Kintsugi: the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics

Kunio Nakamura 4

photo by Kunio Nakamura

To find beauty in broken things is the spirit of wabi sabi, at least according to Muneaki Shimode, a young artisan from Kyoto who practices kintsugi. The word is written as 金継ぎwith kin meaning gold while tsugi means to connect, as in connect to the word or connect to generations. It’s the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics using a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver or platinum. The 400-500 year-old technique seeks to fix broken things not by disguising the break but, instead, accentuating it.

Two years ago Shimode and a group of kintsugi artists traveled from Kyoto to Tokyobike London, where they performed workshops and demonstrated the ancient method. The workshop was documented by Greatcoat Films. “The moment in time when something has been shattered is permanently captured by the painstaking labors of a craftsman,” explains the documentary. “It is this reference to the now that recalls mushin, a lack of attachment to anything, but rather being present in the moment, something constantly available to all.”

Kunio Nakamura 1

photo by Kunio Nakamura

Kunio Nakamura is another kintsugi artist who has been advocating for the craft and calling on residents of Kyushu, where violent earthquakes have caused tremendous damage, not to throw away broken ceramics that have sentimental value. Family heirlooms are one-of-a-kind pieces that can never be replaced, he says, urging people to keep broken pieces together in a bag so that they can be repaired.

Kunio Nakamura 2

photo by Kunio Nakamura

Nakamura is the owner of 6 jigen, a bookshop and gallery in Tokyo’s Ogikubo neighborhood. When the Tohoku earthquake struck 5 years ago he helped many people repair their ceramics. In fact, some of those repairs are still ongoing. But thanks to Nakamura’s efforts, public interest in kintsugi has definitely increased, and is evidenced by the fact that a kintsugi workshop he’s hosting this weekend is sold out. Nakamura has also made a commitment to visit the regions of Kumamoto and Oita to conduct volunteer ceramic repairs.

If you’re not in Japan but looking to learn more about kintsugi, or possibly try it yourself, you can start by ordering this kintsugi repair kit

Kunio Nakamura 3

photo by Kunio Nakamura

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2 Comments

  1. Bruce Kirkpatrick

    April 23, 2016 at 1:34 am

    Been doing this for forty years in California and now Arizona.
    Very tricky in low humidity with urushi, but nothing else comes even close in grip and durability.

  2. This reflects perfectly the wabisabi concept. Beautiful!

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