Learn all about Kintsugi
What's the origin of "金継ぎ" Kintsugi?
Kintsugi began as a technique for repairing broken vessels with Urushi (Japanese lacquer).
Traces of restoration have been found on pottery dating back more than 10,000 years.
The practice of "repairing broken vessels with lacquer and then decorating the damaged parts with gold" is said to have originated in the tea culture of the Muromachi period (1333-1573 A.D.). This is Kintsugi as it is known today.
In the Muromachi period, tea ceremonies were not allowed to be held freely, and only those authorized by the shogun (general) were allowed to hold tea ceremonies. Tea ceremonies were considered a symbol of the shogun's power, and the tea utensils given as rewards by the shogun were expensive enough to buy a castle. As a result, damage to these tea utensils was considered a serious problem at the time, and the technique of repairing them by Kintsugi seems to have developed as a solution.
In China, broken vessels were joined with pins, while in Japan, the development of lacquer techniques led to the development of a unique method of repairing broken vessels with lacquer and gold.
Today, "Kintsugi" has become a global term. We believe that the spirituality and artistry of "Wabi-sabi", which expresses the scratches on vessels as aesthetics without hiding them, has gained sympathy across cultures.
Kintsugi was mentioned in the closing ceremony of the 2021 Paralympic Games and is spreading around the world as a symbol of reconnecting a divided world. The idea of embracing and celebrating imperfection, rather than hiding it, is exactly what we need to do for a sustainable future.
The Versatile Power of Urushi
Traditional Kintsugi, which has been handed down in Japan since ancient times, refers to repairing broken vessels with Urushi, a gift of nature, and decorating the surface coating with "gold powder" (or other metal powder).
Urushi (Japanese lacquer) is an excellent natural paint and glue made from the sap of the lacquer tree, and has been used since ancient times for its strong adhesion and glossy appearance. In Kintsugi, the various potentials of Urushi are maximized and used as "glue/putty/paste/paint" to repair the broken vessels, such as joining broken pieces, filling in the chipped parts, etc. by mixing other materials.
Nowadays, however, all objects finished with chemical adhesives or synthetic paints with gold pigments, etc. are also called "Kintsugi".
We'd like to spread the safe and sustainable "Japanese Art of Kintsugi" from Japan, the birthplace of Kintsugi, to people all over the world by using authentic and traditional techniques with Urushi, a chemically safe, nature-friendly and sustainable material.
This is like a "lacquer adhesive" made by mixing raw lacquer with a water and wheat flour.
It sticks pretty strong!
Mending broken pieces
Applying Japanese paper or linen
This is like a "lacquer putty" made by kneading Zelkova powder into "Mugi-urushi", mixing raw lacquer with a water and wheat flour.
Filling large chips
Filling deep gaps
This is like a "lacquer paste" made by mixing raw lacquer with water and "Tonoko powder", made from clay soil.
Filling small chips
Filling small gaps
Filling small bumps
Materials & Tools for Kintsugi
The Finer elements to create beautiful Kintsugi pieces
Usually, the only gold powder is used in Kintsugi as a finishing touch after the damaged part has been repaired with urushi. The Kintsugi Labo JAPAN uses pure gold powder (24K) as the basic material, but sometimes silver or platinum powder is used to make the joined part more dynamic or to match the atmosphere of the original vessel.
By adding organic pigments to Urushi, a variety of colors can be expressed. Some of the works in The Kintsugi Labo JAPAN are finished without the use of metal powder as "Iro-tsugi" of Urushi. These are all traditional natural materials and can be safely used as tableware.
Fine brushes and Wooden spatula
In Japan, the more even the repair area and the finer the lines drawn with urushi, the more beautiful the kintsugi. This requires a wooden spatula with a fine brush. Mr. Suginaka makes his own wooden spatulas for applying Urushi, according to the shape of the damaged part of the vessel. The fine brush is used to repeatedly apply urushi to the repaired area. The finish depends on how evenly and finely the lines are drawn, so it is necessary to apply Urushi carefully, adjusting the amount of Urushi at each step according to the climate of the day.
How to make Kintsugi
This video will show you how to repair broken Japanese pottery using the authentic and traditional Kintsugi technique using only natural materials.
What makes us unique?
Introducing our 3 unique points
One of the distinctive features of The Kintsugi Labo JAPAN's work is "Maki-e"*, in which various patterns, such as plants, are painted with a fine brush in addition to the usual Kintsugi technique.
Maki-e is a very difficult technique that takes time to master. Since Mr. Suginaka has a deep knowledge of urushi as a traditional lacquer craftsman, he can create sophisticated works of Kintsugi art by combining Kintsugi and Maki-e.
By combining Kintsugi with Maki-e patterns inspired by the original vessel, we can create vessels that are unique to The Kintsugi Labo JAPAN.
<*What is Maki-e?>
Maki-e is a lacquer decoration technique in which designs are drawn in lacquer and then sprinkled with gold, silver, or other metal powders while the lacquer is still wet.
Kintsugi Challenge for non-ceramic items
In addition to broken ceramics, The Kintsugi Labo JAPAN offers some original Kintsugi artworks, including products that extend the concept of Kintsugi to various materials by upcycling undamaged vessels that would have been discarded due to restaurant closures, etc., using the Maki-e technique.
In addition, although there is a perception that Kintsugi is only for pottery or ceramics, stone dishes and wooden materials that would otherwise be discarded are also subjected to our challenge of Kintsugi.
We want to show the potential of Kintsugi to people all over the world. To do this, we want to create surprises and possibilities by combining traditional techniques with new materials that haven't been used for Kintsugi before.
Our Wonderful Collaborators
To realize a sustainable world with this aesthetic, we source the broken vessels that form the basis of our Kintsugi pieces from collaborators such as potters and ceramics shops in Japan who share our philosophy.
We collect and apply Kintsugi to vessels that are unsalable due to defects or malfunctions in the production process, as well as valuable vessels that have been broken by earthquakes.
- Kyoto ware
T.NISHIKAWA & CO., INC.
- Nabeshima ware