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Source: Gaijin Pot

Kintsugi (golden joinery) is a distinctively Japanese technique of restoring broken pottery and ceramics using urushi (lacquer) with metallic powders to give the appearance of gold and silver lining where the cracks once were.

The original technique has been meticulously preserved for centuries to prolong the life of ornate pottery pieces. Nowadays, kintsugi is a widely available and trendy hobby enjoyed on your own or with the help of guidance from a master at a workshop or class in Japan.

Moreover, it’s pretty easy hobby to pick up, so here’s everything you need to know to start the timeless Japanese art of kintsugi.

What is kintsugi?

Photo: iStock/ Marco Montalti
A broken soba cup made anew with golden cracks.

The decorated scars on the piece of kintsugi pottery are thought of as scenery; rather than pretending that the scars do not exist or trying to conceal them, they are accepted as part of the piece’s history and thus are renewed in new harmony.

Kintsugi has been practiced since the Muromachi era (1336–1573). During this time, tea ceremonies were part of everyday life and were an essential aspect of all formal meetings and rituals in Japanese feudal life. The tea sets themselves were each very ornate and one of a kind. Accordingly, this meant that the pieces were extremely expensive and irreplaceable, causing many Japanese people to choose to repair their pieces rather than throw them away.

The pieces were far too precious just to be put back together with dull resins, so more aesthetic means of repair had to be considered. Hence, kintsugi became a widely practiced artform thereafter, synonymous with the Japanese notion of wabi-sabi and mottainai (roughly: waste not, want not).

Tools you’ll need

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