Kintsugi or Repairing Ordinary Broken Pottery with Gold or Gilding: History, Styles, Tip

kintsugi philosophy

When we break the dishes, we have no choice but to throw them out with a sad sigh. And even if it did not fly apart, and only a small piece broke off from it, for the most part, it is not customary for us to use broken dishes. However, there is an art of fixing pottery with gold in Japanese culture that adds charm to once-damaged household items like Japan broken pottery gold. In Japan, broken objects are often repaired with gold. This unique art of repairing pottery with gold is called kintsugi and has its own philosophy of using gold to fix pottery that teaches us important things.

Do you know anything about kintsugi meaning? What does kintsugi mean? The name of the art of kintsugi literally translates as "gold patch". It is also called kintsukuroi "gold repair". This is a method of restoring ceramic products using Japanese urushi lacquer using gold powder. Once broken dishes are carefully glued together while highlighting the resulting Japanese gold cracks.

History of Kintsugi

The most popular version of the origin of kintsugi is associated with the 8th shogun of the shogunate Muromachi Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who ruled the country in the 15th century. He ordered the Chinese craftsmen to repair the broken ceramic Chinese bowl, which they fastened with metal clips. Not enthusiastic about their work, the shogun ordered the Japanese craftsmen to find a more aesthetic repair method that would make the broken broken pot fixed with gold look like new or even better. This is how kintsugi-japanese-broken-pottery appeared.

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Kintsugi

kintsugi meaning

Kintsugi overlaps with the Japanese philosophy of simplicity "wabi-sabi" and the Japanese tea ceremony. Dishes with flaws and scuffs are considered ideal precisely because of their imperfection. She is unique, she has her own story and her own destiny, which imperfections can tell about. Wabi-sabi is the art of appreciating the simplicity and authenticity of objects. Kintsugi philosophy emphasizes that cracks in the dishes are an integral part of her story, which does not deserve to be forgotten because it is she who makes her unique and one of a kind.

Kintsugi Japanese broken pottery demonstrates not only that flaws make a thing unique, but also how they can change it beyond recognition. So, for example, Chinese vases, before the restoration were the ideal of symmetry, acquired bold golden lines that attracted the eye with their aesthetic perfection. However, despite these changes, it is difficult to say about Japanese broken pot art that it "disfigures" or "distorts" the original meaning of the object, because the repair is done not only with the help of precious metal but also with impeccable accuracy. This process of restoration can be called a deliberate intrusion of free abstraction into an object created according to a completely different system.

It also happened that sometimes the dish or Japanese bowl mended with gold, thanks to such repairs, on the contrary, only became more beautiful with. So, for example, completely nondescript bowls for tea ceremonies, then decorated with golden strokes, took on a new life.

The kintsugi process also has another interesting aspect - it mixes cultures. In this way, not only Japanese but also Chinese and Korean dishes were restored. That is why it turned out that thanks to kintsugi, pottery fixed with gold from China and Korea were decorated with traditional Japanese details and forever became part of the already truly Japanese art of gold repair.


japanese art of broken things

There Are Several Main Types or Styles of Kintsugi:

  • Cracks - Using Japanese mending with gold dust with tar or varnish to secure the broken pieces as tightly as possible.
  • Partial filling method - if replacement of a ceramic fragment is impossible for certain reasons, space is forced to be completely filled with gold or a mixture of varnish and gold.
  • Docking - a suitable fragment is inserted into the shape, it may not be similar in color and texture, but it will create a mosaic effect.

Kintsugi These Days

The philosophy of kintsugi can be applied to human life as well. Of course, often we all want to be perfect in everything, but this is impossible. Kintsugi teaches us that flaws and shortcomings are an integral part of us, which should not be forgotten. Cracks, fixing things with gold and exposed, become art that can squeeze the usual impeccable ideal of perfection.

