Most people don’t purposefully shatter their cherished pieces of pottery, but that isn’t always the case in Japanese culture. Adorning broken ceramics with a lacquer mixed with powdered gold is part of a more than 500-year-old Japanese tradition that highlights imperfections rather than hiding them. This not only teaches calm when a cherished piece of pottery breaks; it is a reminder of the beauty of human fragility as well.
In a world that so often prizes youth, perfection and excess, embracing the old and battered may seem strange. But the 15th-Century practice of kintsugi, meaning “to join with gold”, is a reminder to stay optimistic when things fall apart and to celebrate the flaws and missteps of life.
The kintsugi technique is an extension of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which sees beauty in the incomplete and value in simplicity. The broken pieces’ gilded restoration usually takes up to three months, as the fragments are carefully glued together with the sap of an indigenous Japanese tree, left to dry for a few weeks and then adorned with gold running along its cracks.
In an age of mass production and quick disposal, learning to accept and celebrate scars and flaws is a powerful lesson in humanity and sustainability.
The Human Experience
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Khalil Gibran
Kintsugi is a powerful metaphor for the human experience. We are the summary of our experiences, they allow us to grow. To make a mistake is to be human, to suffer damage is to be human, to wear our scars proudly, is to celebrate the person we have become throughout a journey that will be filled with both joy and sadness. Both should be appreciated for the lessons in which we learn from them.
Those who have scars only become more powerful because of them. None of us gets through life unscathed and it is far less painful to display your scars than to continuously try to hide them. The Japanese art of Kintsugi is a powerful reminder to us that it does not matter if we are damaged. Once we have mended the pieces, we will be far more beautiful than ever before.