After 12/7/2011, this blog will no longer be updated, although content will remain. Please visit my new blog at Hidden Latitudes.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


KIN-TSUGI is a Japanese word which means, in literal English translation, "golden joinery." It refers to the craft of repairing broken pottery with a compound of ki-urushi (raw lacquer) and pure gold powder. The result, while obviously highlighting the former damage, is always unique, and almost always beautiful. Blake Gopnik explains the history of the craft in a Washington Post article
The story of kintsugi may have begun in the late 15th century, when the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China to be fixed. It returned held together with ugly metal staples, launching Japanese craftsmen on a quest for a new form of repair that could make a broken piece look as good as new, or better. Japanese collectors developed such a taste for kintsugi that some were accused of deliberately breaking prized ceramics, just to have them mended in gold.
How fascinating that it is considered art—and indeed beautiful, desired art—to repair something in such a way that the repair is what draws the eye. This is so unlike our way of thinking (my mind turns to Mr. Bean's "repair" of Whistler's Mother). We want our repairs, be they rhinoplasty or fender work, to appear as if nothing has been changed or damaged. 
Yet could there be value in our scars? I love the way Leonard Cohen put it:
Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh. It is easy to display a wound, the proud scars of combat.
Jesus was not ashamed of His scars, freely extending His hands to the disciple who doubted He had risen from the dead. I should be willing to show my scars as well. They do not tell anyone anything they wouldn't or shouldn't know. They tell others I am a flawed, broken individual. Yet I have been—and am being—repaired. And my scars are glorious.

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