Ken and Michie - Aug 18 2023
Beyond Art to Life Philosophy - Embracing Imperfection and Mending the World
Explore Kintsugi: the art of beautifying brokenness in pottery with urushi and gold powder, a symbol of resilience and hope. This feature explores the philosophy of Kintsugi, its applications in life, and its portrayal by celebrated authors. Join us in appreciating the aesthetics of imperfection.
From the Art of Kintsugi to the Concept of Kintsugi
As mentioned in the previous blog post, kintsugi developed in Japan as a genre of lacquer art. About 400 years ago, kintsugi itself, rather than the vessels, became the subject of some works. As the 21st century progressed, kintsugi boomed in Japan and around the world, and the concept of kintsugi itself became a topic of conversation on more and more occasions. For example, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' reference to the International Day of Peace, which will be commemorated at UN Headquarters on September 17, 2020, sums it up perfectly.
Photo credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten UN Secretary-General António Guterres rings the peace bell at UN Headquarters in New York.
Emerge ‘better than new’
Mr. Guterres noted that Japanese culture has a deep appreciation for natural imperfections and flaws, as reflected in an art form known as kintsugi, which takes broken pieces of pottery and fuses them together using golden lacquer. “The result is a piece that is not ‘good as new', but ‘better than new’. As we mark the International Day of Peace, let’s apply this principle to our fractured world,” he said. “Let’s address the fragilities and inequalities that work against peace, so that we emerge from the crisis stronger than before. Let’s push for peace wherever conflict is raging and wherever there are diplomatic opportunities to silence the guns. Let’s prioritize peace and build a safer future for all.”
Article credit: UN News, "Bolster fragile world to emerge stronger, UN chief urges, marking Peace Day", United Nations, https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/09/1072622
Photo credit: AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama, "President of the International Paralympic Committee Andrew Parsons gestures during his speech at the closing ceremony for the 2020 Paralympics"., https://japan-forward.com/paralympics-closing-ceremony-showcases-beauty-in-diversity/
The same context was also mentioned in the speech of the Closing Ceremony of the Paralympic Games on September 5, 2021.
“There is an old philosophy in Japan, called Kintsugi.” He referred to how this art in Japan, which uses the idea that broken pottery can be repaired with gold, “celebrates diversity” and makes us unique. Finally, he appealed to everyone to keep bringing attention to diversity and those with disabilities, as “change starts with awareness.” “Sport has opened the door. Now it’s time to play our role to break down the barriers,” concluded Parsons.
The following book, written by a Spanish author living in Japan, also mentions kintsugi. It has been translated into several languages and has become very popular.
Photo credit: https://amzn.asia/d/eDUZBLN
Book: Miralles, Francesc; García, Héctor. The Book of Ichigo Ichie: The Art of Making the Most of Every Moment, the Japanese Way (pp.100-101). Quercus. Kindle ver.
"Kintsugi is a radical example of wabi-sabi, which teaches us that there is beauty in imperfection. It can also be seen as a metaphor for life, in which we accumulate wounds and losses. Leaving our emotional wounds exposed forever, like a broken cup that goes unrepaired, causes unnecessary suffering. But we can recover, using what we have learned from our misfortunes and failures. In this way, our scars will tell our stories like the golden lacquer of kintsugi. Just like a delicate piece of porcelain, the human heart can be damaged, but concealing the damage out of shame isn’t the solution. The damage is part of our history and has brought us to where we are. Just for this, it deserves the brilliance of gold, which reflects a light that in this case is our own."
A customer who purchased one of our Kintsugi pieces also told us that Kintsugi embodies the following philosophy.
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places."
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
By Cleo Damianakes - Derived from a digital capture (photo/scan) of the book cover (creator of this digital version is irrelevant as the copyright in all equivalent images is still held by the same party). Copyright held by the publisher or the artist. Claimed as fair use regardless. https://www.theguardian.com/books/gallery/2017/oct/21/cover-stories-beautiful-book-jacket-designs-in-pictures, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31729169
What is the philosophy behind Kintsugi?
Kintsugi is booming in Japan. However, kintsugi is not sold as a finished work of art in Japan. In general, kintsugi refers to schools for learning the technique of kintsugi or repair services for broken pottery provided by lacquer shops. For this reason, kintsugi kits for easily repairing one's own vessel are available at general stores in urban areas. What is often said in connection with kintsugi in Japan is もったいない "mottainai" (a Japanese term that encompasses the philosophy of valuing resources and minimizing waste), and also that as people have had more opportunities to confront themselves under COVID-19, they feel as if they have healed themselves by repairing broken vessels. It is especially important to note that by repairing broken vessels, we can accept our own imperfections by superimposing ourselves on the vessel. Some overseas customers associate it with mindfulness and seek mental relaxation through kintsugi. The book "Kintsugi Wellness" presents these perspectives in an easy-to-understand way.
Photo credit: https://www.amazon.co.jp/Kintsugi-Wellness-Japanese-Nourishing-English-ebook/
your cracks make you beautiful.
"The physical art of kintsugi is beautiful, but that’s not what this book is about. The part I find moving, and what I want to share with you, is the analogy of embracing your past wounds, scars, pain, and internal struggle, and accepting their value. Your deepest pain, your biggest fears—all the struggles you’ve gone through—have forever changed you. If you could see my heart, you would see there are golden cracks all over it. Some run deep, some are still being sealed, and many more are still to come. Your heart looks very much the same. Kintsugi is life’s way of saying, “nobody’s perfect.” The path is not straight. In fact, your hardest challenges, deepest wounds, and greatest fears are actually among the most beautiful, precious, and admirable parts of you."
By Kumai, Candice. Kintsugi Wellness (p.14). HarperCollins. Kindle
In modern civilization there are many situations that require perfection. We have to be tough, we have to be cheerful, we have to be positive.... But we have to object that people do not have to be like that. This is probably one of the reasons why Kintsugi exists.
To help you feel the above ideas on a deeper level, The Kintsugi Labo JAPAN is committed to truly sustainable traditional kintsugi. We believe that by holding our kintsugi piece created by a skilled lacquer craftsman using sustainable materials such as urushi, you will be able to appreciate the ancient beauty of kintsugi more deeply. In addition, we value "upcycling," the creation of new value by repairing with authentic kintsugi the broken pottery that would otherwise be discarded due to cracks, chips, or flaws caused by earthquakes or other accidental damage during production.
Kintsugi: Japan's Magnificent Gift to the World
Kintsugi, a symbol of Japanese culture and art, is becoming a culture that originated in Japan and is gaining popularity around the world.
From a micro perspective, it is about embracing our imperfect selves as they are, through the beauty of imperfection. This is a universal objection to modern society's demand for perfection.
From a macro perspective, kintsugi can be a message to society to connect together today's increasingly fragmented society with the remaining imperfect and diverse.
In this sense, kintsugi has evolved from one of craft techniques to an ideological concept.
Based on the above, we have decided to create the following brand concept for The Kintsugi Labo JAPAN.
Kintsugi: The Ancient Japanese Aesthetic of Sustainable Upcycling
The Kintsugi Labo JAPAN brings you the sustainable world view that is not “good as new”, but “better than new”.
Our Kintsugi is a Contemporary Art that reconnects a world that has been divided.
The world is divided and conflict is constant, but we find value in repairing the divisions, accepting the flaws, and then creating a better world than the original state. As such "vessels of thought," we would be happy if our kintsugi artworks remained in the world 100 years from now.
We would be more than happy to work with you, the readers of this text, to spread the spirit of Kintsugi through our works. Thank you for your continued support!