Cultura Japonesa

What is Kintsugi Philosophy in Pottery?

Mary Smith
By Mary Smith. September 15, 2021
What is Kintsugi Philosophy in Pottery?

Not all cultures hold as close to their traditions as Japan does. This is not to say they are not a modern nation. On the contrary, they are one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet. But their respect for their predecessors is perhaps more visible than many other nations. This can be seen in many aspects of their culture, especially in design. Often traditions with a practical purpose also have a philosophical aspect which may or may not still be employed.

At oneHOWTO, we provide more information on one such tradition which blends philosophy and craft by asking what is Kintsugi pottery and design?

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  1. What does the word Kintsugi mean?
  2. What is the spiritual meaning of Kintsugi?
  3. How the Kintsugi Technique is Performed

What does the word Kintsugi mean?

Kintsugi is the term for the Japanese art of repairing with gold. This word is written as 金 継 ぎ in its original Japanese. The first symbol represents gold and the other two symbols mean arrangement. The literal definition of Kintsugi is fixation with gold or with a kind of golden patch.

Japanese Kintsugi pottery dates back to the Jōmon period, going as far back as 14,000 BC. This process involves taking broken pottery and repairing it with lacquer mixed with gold or other precious metals. Over the centuries, these pieces of repaired pottery have become sometimes more valuable than if they had never been broken in the first place.

What is the spiritual meaning of Kintsugi?

The spiritual meaning of Kintsugi take into account inner and outer appearances. Similar to the interior design model of wabi-sabi, this philosophy is about accepting the imperfect. It is about accepting damage and making something beautiful out of it. Wounds, whether physical or emotional, should not be hidden or cause embarrassment. They should be accepted for what they are and help us to be stronger.

The breaking of objects does not mean they end or disappear. Sometimes, as with Kintsugi, the repaired object can be even more valuable, just as we can have greater self-worth. Positive things come from negative situations and we are involved in a process of empowerment.

The Kintsugi philosophy extrapolated to today's life calms the craving for perfection. The passage of time shows that you experience losses, failures and disappointments. The aspiration to hide fragility and weaknesses is meaningless. Once you learn to value everything that is broken inside you, you acquire serenity and temperance. Therefore, it is important to appreciate yourself as you are: new, broken, unique and constantly changing.

Kintsugi also points to patience as a key factor for personal resurgence and growth. The healing process is decisive in all individuals. Healing takes several weeks and even months to harden the spirit, but in this way durability and cohesion are guaranteed.

How the Kintsugi Technique is Performed

The Kintsugi pottery technique involves gluing broken pieces of pottery together with a mixture of lacquer and silver or gold powder. It also uses resin varnish. In addition, after putting the broken pieces together, the Kintsugi pottery technique requires filing the surface to smooth it, creating an object which beautifies its scars.

Tools used in modern Kintsugi methods include:

  • Brush
  • Gold dust
  • Epoxy glue
  • Epoxy putty
  • Gloves
  • Wooden sticks

To put the Kintsugi technique into practice correctly, you must follow these steps:

  1. Add glue to a tray.
  2. Add the gold dust to mix it with the glue. The quantity of both components must be equal.
  3. Use wooden sticks for the mixture.
  4. Apply the mixture to the broken ceramic. The layer must be thick enough for the pieces to adhere to each other, but not so much it drips down. Wait 2 minutes for the glue to dry.
  5. Press for a few minutes to bring the broken pieces together and wait 5 more minutes until the glue sets.
  6. Add more gold dust before the glue finishes drying with the help of a brush. Do it over the area of the crack.
  7. Wait 4 hours for the glue and gold dust to soak and dry on the ceramic.
  8. Finally, remove the gold dust from the crack with the brush and from the rest of the surface with a damp sponge.

The Kintsugi technique indicates that value grows through resilience. Ceramic objects repaired with this technique are much more precious than those kept intact or without ever breaking. Despite what society often tries to tell us, we are more valuable after we have experience and learning, even if we sustain damage in the process. Like the once broken ceramic, we are more beautiful and more useful than before.

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What is Kintsugi Philosophy in Pottery?