Kintsugi (金継ぎ, "golden joinery"), also known as kintsukuroi (金繕い, "golden repair"),[1] is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum; the method is similar to the maki-e technique.[2][3][4] As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.[5]

Repair work (right) on Mishima ware hakeme-type tea bowl with kintsugi gold lacquer, 16th century
Small repair (top) on Nabeshima ware dish with hollyhock design, overglaze enamel, 18th century, Edo period


Lacquerware is a longstanding tradition in Japan[6][7] and, at some point, kintsugi may have been combined with maki-e as a replacement for other ceramic repair techniques. While the process is associated with Japanese craftsmen, the technique was also applied to ceramic pieces of other origins including China, Vietnam, and Korea.[8]

Kintsugi became closely associated with ceramic vessels used for chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony).[3] One theory is that kintsugi may have originated when Japanese shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China for repairs in the late 15th century. When it was returned, repaired with ugly metal staples, it may have prompted Japanese craftsmen to look for a more aesthetically pleasing means of repair.[9] Collectors became so enamored of the new art that some were accused of deliberately smashing valuable pottery so it could be repaired with the gold seams of kintsugi.[2] It is also possible that a pottery piece was chosen for deformities it had acquired during production, then deliberately broken and repaired, instead of being trashed.[2] On the other hand, according to Bakōhan Saōki (record of tea-bowl with a 'large-locust' clamp), such "ugliness" was considered inspirational and Zen-like, as it connoted beauty in broken things. The bowl became valued even more highly because of these large metal staples, which looked like a locust, and the bowl was named 'bakōhan ("large-locust clamp").[10]


Goryeo wine ewer with gold lacquer repair. It was repaired by a Japanese collector in the early 20th century.

As a philosophy, kintsugi is similar to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect.[11][12] Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear from the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken; it can also be understood as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting cracks and repairs as events in the life of an object, rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.[13] The philosophy of kintsugi can also be seen as a variant of the adage, "Waste not, want not".[14]

Kintsugi can relate to the Japanese philosophy of mushin (無心, "no mind"), which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change, and fate as aspects of human life.[15]

Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin....Mushin is often literally translated as "no mind," but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. ...The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself.

— Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics

Materials and types of joineryEdit

There are a few major styles or types of kintsugi:

  • Crack (ひび), the use of gold dust and resin or lacquer to attach broken pieces with minimal overlap or fill-in from missing pieces
  • Piece method (欠けの金継ぎ例), where a replacement ceramic fragment is not available and the entirety of the addition is gold or gold/lacquer compound
  • Joint call (呼び継ぎ), where a similarly shaped but non-matching fragment is used to replace a missing piece from the original vessel creating a patchwork effect[16]

Some key materials of kintsugi are: ki urushi (pure urushi), bengara urushi (iron red urushi), mugi urushi (a mixture of 50% ki ururshi and 50% wheat flour), sabi urushi (a mixture of ki urushi with two kinds of clay), and a storage compartment referred to as a furo ("bath" in Japanese) where the mended pottery can rest at 90% humidity for between 2 days to 2 weeks as the urushi hardens. Traditionally, a wooden cupboard and bowls of hot water were used as the furo. Alternatively, thick cardboard boxes are sometimes used as the furo as they create a steady atmosphere of humidity or large vessels filled with rice, beans, or sand into which the mended pottery is submerged.[13][17]

Related techniquesEdit

Nanking reticulated basket, c. 1750, mended with metal staples

Staple repair is a similar technique used to repair broken ceramic pieces,[18] where small holes are drilled on either side of a crack and metal staples are bent to hold the pieces together.[19] Staple repair was used in Europe (in ancient Greece, England and Russia among others) and China as a repair technique for particularly valuable pieces.[19]

Influence on contemporary art, design, and cultureEdit

Kintsugi is the general concept of highlighting or emphasizing imperfections, visualizing mends and seams as an additive or an area to celebrate or focus on, rather than absence or missing pieces. Modern artists and designers experiment with the ancient technique as a means of analyzing the idea of loss, synthesis, and improvement through destruction and repair or rebirth.[20] While originally ignored as a separate art form, kintsugi and related repair methods have been featured at exhibitions at the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.[2][8][12][21]

Examples of contemporary artists and designers who incorporate kintsugi techniques, aesthetics, and philosophies in their work include:

