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 such as the illusive wabi sabi, mottainai (regret about waste), and mushin (openness to transience).  This post presents two examples that had great meaning for their owners.

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The first example (above) was a favorite “travel” tea bowl of a Japanese tea ceremony enthusiast. When it broke in transit during a trip, he had it mended using a nontraditional color. Kintsugi normally uses gold, silver, or platinum.  The owner treasures all of his memories of that special bowl, including those associated with its latest vibrant transformation.

When I first encountered kintsugi, I realized the process was a form of time transcending collaboration. The person who made the bowl, the forces that broke it, and the person who mended it all contribute.  

Of course, there are many good reasons to mend a bowl. But this art goes beyond the practical or sentimental. From tending my tea garden through growth and change and at times dealing with storm damage, 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 potential which informs the very heart of beauty.

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When this bowl by Brother Thomas broke, its owner considered having it repaired so the mend would be invisible.  In the end, he decided on gold leaf.  When shown the elegant results, Brother Thomas said he liked the bowl better that way. It remains a treasured object in the gallery owner’s personal collection.

Although Audrey Harris was not so pleased with her first attempts at kintsugi, the many important lessons she learned from the process with the help of her teacher were certainly treasures. Kintsugi can also be used as a most powerful metaphor for human healing as this video makes clear.

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, consulting and workshops aim to inspire engagement with resources for wellbeing.