Kintsugi

Stefano Carnazzi

Reading by Liz Helgesen (Download file)

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When a bowl, teapot or precious vase falls and breaks into a thousand pieces, we throw them away angrily and regretfully. Yet there is an alternative, a Japanese practice that highlights and enhances the breaks thus adding value to the broken object. It’s called kintsugi (金継ぎ), or kintsukuroi (金繕い), literally golden (“kin”) and repair (“tsugi”).

This traditional Japanese art uses a precious metal – liquid gold, liquid silver or lacquer dusted with powdered gold – to bring together the pieces of a broken pottery item and at the same time enhance the breaks. The technique consists in joining fragments and giving them a new, more refined aspect. Every repaired piece is unique, because of the randomness with which ceramics shatters and the irregular patterns formed that are enhanced with the use of metals.

With this technique it’s possible to create true and always different works of art, each with its own story and beauty, thanks to the unique cracks formed when the object breaks, as if they were wounds that leave different marks on each of us. …

Even today, it may take up to a month to repair the largest and most refined pieces of ceramics with the kintsugi technique, given the different steps and the drying time required.

The kintsugi technique suggests many things. We shouldn’t throw away broken objects. When an object breaks, it doesn’t mean that it is no more useful. Its breakages can become valuable. We should try to repair things because sometimes in doing so we obtain more valuable objects.

This is the essence of resilience. Each of us should look for a way to cope with traumatic events in a positive way, learn from negative experiences, take the best from them and convince ourselves that exactly these experiences make each person unique, precious.

Originally excerpted from here.

Seed questions for reflection: What does kintsugi suggest to you? Can you share a personal story of a time you saw beauty in the scar from a healed negative experience? What helps you see your life's scars, not as a disturbance of its beauty, but an integral part of it?

Add Your Reflection:

13 Previous Reflections:

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    On Nov 24, 2021 Marsha Hildebrand wrote:
    Absolutely beautiful and true.

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    On Nov 23, 2021 NAREN KINI wrote:
    Like most arts of the ancient and their tradition, I have always felt their real essence is deeper than the visuals or the aesthetics. Deeper sometimes are the scars and impressions in one's consciousness that over time percolates to the sub consciousness level and becomes the basis of all decisions and actions. Saint Kabir gave the example of a weaver and the potential flaws in the weave that leave a touch of being human. So have many in their creation of art as well. The best and the most effective tool that a human carries is also shown by nature - empathy and compassion. In the healing of a broken branch of a tree, in the recovery of a shock felt by a plant or an animal, it has always been nature's subtle but steady care and compassion. Sometimes it is the wind, sometimes the tender drops of rain and other times a human hand and music of nature that has helped heal. When we as human make discussion of unseen scars and impressions as taboo and send them down a spiral, what ... [View Full Comment] Like most arts of the ancient and their tradition, I have always felt their real essence is deeper than the visuals or the aesthetics. Deeper sometimes are the scars and impressions in one's consciousness that over time percolates to the sub consciousness level and becomes the basis of all decisions and actions. Saint Kabir gave the example of a weaver and the potential flaws in the weave that leave a touch of being human. So have many in their creation of art as well. The best and the most effective tool that a human carries is also shown by nature - empathy and compassion. In the healing of a broken branch of a tree, in the recovery of a shock felt by a plant or an animal, it has always been nature's subtle but steady care and compassion. Sometimes it is the wind, sometimes the tender drops of rain and other times a human hand and music of nature that has helped heal.

    When we as human make discussion of unseen scars and impressions as taboo and send them down a spiral, what emerges are multiple pieces of the soul. Sometimes they cannot be put together. Hence, my take away is do not break to make an art. There are many that are broken we can be the glue/bond that will help put them together - even if the outcome is not a display piece, it will become a functional, compassion filled heart that will cure and curate many more.

    I am glad in pursuit of the proverbial perfection, we are willing to accept imperfect best selves of ourselves and the heal from the negative experiences - advancing in the way of love.[Hide Full Comment]

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    On Nov 23, 2021 Victoria Crawford wrote:
    My deepest desire was to be a 'bowl' that was without breaks. I saw that as 'whole' and so I tried for most of my life to hide my imperfections, brokenness and pretend I wasn't broken.It was painful and because I was/am broken and I could never, no matter how hard I tried, unbreak the bowl. When I saw the beauty of the mended bowls I felt my heart open. I felt a deep love and compassion arise as I looked deeply at the beauty created from the breaks. They were so interesting and I loved them. Sue Cochrane, a beloved being, had written a piece on Kintsugi before she died. She had three examples in her story. One with a simple break filled with gold, another with a small piece missing with gold filling in the gap and a third with big pieces of the original bowl gone altogether. The third bowl had to have the gold plus other pieces of random china put in to fill the space. That is the one I most relate to. And interestingly enough, the one I find most beautiful............ [View Full Comment] My deepest desire was to be a 'bowl' that was without breaks. I saw that as 'whole' and so I tried for most of my life to hide my imperfections, brokenness and pretend I wasn't broken.It was painful and because I was/am broken and I could never, no matter how hard I tried, unbreak the bowl. When I saw the beauty of the mended bowls I felt my heart open. I felt a deep love and compassion arise as I looked deeply at the beauty created from the breaks. They were so interesting and I loved them.
    Sue Cochrane, a beloved being, had written a piece on Kintsugi before she died. She had three examples in her story. One with a simple break filled with gold, another with a small piece missing with gold filling in the gap and a third with big pieces of the original bowl gone altogether. The third bowl had to have the gold plus other pieces of random china put in to fill the space. That is the one I most relate to. And interestingly enough, the one I find most beautiful.........
    Kintsugireminds me thatI'm ok. I'm enough. And that beautyis present even in the midst of great loss. It helps me to 'own' my bowl and love it. That has translated into loving the life I have had and owning the breaks and losses more openly and truthfully.
    Peace, light and gratitude[Hide Full Comment]

