The practice of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold or silver.
The ancient Buddhist Zen belief that when something has suffered damage it becomes more beautiful. When something is broken you should not neglect or replace it, but regard it still with respect and mend it with great care. Greater beauty comes with mending, the visible lines which hold history are not hidden but highlighted and admired.
In western culture we strive for perfection; from hiding blemishes and wrinkles and marks of age, to genetically altering foods to be bigger, brighter and essentially more aesthetically pleasing. It is a state of mind and outlook that we may apply to all things around us, and can lead our thinking to disregard and dispose of something we deem imperfect. Resulting in a wasteful culture. And potentially a more unsatisfied/unhappy mind; all things are impermanent and imperfect, if we cannot openly see this and accept this, then of course sadness and dissatisfaction will inevitably come.
Wabi-Sabi a Japanese teaching and view holds different values; centred on the acceptance of imperfection and impermanence. In the process of kintsugi we learn ‘the transformation is not just about putting the pieces of one’s broken life back together, it’s about a total reinvention of self in which our shattered pieces are alchemized into a beautiful, thriving masterpiece.’
In many western and wealthy cultures, damaged clothes are sewn and repaired to look exactly how they came before, a precise and perfect skill. A japanese practice in regards to kintsugi holds similar values. Boro translating as rags or scraps of cloth, the word is also used to describe something which has been patched up or repaired numerous times. Boro was the clothing worn my much poorer peasants, merchants and artisans, who could not afford the expensive and beautiful silks and kimonos of their time. Though, there is much beauty in Boro, an item of clothing would last a life time, with frequent repairs, clothing would be passed down many generations. An attitude perhaps alien to western cultures who dispose of clothing as fast as buying it. Each patch sewn on holds a history of its own. In a jacket, or blanket passed down, you hold a timeline of ancestry in your hands.
As an analogy, the process of kintsugi, offers us a knowledge in how to handle our own misfortunes and suffering. We must overcome the ideas that we are broken and not fixable, to focus on what is possible rather than what is impossible.
The believe origin of Kintsugi comes from a shogun of Japan broke his favourite tea bowl. He had it sent off for repair, and it came back with great big metal staples holding it together. He was unhappy with the new appearance and had it sent off again for a more aesthetic way of mending it.
A great example of the values of wabi-sabi is told through a story of Sen No Rikyu. He is considered a great example of the way of life and values wabi-sabi holds, and made great influences on the tea-ceremony, regarding it as a philosophical, poetic and calming process. It is told that on a journey through southern Japan he was offered to visit a home and drink tea. The owner of the house was excited to show Rikyu a very elaborate and detailed painted tea jar. Though he did not seem to notice it at all, and instead spent his time watching a cherry blossom swaying in the wind. Once Rikyu had left the home-owner smashed the tea holder in disappointment and distress. It was the other guests that put it back together through the process of kintsugi. Rikyu returned another time and seeing the ceramic tea holder repaired in such a way, exclaimed that it was now truly magnificent.
The adhesive, holds ideas of an expectation to recover quickly. We all want to be fine and fixed and perfectly functioning all of the time. When we do suffer fall-backs, we aren’t always willing to accept this. But we must allow ourselves time to heal whatever has been broken, before expecting ourselves to be fine once more. We must be patient with ourselves, and allow the need for transformation to come. Change is inevitable we must welcome it. As we begin to transform ourselves we re-expereience every broken piece, re-learning it with patience and care. They may lay as sharp fragments of broken trust, care or love. In a romantic relationship, Noah and I, created something over a long period, and then smashed it broken. We can then reconsider all the separate pieces, and patiently put them back into place, and transform the broken fragments, into something else, but not leave it as it lay broken.
Artist Charlotte Bailey wraps broken ceramics in fabric, and uses embroidery to repair them in the style of Kintsugi. The process is difficult and slow. The object does not function again in the same way. But there is something new and beautiful and valuable in the object still, something changed. It now holds value in a different way. I see the process in which it was remade, the time spent by the creator, the philosophy of wabi-sabi showing in every stitch.
We can apply the philosophy of kintsugi in all aspects of life. Found pieces of glass and ceramics are collected and recreated together. Each piece holds questions of their own, where they came from, what they once were. Perhaps broken and disposed of, until recycled and renewed into something different. A collective of separate fragments, almost like a boro patchwork are now joined in gold.
Many ancient Japanese practices hold poetic and philosophical beauty in very unique ways. Not just the outcome product, but the process of creation, hold valuable teachings. Which we are then able to mould to ourselves and our life. We all suffer in ways, and can all learn how to handle it.
Whilst writing this blog, and learning more about kintsugi a friend of mine, Chris, broke one of my favourite ceramic tea cups. It was a gift from another great friend Claudia.
Though at first I was sad to see it broken, kintsugi came to mind. As Chris apologised in a guilty tone, I reassured him it was a good thing. It has given me a new opportunity, and is something to be happy about.
an definitely recommend watching this youtube link …