The Japanese call it Kintsugi — “The Art of Precious Scars.”
I don’t want to get too “zen” on you this early in the year — but– If you are overly self-critical about your work or your art, imagine being freed from that judgment and actually celebrating the goofs and flaws that emerge out of what you make. OMG. Wouldn’t that be a total kick?
Kintsugi teaches that broken objects are not something to hide — but to display with pride. Typically, when a bowl or precious vase falls and breaks into a thousand pieces, we toss them out. But this practice offers an alternative. Kintsugi holds that the breaks and defects actually enhance the work — thus adding value to the broken object.
This ancient “art of mending” lets the repair become a beautiful part of an object’s history. It’s a traditional Japanese art that uses a precious metal – liquid gold, liquid silver or lacquer dusted with powdered gold – to connect the broken fragments. (Kintsugi translates to “golden joinery.”) Every repaired piece is unique, because of the randomness with which ceramics shatter. (Check out the video below.) Metaphorically, the practice relates to the Japanese philosophy of “wabi-sabi” which asks that we see beauty in the flawed or imperfect. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the repair method was also born from the Japanese feeling of “mottainai” which expresses regret when something is wasted.
The practice dates back to the late 15th century, when according to legend, Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a cracked tea bowl back to China to undergo repairs. Upon its return, Yoshimasa was displeased to find that it had been mended with unsightly metal staples. This motivated contemporary craftsmen to find an alternative.
Personally, with the new year looming ahead, I am looking forward to incorporating this philosophy and practice into my daily life. I know I have plenty of quirks and cracks to share and appreciate, and who knows — this could be a great solution for my ever-deepening crow’s feet.