    1 reply: Gururaj | Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 23, 2021 Patrick wrote:
    kintsugi is great spiritual truth

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    On Nov 23, 2021 Jayne wrote:
    All my scars are beautiful!As I Am pieced back together I cherish the lesson each fracture taught to renew, restore and recover my wholeness . Kintsugi(Golden repair)

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    On Nov 23, 2021 Ricky Knue wrote:
    Often it is the reflective light of the scars that another being sees and is drawn to, identifies with, and can find solace in when we focus on rising up from the brokenness. It has been my experience this happens over and over again in my current profession of high school teacher, and is the main reason I continue to show up.

    1 reply: Jo | Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 23, 2021 Usha wrote:
    Understanding the concept of impermanence and to celebrate it by recreating has beena way of being. My mom used to recreate beautiful cushions, table covers, mattresses, tapestry from old clothes. We learnt from her to reuse, recreate and renew the broken , torn and withered stuff. I took this concept to my workplace in reducing the wastage using the slogan. I love how it has been given a name "theart of Kingsugi". Things happen in life, leave alone materials,hearts break, but to learn to celebrate is something we can learn from this art and to know that every event, every creation is beautiful, it is what we make out of it. I use this practice of converting everything in your heart to love and this is what I see Kintsugito be.

    1 reply: David | Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 20, 2021 David Doane wrote:
    Kintsugisuggests to me that damage isn't the end, and a valuable new reintegration and new beginning is possible. I was cheated out of significant money by an employer years ago. The beauty in the scar from the greatly healed negative experience is my growth, my increased awareness of my participation and any victim's participation in victimization, and my increased compassion for the apparent wrongdoer. It has also taught me to not give up, there's a way to reap positive from a problem,realize opportunity in a problem. Hemingway said we are sometimes stronger at the broken places -- we are sometimes also more valuable and beautiful. What helps me see my life's scars as an integral part of beauty is knowing that shit happens -- that's life, that's part of the whole, and my challenge is to deal constructively with difficulties and wounds and make them be an integral part of my growth.

    1 reply: Jazzy | Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 19, 2021 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    We all break precious items and we may feel anger, hurt, regret and despair. We create scars in us and in others. How do we deal with the broken parts of ourselves? Do we boil with anger or accept the scars and heal them? Do we hold on to the scars or let them go? I like to work on the wounds with a kind, compassionate and creative approach. I learn from the broken bowl of life. I repair it, protect it, and restore its wholeness. Dreams of life get broken. Relationships get broken. I believe in restoring it with loving and kind awareness. Suffering opens the door of healing. During my relatively long life my bowl of life has been broken. My heart has been wounded. I wentthrough a depressive cycle. I felthopeless. The tender touch of my mother's loving hands brought life back to my life. Enkindled the light of hope. Helped me bounce back to the path of hope and lifted me from the pit of despair and misery. I leaned the power of resilience. Life is like a web with different colors an... [View Full Comment] We all break precious items and we may feel anger, hurt, regret and despair. We create scars in us and in others. How do we deal with the broken parts of ourselves? Do we boil with anger or accept the scars and heal them? Do we hold on to the scars or let them go? I like to work on the wounds with a kind, compassionate and creative approach. I learn from the broken bowl of life. I repair it, protect it, and restore its wholeness. Dreams of life get broken. Relationships get broken. I believe in restoring it with loving and kind awareness. Suffering opens the door of healing.
    During my relatively long life my bowl of life has been broken. My heart has been wounded. I wentthrough a depressive cycle. I felthopeless. The tender touch of my mother's loving hands brought life back to my life. Enkindled the light of hope. Helped me bounce back to the path of hope and lifted me from the pit of despair and misery. I leaned the power of resilience.
    Life is like a web with different colors and shapes. As I have mentioned before the web of life gets entangled and I feel caught up and tied. I have learned how to untangle my web by awareness and compassion. The entanglementhelped me realize my own inner strength and taught me how to create a flow in my life. Life teaches lessons. We need to be good learners.
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave[Hide Full Comment]

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