Kintsugi Do It Yourself

fixing things with gold

The Japanese art of broken things is not only suitable for traditional Japanese broken pottery filled with gold but also looks good on European items. Therefore, it can be applied everywhere. Now we will tell you how you can glue broken objects repaired with gold using kintsugi:

Materials and Tools:

  • Glue for ceramics;
  • Epoxy putty for metalwork (fast drying). Usually, the composition hardens in 5 minutes (the exact time depends on the manufacturer). To extend the drying time, you can spray the putty with alcohol;
  • Waterproof sandpaper (400–1000 grit for the initial treatment and 1500 grit for the finishing);
  • Shin-urushi varnish;
  • Colored powder (we used a shade of brass); cleaner for shin-urushi;
  • Solvent for shin-urushi;
  • Pipette or dropper part;
  • A thin brush (brushes with a round head are well suited for gluing plastic models)
  • Water;
  • Aluminium foil;

Step 1

Check the condition of the garment. Carefully clean the chipped pieces off and examine their condition. Under bright light, check all parts for fine cracks that may only appear on one side of the ceramic.

Step 2

Glue the pieces together. Consider the order in which you will glue the pieces to the cup or plate, and then attach them with ceramic glue. Make sure the parts fit snugly together and there are no gaps between them.

Make sure the resulting surface is flat and smooth to the touch. Set the garment aside to dry.

Step 3

Seal the depression. Mix the ingredients of the epoxy putty until a uniform color is achieved.

The putty hardens after five minutes, but there is no need to rush. If you find it difficult to work with a piece of putty, it's better to make a new one.

Fill up any dents and gaps between the glued parts. Press the putty into them well until the surface is perfectly flat and smooth. Start filling the gaps from the deepest cracks and work from them to the edges. The crack-bridging step is very important. Not only the grinding process will depend on it, but also the final appearance of the object.

Step 4

Treat the niu cracks with varnish, if any. Niu is damage that goes from the inside of the object and goes out in the form of a crack. Sometimes it is very difficult to determine where the cracks are, so hold the subject under bright light. Take some shin-urushi polish on the brush and apply it to the crack to absorb it. Leave to dry for 15 minutes. Once the item is dry, dip a tissue in the nail polish cleaner and wipe off excess nail polish from the surface.

Step 5

Sand the glued parts. First, check to see if the putty sticks to your hands. Then press it with your fingernail: if there are no traces, then it has hardened enough. Another way to verify this is to lightly tap on the putty. If the sound is the same as when tapping on the object itself, then the putty is completely frozen. Dampen sandpaper and sand the surface of the bonded parts. Choose the grain of sandpaper based on the material your cup or vase is made from. Softer materials require finer grains. The higher the number on a sheet of sandpaper, the finer it is, and clay and unglazed ceramics are usually softer than glazed ones. For the cup in this photo, # 400 sandpaper was used.

Sand the glued parts, checking at the same time whether the putty has cured enough. When the putty is smooth enough, sand the product again, remembering to dampen a sheet of sandpaper with water. This time, use a fine grit sandpaper such as 1500 or higher (pictured uses 2000 grit paper). Sand the entire piece to remove finger marks.

Step 6

Now create a "landscape", or keshiki. On a piece of aluminum foil, mix the shin-urushi varnish, colored powder (we used a shade of brass), and solvent in a 1: 1: 1 ratio. First, mix the varnish with the powder, and then, when the mixture takes on color, add the solvent one drop at a time from a pipette. Try to draw a line with this composition and a brush. If the line disappears, then the solution is the right consistency.

When the solution is ready, proceed to apply it to the cup. We recommend painting in thick layers, deliberately creating smudges and bumps of paint on the glued parts to make the texture of the product feel and interesting.

Bumps of paint can be made by holding the brush in one place for a while. And the polka dot pattern is made with a wine bottle cork. Then dampen a tissue in the cleaner and wipe off any excess polish.

After applying the color, set the product aside for two to three days to allow it to dry completely. It will need to be washed before use.

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