Kintsugi: The Japanese Art of Fixing Broken Pieces of Pottery With Gold

Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery with gold. Why use super glue and hope nobody notices when you can use gold?

Kintsugi: The Japanese Art of Fixing Broken Pieces of Pottery With Gold
Tea bowl, Korea, Joseon dynasty, 16th century ADDaderot/Wikimedia

Kintsugi, otherwise know as Kintsukuroi, is an interesting method of repairing pottery with gold. Yes, actual gold (well a lacquer containing gold). Amazing right? To be honest, a lot of the repaired pieces might just tempt you to go around smashing everything you own, just to fix it up. The lacquer is actually a mixture of gold, silver or platinum.

The philosophy of Kintsugi is to preserve the history of the object and visibly "own" the repair instead of disguising it. As you will soon see, the final product is usually actually considerably more beautiful. The use of precious metals might actually increase its market value in any case. "Money for old rope" so to speak. Anyway, let's get stuck in, break stuff and repair it with precious metals? Sounds fun right? It blooming well is sir. Plus you get to bath in some culture, we bet you didn't expect that today.

Here goes nothing, enjoy.

What is Kintsugi?

Kintsugi can be brutely translated as "golden joinery" or "patch with gold". That pretty much sums it up. The technique, effectively, gives life to piles of worthless pieces. It provides the artist with a means of taking broken ceramic or china objects and turning them into stunning works of art. Breathing new life into pieces of pottery using gold, epoxy to make an object worthy of admiration once more. This is actually a fantastic method of recycling, it is always a shame to throw away a once beautiful piece of pottery simply because of the devious nature of gravity.

According to LakesidePottery Kintsugi's philosophy can be described as:-

"the practice is known, gives new life, healing or rebirth to damaged or aging ceramic objects by celebrating their flaws and history. One can consider how we might live a kintsugi life, finding value in the, missing pieces, cracks, and chips – , bringing to light the scars that have come from life experiences, finding new purpose through aging and loss, seeing love and the beauty of 'imperfection' and loving ourselves, family and friends even with flaws."

Couldn't have put it better ourselves.

The history of Kintsugi

Legend states that Kintsugi originated in the 15th Century when a Japanese Shogun broke his favorite tea bowl. So beloved was this bowl that he sent it back to China for repair. See guarantees are not a new concept. The repair, it is believed, was made with metal staples. This was the standard repair at the time. Clearly, this was less than aesthetically pleasing. Obviously, the Shogun was rather disappointed, perhaps a little too diplomatic a term.

He immediately tasked Japanese craftsmen to develop a much more attractive means of repair. And thus, Kintsugi was born.

Is gold actually used to "fuse" the pieces?

Honestly no. The broken pieces are recombined using a special kind of glue called Urushi Lacquer. This is derived from the sap of the Chinese lacquer tree. This concoction is actually pretty toxic so you'd not be surprised to hear that modern alternatives have been produced. Polymer technology is employed to produce a Kintsugi style repair that provides a longer lasting repair that is also considerably stronger than the traditional method.

So what about the gold you keep mentioning? Well, we are glad you asked. Once the reassembly and repairs are complete, the iconic decoration is made. The final look appears as though the piece has actually been repaired using gold. Fantastic you might think. In reality, this style is effectively a form of lacquer art.

The effect is accomplished by applying a final layer of lacquer impregnated with gold and silver or platinum powder. For true Kintsugi, real precious metal powder should be used but it can be simulated if the customer's budget prohibits its use. Obviously, the final effect is less than equal to the use of gold powder.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but not always

Many professional Kitsugi restorers do warn about the use of non-gold lacquers. Well, they would wouldn't they? But ''the proof of the pudding is in the eating". They do recommend to consumers that when choosing your options you should take a few things into consideration.

Some techniques will involve the use of gold paint brushed over the repair seam. Frankly, it looks a bit "naff". We'll let you judge.

Kintsugi: The Japanese Art of Fixing Broken Pieces of Pottery With Gold

[Image Source: LakesidePottery]

On some occasions, gold color, rather than actual powder, can be mixed with the bonding glue. These are the usual options provided by "off the shelf" Kintsugi repair kits.

Finally, the gold effect can be painted on without the piece actually being broken in the first place. Seems a bit odd, but hey ho. Examples of this include Bernardaud, Sarkis Coupe plate sets. These use gold color or glaze silk screened onto the surface of the pottery. Obviously, this is complete "fake" alternative and just looks a bit odd, to be honest.

Kintsugi: The Japanese Art of Fixing Broken Pieces of Pottery With Gold

[Image Source: LakesidePottery]

Wanna try it for yourself?

Humade offers DIY kits with gold and silver lacquer. Go get yourself one then you've left with one last ingredient. Smashed porcelain. How can one get their hands on some? You could go around randomly choosing "victim" ornaments. Not that we are suggesting you should do this, it is just a suggestion. Obviously, bear in mind the warnings from professional Kintsugi artists given above. If that doesn't bother you then go for it.


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Ah, lovely. Beautiful right? Who'd've thought that you could turn old broken pieces of pottery into something, arguably, more fantastic than the original piece? Great stuff. What do you think? Would it be better to simply stick it back together with "super glue" and hope nobody notices? It would be cheaper. Have you ever heard of this technique? Let us know in the comments below.

Sources: ThisIsColossal, Humade, LakesidePottery

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