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.