Embrace the imperfection.
When you drop a favorite ceramic—an heirloom bowl, a beloved plate, or a classic cup—don’t even think about throwing it away. Those cracked pieces can be put back together. Not just that, they can become art.
This is the philosophy of the Japanese art of Kintsugi, a practice whereby you can repair broken stoneware with an adhesive gilded lacquer. The word “Kintsugi” roughly translates to “golden joinery” or “golden repair,” though the joining lacquer can be gold, silver, or even a gleaming platinum, depending on the hue of the dust added to the resin adhesive. This elegant form of repair dates to 1400s Japan, and it is still used today to restore broken china.
While the overall effect of Kintsugi is that of a repaired ceramic, when it’s fixed, the break in the piece becomes part of its structure—and part of its beauty. A plate isn’t just glued together; it’s mended with with metallic veins. It isn’t thrown away; it’s restored. Gild the flaw and it becomes lovely, making permanent the drops and breaks and chips in the porcelain’s past. This transforms the wear and tear, encouraging us to look at it differently. The mending is visually and tactilely evident, but it reminds us that what’s broken isn’t always beyond repair.
The practice inspiring the art of Kintsugi is thought to derive from the Japanese philosophy known as wabi-sabi, a desire or attempt to accept imperfections. This involves embracing and celebrating flaws—and really, not seeing them as flaws at all, but instead viewing wear and breaks as part of the process of use, and of life. If you’d like to learn more about the art of Kintsugi, you can find a workshop near you or find repair kits online here or here.
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Would you try Kintsugi on a favorite broken piece? We’d recommend displaying your stoneware repaired by Kintsugi—gleaming veins on patterned plates catch the light just beautifully.