Kintsugi : When We Are Being Made Whole

When I painted the cracked tea cup, one of my dearest (and smartest) friends asked if I’d heard of the practice of kintsugi.

It began in 15th century Japan. A shogun, sent a damaged tea bowl back to China for repair. It was returned to him in one piece, but the repair was ugly, the broken pieces made whole with coarse metal staples. The artist looked, and hungered for another way, and all of sudden, there was a movement to restore pottery more seamlessly, to “make a broken piece look as good as new, or better.”*

Kinstugi was born.

Craftsman, in Japan — the artists, began to repair broken wares with fine gold powder. They would fill the cracks and meld the pieces back together meticulously using actual gold, highlighting the quality of the repair work and the cost of redeeming something so valuable. The worth of the vessel increased because of the craftsmanship of the repair.

“Japanese collectors developed such a taste for kintsugi that some were accused of deliberately breaking prized ceramics, just to have them mended in gold.”*

In kintsugi, the break becomes more obvious, but the repair is the object of admiration. I can’t stop thinking about it.

We have all tasted the fruit of the fall, the sting of brokenness. It has been four years since my sister died, and I will carry that grief with me always.

But I have seen redemption unfurling in my own life because of the compassion of our God, who left the streets of gold to partake in our suffering, who walked with me through my pain.

There is a gold river where once there was only brokenness.



* Gopnik, Blake. (2009, March 3) ‘Golden Seams: The Japanese Art of Mending Ceramics’ at Freer, The Washington Post.

In 2009 Freer Gallery of Art (Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art) featured a collection of wares repaired using the methods described here. See the article above for more information.

I painted the piece above this weekend, after Christine Hiester taught an amazing session on Art Journaling at the Refine Retreat. Speaking with gentle wisdom, she invited us to create from the quiet center in the presence of Jesus. I’m so grateful for the space there this weekend.

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  1. This was such a memorable, beautiful time, and I am so grateful for the way you transcribed the words into image for us. It’s beyond beautiful, Annie!! Thank you for coming, and that last lunch?! My life is RICH for that time shared. WOW! Love you!

  2. Free to express…how I felt this weekend. Abd your reference to kinstugi had me just floored because it all came together in the beauty of the refining and restoration. Dear friend, my life is richer for the way you asked gentle questions and spoke deep into my heart.

  3. This is the image that epitomizes the whole weekend for me. Thank you for sharing your beauty with us- who you are, what you create, how you love. <3

  4. My heart leaped, like thudding joy, when I saw your tweet. I love your heart so naturally, I came right over. Oh friend, I am in tears. I wrote last night about grief and this is just, I don’t even know. So beautiful and needed. Thank you so much for sharing. I am a rambly mess but I’m looking at your broken teacup print sitting on my windowsill and feeling seen by God right now. He knows and sees and makes beauty absolutely everywhere. I see it all the time in your work and life and the way you love people. I just love this so much.

  5. I have a small piece of kintsugi pottery I’ve cherished for years. After all this time I’m still captivated by its profundity.

  6. First, I’m in awe that you created a blog post already. I thought getting a shower was good after traveling more than 14 hours yesterday. But this is a theme with being newly acquainted with you — awe. I’m so grateful for your art, for the way you bring it with humble confidence wrapped in humor. You, being exactly the way God made you, spoke to me deeply. So grateful to have met you Annie. You’re a gift. I’m not sure I’ll ever forget the side splitting laughter in the airport. At least I hope not.

  7. Annie,
    This is gorgeous in its hopefulness..Thank you 🙂

  8. I learned so much from you this weekend, my new friend! I’m grateful for the ways you share your gifts and for your enthusiasm for life. You make beautiful art, Annie. Hanging with you a wee bit there at the end was an extra special gift. XOXO.

  9. pastordt

    Oh, Annie. To have been there . . . with YOU. This is lovely. Is there any way to subscribe to your blog and/or website??

  10. Kathy Schwanke

    Annie, I (love your art -and your heart- so much!) met with a friend to plan our Easter MOPS message and she told me about Kintsugi. We spent a few hours on the power of the cross to bring beauty from brokenness. This year’s theme is A Beautiful Mess. We also were in wonder over the fact that never would two look alike…nor do we and our stories. <3

    It sounds like a wonderful retreat steeped in God's goodness.

  11. Oh beautiful one! How in the world did I live without you in my life???? Your words and your art … just amazing. But it is your heart I love the most! There was an Annie-sized hole in my life and I’m glad it is filled. I love you, my friend. Truly!!

  12. I just found you and your work, but you are obviously writing and creating in His glory. I love your words here today. And that painting? Beyond beautiful. The richness of it can’t be put in words. There is so much beauty in the broken places as I’m starting to figure out in a myriad of beautifully broken ways. Grief will do that, won’t it? Losing the last of my grandmother’s last week left another hole in me having already lost my mother, but I know God will fill it. If I just let Him…Thanks for letting me share here. Look forward to following your words and art.

  13. I’ve always loved your broken tea cup painting. And this new piece is so fresh and bold. Good things, even gold things, come from that quiet place with Jesus. Glad you got to spend some time there.

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