugi Come From?

Portrait said to be of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, 15th century (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Although the origins of Kintsugi are not clear, historians think it dates back to the late 15th century. The art started when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a broken “chawan” — or tea bowl — back to China for repair,  according to legend. Upon returning Yoshimasa was disappointed to find it had been mended with unsightly staples of metal. This inspired contemporary craftsmen to find an alternative method of repair that was aesthetically appealing.

Japanese craftsmen bonded together pieces of pottery using precious metals, mostly gold, by drawing attention to the breaks, rather than away from them and the kintsugi art was born.

Kintsugi Art as a Japanese Broken Pottery

Kintsugi art- Broken Japanese Pottery (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

What an exquisite, artistic, yet obvious solution all at the same time! Most people who discover Kintsugi art for the first time have a real realization. By the early 17th century, kintsugi was a widely used method for the repair and ornamentation of tea ceramics.

 It is also said that Kintsugi art is so famous that some aesthetes break their precious vases or bowls purposely to reform them.

The Kinstugi Philosophy

Kintsugi has long embodied prevailing philosophical concepts, besides acting as an aesthetic theory. In particular, the  practice is connected to the Wabi-Sabi Japanese philosophy, which calls for finding beauty in the broken or imperfect.  The method of repair was also born out of the Japanese mottainai feeling, which shows remorse when something is wasted,  as well as mushin, translates as ‘no mind’ and encourages notions of embracing change.

There’s no effort at disguising or mitigating the damage in a Kintsugi repair. Celebrating the breaks and the ties, pointing the eye to what was broken, and how it was mended, is the key point. Its shows us the importance of scars and cracks. Despite covering them up, we should acknowledge and accept both their role in shaping us and the work we have done to fix them.

It encourages us in an era where we’re all too focused on perfection and youth, that imperfection and age are two things to celebrate and defend. You will see these ideas gradually being incorporated into life coaching, counselling, art therapy, sports philosophy, and team coaching and self-development.

“Everyone faces suffering, but it is the way in which we overcome our troubles, and heal our emotional wounds, that is key. We shouldn’t conceal our repairs, they are proof of our strength.”

Tomás Navarro

Psychologist Tomás Navarro released his book Kintsugi: Accept the imperfections and find happiness- the Japanese way in 2018, using philosophy as a way to have realistic applications for issues in our lives, from career failure to heartbreak or disease.

kintsugibook
Kintsugi: Accept the imperfections and find happiness– the Japanese way-
Tomás Navarro (Photo: Google)

In Kintsugi art, the specific wisdom lies in the understanding that the time and love put into repairing something that is broken will apply to us as much as it can to a broken teacup. And the beauty and precious nature of the gold used to fuse them together implies the power trust, and importance that we should invest in repairing these breaks.

Discover The Kintsugi Art Step by Step

A slow and thorough process follows the art of Kintsugi, which involves patience and focus.

The subject will be washed, groomed, cared for, healed, and eventually sublimated, day after day, week after week, step by step.   It’s also an opportunity to explore the joy of these slow and precise movements that encourage you to immerse yourself in the full knowledge of the moment.

Kintsugi has 3 primary styles: crack, piece process, and joint call. Although gold , silver, or platinum-dusted epoxy is used in each case to repair the broken pottery, the methods and finished results are different.

Crack

With minimal lacquer, objects mended using the crack technique are touched up. This is the most common method of Kintsugi, and it culminates in the shimmering veins that have come to characterise the art form.

Prove: an unforeseen, a false movement, a shock, and it is the fall…

Accept: take your spirits and gather the splinters.

Decide: make the choice to give a second chance and a second life to the object instead of throwing it away.

Choose: study the different repair techniques that exist and select the one that suits you best: illusionist technique (invisible repair), staples (metal staples along the crack), or Kintsugi ? (gold joins)

Imagine : Be creative and dare to think differently!

Visualize: focus and represent the vision of the repaired object in all its splendor.

Assemble

Prepare: clean the pieces of the object, assemble all the tools (spatula, palette, lacquer, brushes, gold powder, drying box, chopsticks, turpentine, essence, sandpaper, silk cotton…)  And protect yourself with gloves.

Rebuild: observe and assemble the “puzzle” to prepare the repair.

Transform: change poison into antidote! The lacquer (Urushi) used as Binder to glue the pieces is natural. It is obtained directly from the resin lacquer tree . But it is very irritating, that’s why you have to protect yourself when you apply it. However, when drying, it will harden and repair the object perfectly, losing its toxicity.

Assemble: prepare and apply the Binder (Mugi-Urushi, Urushi flour and lacquer mixture) on both sides of the break with a spatula, and glue the pieces to replenish the object.

