Photo by Riho Kitagawa.

Kintsugi: Broken is Beautiful

Kintsugi: Broken is Beautiful

Two videos introducing the Kintsugi art form and some of the philosophy behind it. A reminder that just because something broken does not necessarily mean it is finished or worthless.
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Makoto Fujimura & ROANOKE


Video One

Makoto: The world is predicated upon mending what is broken, and this reality of how this Kintsugi bowl is more valuable than the original really speak to the restorative, redemptive process of the gospel.

Kintsugi is this art form of mending, uh, broken shards of pottery. Kin means gold, and tsugi means to mend. So you are reconnecting the broken pieces. But doing it in a way that is, that is beautiful, and, uh, it's an art form of its own. Kintsugi speaks about conditions of trauma, and brokenness, ground zero conditions.

Valuing what you have rather than this disposable culture. Kintsugi is not just fixing, but it's, it's creating into an opportunity, um, of brokenness. And so that is a redemptive journey, um, that leads to new creation.

Background conversation: Oh, so this is the place. Yes, this is an old jazz bar. It's been here for about 50 years.

Makoto: Being true to yourself creates art, kintsugi, and a safe zone that has the power to heal people.

Kunio: It doesn't feel like "repairing" at all. It feels a bit closer to "creating." It's between repair and creation.

Makoto: Yeah. It's both, right? You're repairing, but also creating.

Kunio (two translations):

Translation A: When something's perfect... it doesn't offer anything anymore. But flaws can be thrilling. Perfection only belongs to perfection. In imperfect place attracts imperfect things. Now I only buy bowls that are broken or chipped. It's like I'm obsessed with the beauty in broken things.

Translation B: You're thinking about something new when you're fixing it. I don't think there's a perfect thing. I'm really happy with imperfect things. Perfect things fit in perfect places, and imperfect things are drawn in imperfect places. Even when I go to buy a vessel, I only buy a broken one. But now, when I see a broken vessel, I feel a strange kind of beauty.

Makoto: The Kintsugi concept can be applied in many different ways. We say we fix the soil, which means not to restore the soil, but to amend it. So you add elements to it that makes the soil come alive. So when you plant something in there, it, it thrives. That's an interesting parallel because understanding the health of the earth really has elements of kintsugi in it.

Kunio: Kintsugi is... not just fixing. It can connect different times together, and memories together. It's a special kind of magic. What's what I feel.

Makoto: Creative minds are fixed upon these traumatic events in history. If you removed all of the novels and art forms that came directly out of trauma, you would lose 80 percent of the world's art. Um, you would not have Hemingway, you would not have J. D. Salinger, you would not have Dante, you would not have Milton. The world would be decimated.

It's a very significant way of understanding art and literature, and more importantly, our communities, and our way of processing the past, finding healing, to be able to sow seeds of hope in the midst of conflict. We tend to want to run away from these conflicts and traumas, but it is the very heart of what the arts represents.

Kunio: By doing kintsugi, I feel that my perspective toward the world has changed. I see both completely perfected items and incomplete items. It used to be an old broken bowl. But now you see there's a gold river flowing in it.

Makoto: Kintsugi reminds us that sometimes instead of throwing away things of the past, um, that it's good to work them in, and to do it beautifully. To me, how the gospel reads is Christ came not just to fix us, but, but to restore us to create something new, um, which is more valuable than what we began with.

Video Two

Kintsugi. It means golden joinery.

It's the practice of mending broken objects, mainly pottery, with lacquered gold. [Music]

The origin of kintsugi allegedly comes from a Japanese shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who wished to repair a broken Chinese tea bowl in a way that would be aesthetically pleasing.

Kintsugi encapsulates two Japanese philosophies. The first is wabi-sabi, which embraces imperfection and impermanence. The breaking and then repairing of an object is simply an event in its life that adds to both its character and beauty. As Richard Powell says, "Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."

There is also mushin, which explores non-attachment and acceptance of change. The changes we undergo throughout our lives, the breaks and knockbacks, are shown in our scars, blemishes, and wrinkled skin. Objects too are subject to the same changes and through kintsugi are repaired in gold to illuminate their breaking points. [Music] Which, like wrinkled skin, adds wisdom and fortitude. Japan finds beauty in the weathered and the dutifully used and values the appreciation of transience.

Mono no aware, literally "the pathos of things," is a Japanese term for this, combining transience and wistfulness for both objects and the state of life in general. This is seen most famously in Japan's fascination with cherry blossoms, so often seen in anime and Japanese films, as their leaves fall after only one week. [Music]

Kintsugi is the marriage of both these ideas: the weathered and the transient.

This is quite the opposite of Western ideals of beauty, which traditionally values symmetry and perfection. However, as with many aspects of Japanese culture, kintsugi has seen a growth in popularity for Westerners who seek to recreate the aesthetic, likewise themselves, by breaking their own pottery and repairing with gold, though the deliberate breaking of objects seems to be missing the entire point of kintsugi, skipping to the end of the journey in the name of aesthetic rather than appreciating the philosophy behind it. Like Kumihimo or Gyotaku, the joy of the art forms, are in their making, not in their end result.

Thank you for watching.


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