Kintsugi: Broken Is Better than New

Image credit: tschörda on Flickr.

I made myself some tea earlier this week, but when I went to drink it, I felt a couple drops of near-boiling water land in my lap. My mug had developed a sizable crack, and it was leaking. So I dumped out my tea, filled the mug with soil, and put a plant inside—now the leaky mug is a pot with drainage. I turned the crack into a feature. But there are even better ways to make broken porcelain whole again.

Japanese art of Kintsugi

The Japanese art of kintsugi, which means “golden joinery,” is all about turning ugly breaks into beautiful fixes.

The story goes that a 15th-century Japanese shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, sent a broken tea bowl to China to have it fixed. When the bowl came back, it was held together with metal staples. Disgusted, he set out to find a better, more aesthetically pleasing way to repair broken pottery. His eventual solution? Adding gold dust to adhesive resin, so that cracks are emphasized and made attractive.

Got some broken plates you’d like fix, kintsugi-style? Designer Lotte Dekker is selling DIY kintsugi kits, which you can see her show off in the video below, complete with gold dust and an adhesive she developed herself. The kits were inspired by Platform21’s repair manifesto, particularly the motto, “Stop recycling, start repairing.”  Or if bold colors are more your style than gold, Sugru might fit the bill.

Most repairs hide themselves—the goal is usually to make something “as good as new.” Kintsugi proposes that repair can make things better than new. Repair can be beautiful.