Sunday, February 28, 2016

kintsugi, the beauty of being broken.

Kintsugi ( or kintsukuroi) is a Japanese tradition of repairing broken pottery with gold. The idea behind this method, is that breakages are beautiful in themselves because they are part of the history of an object. This history, with all its flaws and lines, should be displayed rather than being disguised. 

My experience with western culture is that we are very reluctant about showing imperfections lines or history in all areas of our lifes. We are ashamed of the lines in our faces, our clothes must show no wear and tear, giving a guest a chipped tea-cup would be insulting, etc. Everything needs to be as good as new. I also often feel a bit ashamed for the fact that almost everything that I own is in some way second-hand.

Kintsugi - closely linked to the Wabi-sabi worldview- shows us a new refreshing perspective: that of showcasing flaws and history. I think we can learn a lot from this perspective. Therefore, when I broke one of my favorite plates -ironically one of the very few that was bought at Ikea instead of at a thrift shop-I decided to try my hand at Kintsugi. 

Traditionally, kintsugi uses powdered gold in its laquering technique. Unfortunately, I didn't have anything of that kind at hand, so I used a more down-to-earth version of it: glue and porcelain paint. 

  • broken porcelain or stoneware. 
  • glue. I used a gel-based super glue from Bison.
  • gold, coper or silver porcelain paint. I used a copper version from Decorfin.
  • a transparent porcelain paint. This might not be necessary, but I used it anyway.
  • a small brush
  • sanding paper
  • some kitchen paper
  • dishwasher soap or something alike
  • nail polish remover
extra: an oven. 

First I began by sanding the raw edges of the broken plate. By sanding the edges of the cut a bit, I created some space on the top and the bottom That I could fill with paint when I had glued everything together. When all the edges where sanded, I cleaned them with with some soap and let them dry.

After that, I glued all the pieces together. As you can see in the picture above, By plate initially only had one break, while the finished product has several. This is because I liked the result quite a lot, and therefore I decided to smash the plate a little extra halfway though the process ( not very wabi-sabi of me, I know....) 

When all the pieces were securely glued together, I started filling the cracks with paint (this is why the sanding was important). I didn't do a very neat job, just making sure the cracks were filled with paint. Then I simply wiped off off the excess paint with a tissue.  

As a last step, I went over the cracks with a transparent porcelain paint, to give it some extra shimmer and protection.

I repeated the steps for the back of the plate. Then I baked the whole thing in the oven according to the instructions on my porcelain-paint.  
This is how it looks finished!

Although the pictures don't completely show it, the paint shimmers really nicely, like real copper. Next time I would also love to try it with golden paint, or a mix of gold and copper. But in general, I'm very happy with the result. I love the idea that I have not only saved something that I might have thrown away otherwise, but I have even made it more beautiful. Even the back is beautiful! My plate has survived the first round of oven-baking and dishwashing. If anything changes I'll keep you updated.

But the most important part is that the research into kintsugi and wabi-sabi have inspired me to reflect  on imperfections in objects and ourselves. 


  1. Is it true that i recognize a formal birthday present? Noce to see you 'healed' it!

  2. A friend of mine told me about kintsugi too. Love it.

    1. When I read about it for the first time, I was awed as well! I find both the look and the idea behind traditional kintsugi really inspiring.
      I love reading your blog by the way!

  3. Very beautiful plate. Very beautiful meaning behind Kintsugi.

    You mentioned that your plate has since been through the dishwasher, so I was just wondering whether you checked to make sure that those paints and varnishes were OK to use on items hat you intended to eat off?