Kintsugi: Two Tea Bowls Mended with Loving Care

There are very few practicing the traditional craft of kintsugi (literally gold mended) in Japan, although you can purchase materials online and try it yourself.

You can also find examples with related concepts. This article describes three aesthetic concepts related to appreciation of nature including the illusive wabi sabi. Other Japanese concepts related to kintsugi include, mottainai (regret about waste), and mushin (openness to transience).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The example above was a favorite “travel” tea bowl of a Japanese tea ceremony enthusiast. When it broke in transit, honoring it by having it mended using a nontraditional color (normally kintsugi uses gold, silver, or platinum) certainly gave the bowl vibrant new life. Its owner treasures the bowl for the whole series of memories it has accrued including this latest set.

When I first encountered kintsugi, my first thought was about the time-transcending collaboration; the one who made the bowl, the forces that broke it, and the one who mended it all contributing. I could imagine the bowl held gently in the hand as it was fixed linking the spirit of the mender to the spirit of the maker, even if the maker was long dead.

There are many good reasons to mend a bowl. From tending my tea garden and dealing with storm damage along with all the seasonal changes, I learned the wisdom of honoring the potential of what is here now.

Like everything else, we are subject to constant change.  We are by no means immune from shattering.  But we are also gifted with the ability to work with the creative potential of change, something which informs the very heart of beauty.   Kintsugi adds depth to new wholeness by using, and indeed celebrating, the mending where breaks once occurred.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The owner of this beautiful bowl by Brother Thomas considered having it mended so the repair would be invisible.  In the end, the gallery owner decided to have it mended using gold leaf.  When shown the bowl, Brother Thomas said he liked it better that way. The above bowl remains a very happy part of the gallery owner’s personal collection.

Although Audrey Harris was not so pleased with her first attempts at mending using kintsugi, the lessons she learned with the help of her teacher were certainly treasures. Kintsugi is brimming with metaphoric lessons.

Here is another video showing a particularly powerful use of this metaphor.

Addendum: This post was updated on 3/11/19 to include the video on the meaning of kintsugi for a survivor.

Author: katzlator

My writing and consulting aim to inspire engagement with resources for wellbeing.