Fill if a piece is missing, prepare a Binder (Sabi-Urushi) by mixing lacquer (Urushi) with rock powder (tonoko), and re-create it patiently with this dough.

Associate: if it inspires you, you can even choose a piece from another object to fill in the original lack (Yobi-tsugi technique).

Wait

Remove : scrape the superfluous material with a tool (razor, toothpick, cutter, fine spatula…) and then clean by passing the essence of turpentine.

Hold : position the parts well in place with masking tape, or elastic.

Let it breathe: the lacquer (Urushi) is alive, it must paradoxically breathe to dry and harden. Prepare a closed cardboard box (Muro), put a towel and some chopsticks in the bottom to lay the object above the fabric as on a grid.

Deposit: the lacquer hardens better when maintained at a moisture level between 75 and 90%, and ideally at over 20 degrees. Also, place the object in its box and hold it to heat and moisture constantly.

Clean : at each step, clean the instruments (spatulas, cups, brushes…) With turpentine or vegetable oil and carefully store your equipment for the next time.

Let: wait patiently for the object to dry in the box between 7 and 14 days.

Repair

Polish: when the object is perfectly dry, clean the binder traces with a cutter and turpentine essence, then sand with sandpaper to smooth the surface perfectly. Then there is no more on the object than a brown-coloured scar.

Touch : some irregularities are difficult to discern with the naked eye. Check to the touch that the surface is perfectly flat, passing your finger over the fault lines.

Apply : deposit with application on all the scars of the object a first coat of lacquer, black, (roiro-Urushi) using a very fine brush.

Concentrate : breathe regularly, concentrate and have slow, measured and accurate gestures to draw the thinnest line possible. Allow to dry in the box (Muro) about one to two weeks.

Add: Polish the surface, then re-apply a second very fine coat of lacquer, red (E-Urushi, or Neri Bengara-Urushi).

Reanimate: the scars are now covered with a beautiful red lacquer. Like shiny and well-watered veins, they healed the object and gave it a second breath. Put half an hour in the box.

Reveal

Illuminate: place the gold powder on a brush or in an application tube and sprinkle it gently on the still sticky lacquer (without touching it as it is still fresh).

Collect: using the brush, collect the excess gold powder for your next creation. Then place the object again in the box (Muro) to allow to dry and harden for 2-3 days.

Unveil: once the lacquer dries, pass a silk cotton ball to remove the excess gold powder and reveal the gold scars.

Protect: place a thin layer of protective lacquer to stabilize the gold, which you will gently stamp 5 minutes later. Allow to dry again for 24 hours.

Customize : adopt the right tool and “talk” the best to Polish the gold. some people Masters Kintsugi Use an agate stone, others of ivory, fish teeth, a hematite stone…

Shine: Polish the object with a mixture of oil and powder, and the poling that you have chosen to make the gold sparkle.

Sublime

Observe: take a step back and contemplate the repaired and sublimed object in all its unity, wearing with nobility its gold scars.

Admire: notice as the broken object has reincarnated into a precious work of art, unique and priceless.

Contemplate: remember the story that this object carries in its scars…

Feel: the lacquer has hardened by drying, feel how much the object is even stronger than before the repair.

Assume: accept with pride the imperfection. It is even more beautiful and more precious once broken and repaired!

Expose: present your creation to your Entourage. Tell her story to inspire others and blow them the idea that it is possible to repair.

Supplies

On the Internet, retail, or in the form of ready-to-use kits, you can easily find all the contents.  You may adopt the traditional way, depending on your degree of perfectionism and budget, with the real Japanese lacquer  (Urushi) and 22-carat gold powder (recommended for food use) or simply motivate you with this technique and assemble epoxy glue and golden paint or mother-of-pearl powder.

     Did You Know?  
    The Kintsugi can be practiced with all metals!
    More often than not, it is the gold that is used... But the art of Kintsugi can be practiced with all metals, as soon as they are powdered:  
    silver, copper, bronze, brass, Tin, Iron, Platinum...            

Kintsugi art suggests many things. We shouldn’t have broken objects thrown away. When an object breaks, it doesn’t mean it isn’t useful anymore. Its breakages may become useful. We should strive to fix items since we often get more useful assets in doing so. Each of us should look for a way to deal positively with stressful events, learn from painful experiences, take the best from them, and persuade ourselves that precisely these experiences make each person special and precious.


Before you go….

If you enjoyed this post, you will love my previous post, which was on “Wabi-Sabi Lifestyle: The Perfectly Imperfect Way To Embrace The Imperfection”.

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