Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by WonderTeam. WonderTeam Wonders, “What is Kintsugi?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, WonderTeam!
Do you know someone who is very clumsy? Are they always walking into walls? Do they knock things over? Let’s be honest—we can all be a little clumsy now and then. At its worst, clumsiness can cause a person to break something valuable or important to them.
Once something is broken, what do you do with it? Many people throw broken items away. But that can be hard to do if the broken item is your favorite tea mug. It could be even harder if it’s a special gift from a friend or family member.
Would you believe you don’t have to throw away everything that’s broken? Or, in fact, that breaking things can make them more valuable? It’s true!
The Japanese practice of kintsugi is one way to mend broken items and make them more valuable. In this art form, people put broken things back together with gold. Kintsugi is most often used on pottery, but it can fix other items, as well.
Legend says that kintsugi started with one cracked tea bowl. It belonged to the Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. Disappointed with other attempts at repair, Yoshimasa looked for someone to mend the tea bowl. He wanted it fixed in a way that was appealing to the eye. That’s when Japanese craftsmen came up with the idea of putting the pottery back together using gold.
In Japanese, kintsugi means “golden joinery.” It is also called “kintsukuroi.” This means “golden repair.” Practiced since the 15th Century, kintsugi invites people to see beauty in imperfection.
So how does kintsugi work, exactly? It starts with the broken object. First, the kintsugi artist puts the pieces together using glue. After sanding the mended cracks to make them smooth, they add lacquer. They may repeat this step a few times. Finally, they mix lacquer with gold dust. They spread this mixture on the spots that were cracked. This results in the cracks being more noticeable, but also more beautiful, than the rest of the item.
Many people see kintsugi as a metaphor. After all, who hasn’t felt very sad or even “broken” before? If a broken piece of pottery can be stronger and more lovely once it’s mended, so can a human being.
The next time you or someone you know drops and breaks something valuable, re-consider before throwing it away. By practicing kintsugi, you might fix the item and learn a new art form at the same time!
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.SL.1