The Art of Kintsugi and the Beauty of Imperfections

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When something breaks, do you fix it or throw it away?

By Evelyn Lee

Many of us lead busy lives that demand convenience and quick fixes. When things get broken, it’s so much easier to buy a replacement than spend time trying to fix it. However in Japan, ironically the land of instant ramen and vending machines, there exists an ancient art of repairing broken pottery with gold.

Kintsugi, which translates to “golden joinery”, is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a lacquer made of gold, silver or platinum. You may have seen one of these unique pieces of ceramics adorned with golden streaks or joined with mismatching pieces from another broken item.

In contrast to conventional repair methods, Kintsugi doesn’t hide or disguise the broken parts, but rather emphasises the cracks by making it more beautiful. The repaired object takes on a new life and glow of its own. Every piece is truly one of its kind, because of its imperfections and history of cracks.

The art of Kintsugi draws deeply from the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, a belief in the beauty of imperfections. Compared to Western thought which views good repair as restoring a broken object to its original untainted state, the Japanese perspective encompasses flaws and cracks as part of an object’s unique journey.

What if we lived our lives like a Kintsugi artist, and filled our cracks with gold?

In our pursuit of success and perfection, flaws and failures have become something to cover up and feel ashamed of.

Yet the art of Kintsugi shows us that something more beautiful and valuable can emerge from the wreck. To accept the painful experiences in our lives and grow into a stronger person is to fill our cracks with gold. This is the true meaning of resilience.

To be human is to be a work in progress. Every experience in our lives, whether good or bad, has shaped us into who we are today. Just like how Kintsugi embraces and celebrates broken parts, let’s also try to have compassion for our vulnerabilities, as well as those of the people around us.

Human relationships, too, are about imperfect people making imperfect journeys together. Whether in work, family or personal relationships, friction and fractures often occur. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to throw things away.

In search of the perfect relationship or “The One”, many get disappointed by the faults of their loved ones. Conflicts and adversity can break people apart, because they lack the gold lacquer of forgiveness and faith.

No relationship is perfect, but with a wabi-sabi heart of embracing imperfections, two people can weather difficult times together, and come out stronger and more beautiful on the other side.

At the end of the day, to live life with the art of Kintsugi is to be kinder to ourselves and the people around us. We are all artists making something beautiful out of the cracks.

Images by audreyobscura on, Amusing Planet, Lifegate

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