  • British artist Charlotte Bailey, who was inspired by kintsugi to create textile works involving the repair of broken vases; her practice involves covering the shards with fabric and stitching them back together using gold metallic thread.[22]
  • American artist Karen LaMonte, who creates monumental sculptures of women’s clothing worn by seemingly invisible human figures; when a kiln explosion broke a number of these works, LaMonte used kintsugi techniques to repair the ceramic sculptures with gold.[23][24]
  • New York designer George Inaki Root, who worked with Japanese artisans to create a line for his jewelry company Milamore entitled "Kintsugi"; Root told Forbes that the designs were inspired by themes of beauty and brokenness, and his longstanding connection to kintsugi philosophies.[25]
  • Los Angeles artist Victor Solomon, who was inspired by kintsugi practices and philosophies to create "Kintsugi Court", a fractured public basketball court in South Los Angeles he repaired with gold-dusted resin. The project was finished in 2020 to coincide with the restart of the NBA season, which had been paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic.[26][27]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Definition of kintsugi". Definition-Of. October 28, 2022. Archived from the original on October 4, 2022. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d Gopnik, Blake (March 3, 2009), "At Freer, Aesthetic Is Simply Smashing", The Washington Post.
  3. ^ a b "Golden Seams: The Japanese Art of Mending Ceramics", Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, archived from the original on March 17, 2009, retrieved March 3, 2009.
  4. ^ "Daijisen - 金継ぎとは - コトバンク". Kotobank. Archived from the original on November 23, 2021. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  5. ^ "Kintsugi: The Centuries-Old Art of Repairing Broken Pottery with Gold". My Modern Met. April 25, 2017. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  6. ^ Ota, Alan K. (September 22, 1985). "Japan's Ancient Art of Lacquerware". New York Times.
  7. ^ Ken, Johnson (April 4, 2008). "A Craft Polished to the Lofty Heights of Art". New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Golden Seams: The Japanese Art of Mending Ceramics". Smithsonian. November 8, 2008. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  9. ^ Gopnik, Blake (March 3, 2009). "'Golden Seams: The Japanese Art of Mending Ceramics' at Freer". The Washington Post.
  10. ^[dead link]
  11. ^ "Kintsugi Is Recognizing Beauty in Broken Things | Make". Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers. August 17, 2015. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Lippke, Andrea Codrington (December 15, 2010). "In Make-Do Objects, Collectors Find Beauty Beyond Repair". New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  13. ^ a b Roma, Caterina (April 2013). "Kintsugi". Ceramic Review (260): 63.
  14. ^ Kwan, Pui Ying. "Exploring Japanese Art and Aesthetic as inspiration for emotionally durable design" (PDF). {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. ^ Flickwerk The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics Paperback, January 1, 2008 by Christy, James Henry Holland and Charly Iten Bartlett
  16. ^ "Gold joint (mending gold) What is it?" (in Japanese). May 4, 2013. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  17. ^ Kemske, Bonnie (2021). Kintsugi: The Poetic Mend. Herbert Press. pp. 84–95. ISBN 978-1912217991. OCLC 1247084472.
  18. ^ Kahn, Eve (January 17, 2013). "It's as Good as Glue: Mending Shattered China". New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  19. ^ a b "Stapled Repairs on Chine; Confessions of a curious collector". Antiques Journal. February 2012: 37–40. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved April 5, 2014. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ Taylor, Andrew (February 27, 2011). "Smashing idea to put it together again". Sydney Morning Herald.
  21. ^ "The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics | Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art". Retrieved September 23, 2017.
  22. ^ "Artist Mimics Japanese 'Kintsugi' Technique to Repair Broken Vases with Embroidery". Colossal. April 28, 2016. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  23. ^ Elman, Leslie Gilbert (July 2019). "Monumental Femininity" (PDF). Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine.
  24. ^ Fasolino, Chris (February 2021). "World of Glass". Vero Beach Magazine: 142.
  25. ^ Shirley, Kristen. "Milamore Modernizes An Ancient Japanese Art, Kintsugi, In Its Jewelry". Forbes. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  26. ^ "Victor Solomon mends dilapidated LA basketball court using Japanese art of Kintsugi". Dezeen. August 18, 2020. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  27. ^ "Artist Uses Japanese Art of Kintsugi to Fill in Basketball Court's Cracks With Gold". My Modern Met. August 6, 2020. Retrieved October 19, 2021.

Further readingEdit

  • Christy, James; Holland, Henry; Bartlett, Charly Iten (2008). Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics. Herbert Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. ASIN B009F3YENM.

External linksEdit

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