11 May 2023
Experiencing Kintsugi Gold Repair
"Kintsugi" is a Japanese art of repairing broken pottery, glass, lacquerware, and other items with a special type of lacquer. It has gained popularity not only for its practical and artistic value, but also for its environmentally friendly approach of reusing broken objects and its spiritual value of finding beauty in imperfection, such as the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi.
In Japan, lacquer has been used to repair various items for a long time, but it was mainly repaired with the same color of lacquer for everyday items. It is said that kintsugi, which involves repairing items beautifully, started during the time of tea ceremonies in the Muromachi period (c. 1336-1573). The repaired parts of the broken items were called "Keshiki (scenery)," and they were very much enjoyed and appreciated. If the Keshiki was beautifully done, the value of the item would increase more than an unbroken one, which shows how highly the artistry of kintsugi was valued.
In the Musubi Lab office, we wanted to try kintsugi not only to repair our broken dishes, but also to feel closer to the culture and history behind it. We also receive many inquiries from our customers about kintsugi, so we wanted to learn more about it as part of our dish care knowledge and share it with our readers.
- About the Kintsugi Workshop
- How To Do Kintsugi
- What We Thought
About the Kintsugi Workshop
We invited Ayaka Yanagisawa to our office. She studied design in college and worked for a general company before becoming a freelance graphic designer. In addition to her work, she also holds kintsugi workshops in Tokyo and Yokohama.
The dishes we're repairing are actually ones our staff members used at home. They're all very dear to us, but unfortunately, they chipped or broke and became unusable.
For this kintsugi workshop, we're using "Shin-urushi (new lacquer)," a synthetic material made from plants that's cheaper than traditional lacquer and dries quickly. It's a popular material for kintsugi nowadays due to its lower price and reduced risk of allergic reactions. While it's a simplified version of the traditional method that takes about a month using real lacquer, it's perfect for beginners to learn the basics of kintsugi.
How To Do Kintsugi
Now, let's take a look at the actual workshop!
First, apply instant adhesive to the chipped area and fix it with masking tape. It is important to think about the order in which to attach the pieces and fit them together like a puzzle.
Fill the cracks with well-kneaded paste. This is the most time-consuming part of the entire process, as excess paste must be wiped away from unnecessary areas.
Smooth the surface of the paste with sandpaper. Smoothing will give a beautiful finish.
Mix together the lacquer and gold powder, and apply it along the crack. This process requires ventilation. Compared to the previous steps, this one was completed in no time. Ayaka-Sensei (teacher) also prepared silver powder in addition to gold powder, so we were able to add some variation to the color of the plate to match our preference.
After letting it dry for one to two days, the kintsugi is finished. However, the dishes that have undergone kintsugi cannot be used in the microwave or dishwasher. Also, since an adhesive is used, it's better to avoid using it in a way that allows the adhesive surface to come into prolonged contact with food or drinks.
What We Thought
Everyone was able to fix several tablewares in about two hours! Although "Kintsugi" may sound difficult, using "Shin-urushi (new lacquer)" as a material made it easier to handle. Despite being a first-time participant, we were very satisfied with how beautifully we were able to finish our repairing. Staff who participated in the workshop commented that their repaired plates were "made even more beautiful through kintsugi," "happy to be able to use my favorite plate again," and "now feel encouraged to use dishes that they were hesitant to use before because of small cracks or breaks." There's just something special about using tablewares we have repaired ourselves - it makes them even more dear to our hearts.
We will continue to repair the tablewares we handle in the office using kintsugi, and all the staff members will continue to use them with care! If you have a chance, please try your hand at kintsugi.