Kintsugi : golden joinery and Japanese art

Kintsugi (金ē¶™ćŽ) is translated by golden joinery. It's aĀ  Japanese decorative practice to repair broken porcelain or ceramic pottery. Japanese artist use lacquer sprinkled with gold powder, the pieces are glued back together.

It's not a simple patching.Ā Artists leaveĀ voluntarily the imperfections visible. This full-fledged philosophy wants to teach us to accept our defects. It even wants us to value them.

First of all, we will talk about its history. You will be able to practice it if you wish. We will also reveal the techniques of shaping this skill. Then you will see the link between this art and the Japanese philosophy.

After reading this article, you will know everything about this noble Japanese ceramic art.

kintsugi-bowl

Kintsugi History

This tradition was born at the end of the 15th century. It is the famous Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa who is at the origin. It is interesting to note that porcelain tableware was already very popular in Japan thanks to the tea ceremony. Unfortunately, the Japanese were not competent to make or undertake the repairs of the ceramic object. They had to entrust the task to their Chinese neighbor who had mastered the craft of ceramics.

Through clumsiness, the brave General-in-Chief of the armies broke his favorite glazed earthenware bowl. He then decided to send it to China, hoping that it could be given a second life. This is what happened, the object was reborn. But this was not enough to satisfy the general. The vulgar metal staples were strongly detrimental to its charm. So he demanded that aesthetics be part of the repairers' job.

kintsugi-cup

Chinese craftsmen were quick to respond to this request. After much experimentation, the famous custom finally appeared. A little later, the Japanese ended up appropriating this skill. Both from the point of view of technical mastery and the whole conceptual aspect.

This heritage is still relevant today. It is not uncommon for a Japanese person to deliberately break a vase in order to make it more beautiful. An object that has been treated with natural lacquer (called "urushi") has a much higher value.

What is the Japanese Kintsugi technique?

It is important to know that it is a demanding art. To handle it as well as the great masters, you will need to be patient. It's at least a month for Japanese artist to create one single piece of art. For the greatest masterpieces, it can even take a whole year.

It is perfectly possible to try to make an imitation. You can make your own ceramic sculpture in a more modest way. We will explain how to achieve this in just a few hours. (If you like Japanese craftsmanship, you will love to experiment with the art of living flowers)

Here are the 6 steps for the Japanese ceramic production:

1. Firstly,Ā have a look to the utensils and products you will need:
  • A contemporary broken ceramic dish (porcelain plate, bowl, porcelain vase, carafe, trivet or mug...)
  • A bottle of bicomponent epoxy resin specific to fine ceramic and hard porcelain pieces.
  • Several grams of gold powder.
  • Brushes with fine hairs
  • Small wooden strips.
  • A plastic plate to make the mixtures.
  • Latex gloves to avoid bad chemical reactions on your skin (we will use products that can be dangerous).
2. Make the mix

Before you start mixing, make sure you put on your gloves (you are never safe from an allergic reaction). Place your resin and gold powder in the plastic plate. Use your wooden tongue and stir until you have a smooth paste.

3. Apply the paste to the edges of your dishes

Now, coat the mixture on the ends of your work. You don't need to apply a lot, coloring the relief is more than enough. Once this is done, let it sit for about 2 minutes.

4. Weld the pieces

Now it's time to glue the pieces together. To do this, simply hold the edges vigorously against each other. Press for as long as it takes to fix (usually a few minutes). During this phase, try to move as little as possible. This could compromise the quality of your work.

5. Polish the gilding

Now we'll take care of the finishing touches. Get your brush. Draw in your seams with the gold powder. Once finished, you can get rid of the excess powder by blowing on it.

6. Let it dry

During the drying stage, make sure the environment is dry and clean. (In the old days, designers would sometimes get on a boat and sail away. This allowed them to make sure that no waste was in the air).

Of course, you don't have to do this. Just make sure that the fruits of your efforts are secure. In most cases, it will takeĀ oneĀ hour for everything to harden properly. After that, the colorful stripes of your ceramic creation will finally be finished. Your table decoration will finally be ready to impress your guests.

Kintsugi: Japanese philosophy

Through this craft is a true message of life. It hides a philosophy that aims to accept us as we are. Better yet, it encourages us to show off the imperfections that time brings. Wear and tear is a mark of beauty that we can be proud of. Because it is the consequence of life's experience. What looks like defects becomes wisdom. This belief is derived from a Japanese thought that appeared a century earlier (14th century): wabi-sabi.

In the same way as the Kintsugi object, our existence should not end just because it suffers shocks. On the contrary, it must draw strength from its wounds. This refers to the idea that being destroyed is not a fatality. It allows us to rebuild ourselves in a more solid and beautiful way. To have a porcelain service repaired when it is supposed to have been destroyed shows a certain taste for transcendence and eternity. Just as you should never throw away your porcelain objects in the trash, you should never let yourself be defeated.

kintsugi-phylosophy

Kintsugi also echoes a certain Japanese Zen trend: "no mind". This consists in accepting change. For it is an integral part of our destiny. If a sad event happens, it could not be otherwise. Everything ends up being irretrievably destroyed, programmed obsolescence is part of this world. It is then useless to dramatize. All that counts is to get up stronger.

Kintsugi : Japanese discipline

As we have seen, this ancestral method is as much a part of the Japanese decorative arts as it is of the intellectual and spiritual sphere. This gives this field an exciting depth. Especially since such a practice is perfectly coherent within Japanese culture. The same philosophical idea can be found among the samurai. For these fighters, displaying wounds is a fervent sign of glory.

It is rather vulgar to summarize Kintsugi as a simple technique to repair porcelain, or as an ingenious way to decorate one's tableware for special occasions. It is obviously much more than that. It is an art of living in its own right.

Treating the porcelain object with this process is like treating the soul. Urushi has an amazing characteristic: as time passes, it only gets stronger. Thus, the work becomes stronger as it ages. Here again, the symbolic significance of this decoration is full of meaning.

Are you interested in the JapaneseĀ culture? You can continue your discoveries through our article on how to decorate your Japanese bedroom?. You will discover the subtleties of the floral art Ikebana, the Japanese calligraphy, the martial arts or the crafts like the kumiko...