Kintsugi: The Art of Broken Pieces
23 January 2014, London
Kintsugi is the craft in which chipped, cracked or broken ceramic pieces are repaired using a combination of urushi (lacquer) and rice glue. This process inadvertently results in a decoration, the form of which is dictated by the breakage the piece has suffered. Powdered gold is usually applied to the repaired patch or seam before the urushi has set, although less embellished repairs can be made by using urushi alone, materials used do vary. Kintsugi can also be applied to glass. Larger repairs are sometimes enhanced by the later application of decorative patterns or illustrations painted with urushi or a fine grade of powdered metal, in a technique known as maki-e.
The craft dates back to at least the 16th century, and there are various engaging historical anecdotes which emphasise the value placed on items pieced back together, particularly tea-ware. The famous tea master Sen no Rikyu was renowned for his appreciation of the Unzan Katatsuki, an exquisite tea bowl, precisely because of the roughness of its repair.
The moment in time when something has been shattered is permanently captured by the painstaking labours of a craftsman in building up the layers of lacquer to repair a piece. It is this reference to the now that recalls mushin, a lack of attachment to anything, but rather being present in the moment, something constantly available to all, but particularly so when we drop a piece of china.
Image: Photo Tom Slemmons ©
Taizo Yamamoto is President of Yamakyu Japanware Co. Ltd.
Takahiko Sato is President of Satokiyomatsu-Shoten Co. Ltd.
Professor Timon Screech is Professor of the History of Art and Head of the School of Arts at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS),University ofLondon.
Timothy Toomey (chair) trained and worked as a carpenter and joiner before studying furniture design at Ravensbourne and later industrial design at the Central School of Art and Design.