By Chloe N. ’22
Kintsugi (金継ぎ), also known as kintsukuroi (金繕い) — the art of golden repair. This Japanese technique joins the fragments of broken pieces of pottery together with precious metals such as liquid gold, liquid silver, or lacquer dusted with powdered gold. It repairs the breaks while enhancing the beauty of the entire piece. Without a doubt, kintsugi is a cool art technique.
The design may look pretty, but kintsugi is not only about superficial beauty. A Japanese philosophy behind this technique conveys an astoundingly powerful message about acceptance, resilience, and what it truly means to be beautiful.
Kintsugi explores a philosophy from Japanese Aesthetics, which are ancient ideals that base several Japanese cultural norms on what is considered beautiful. The concept is called wabi-sabi (侘寂). Simply put, wabi-sabi values asymmetry, simplicity, and modesty. Most importantly, this aesthetic focuses on the acceptance of flaws. It sees beauty as one of imperfection, impermanence, and incompletion. Faults are natural and perfection is all about accepting imperfection.
Relating to this aesthetic, kintsugi is more than an art technique. It’s a (frequently quoted) understanding that “the piece is more beautiful for having been broken”. By embracing the flaws and imperfections, the artist can create a piece more beautiful than the last.
When something breaks, the general response in our culture is to throw it away. However, if the flaws were to be accepted rather than scorned, the broken object would have the potential to become something even more precious and unique.
This is the fundamental message behind kintsugi. When used as a metaphor for self-acceptance, it gives us a superlative example of resilience- that learning from negative experiences is an essential part of growth.
In western society, beauty often equates to concealing flaws and blemishes. Kintsugi, on the other hand, acknowledges these imperfections, thereby encouraging us to not feel ashamed of them. Where most people see a heap of broken fragments, kintsugi recognizes the potential to become more. Faults are not ugly or embarrassing — they contribute to overall beauty. Just as kintsugi highlights the cracks in pottery, people should view imperfection as what makes them precious, unique, and irreplaceable.