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Repair work (right) on Mishima ware hakeme-type tea bowl with kintsugi gold lacquer, 16th century
Small repair (top) on Nabeshima ware dish with hollyhock design, over-glaze enamel, 18th century, Edo period

Kintsugi (Japanese: 金継ぎ, romanized: "golden joinery"), also known as kintsukuroi (金繕い, "golden repair"),[1] is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with urushi lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The method is similar to the maki-e technique.[2][3][4] As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.[5]


Lacquerware is a longstanding tradition in Japan[6][7] and, at some point, kintsugi may have been combined with maki-e as a replacement for other ceramic repair techniques. While the process is associated with Japanese craftsmen, the technique was also applied to ceramic pieces of other origins including China, Vietnam, and Korea.[8]

Kintsugi became closely associated with ceramic vessels used for chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony).[3] One theory is that kintsugi may have originated when Japanese shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China for repairs in the late 15th century. When it was returned, repaired with simple metal staples, it may have prompted Japanese craftsmen to look for a more aesthetically pleasing means of repair.[2] On the other hand, according to Bakōhan Saōki (record of tea-bowl with a 'large-locust' clamp), such "ugliness" was considered inspirational and Zen-like, as it connoted beauty in broken things. The bowl thus became highly valued due to the large metal staples, which looked like a locust, and the bowl was named 'bakōhan ("large-locust clamp").[9]

Collectors became so enamored of the new art that some were accused of deliberately smashing valuable pottery so it could be repaired with the gold seams of kintsugi.[2] It is also possible that a pottery piece was chosen for deformities it had acquired during production, then deliberately broken and repaired, instead of being trashed.[2]


Goryeo wine ewer with gold lacquer repair. It was repaired by a Japanese collector in the early 20th century.

As a philosophy, kintsugi is similar to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect.[10][11] Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear from the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken; it can also be understood as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting cracks and repairs as events in the life of an object, rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.[12] The philosophy of kintsugi can also be seen as a variant of the adage, "Waste not, want not".[13]

Kintsugi can relate to the Japanese philosophy of mushin (無心, "no mind"), which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change, and fate as aspects of human life.[14]

Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin....Mushin is often literally translated as "no mind," but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. ...The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself.

— Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics

Materials and types of joinery[edit]

There are a few major styles or types of kintsugi:

  • Crack (ひび), the use of gold dust and resin or lacquer to attach broken pieces with minimal overlap or fill-in from missing pieces
  • Piece method (欠けの金継ぎ例); if a replacement ceramic fragment is not available and the entirety of the addition is gold or gold/lacquer compound
  • Joint call (呼び継ぎ), the use of a similarly shaped but non-matching fragment to replace a missing piece from the original vessel creating a patchwork effect[15]

The key materials of kintsugi are: ki urushi (pure urushi), bengara urushi (iron red urushi), mugi urushi (a mixture of 50% ki ururshi and 50% wheat flour), sabi urushi (a mixture of ki urushi with two kinds of clay), and a storage compartment referred to as a furo ("bath" in Japanese) where the mended pottery can rest at 90% humidity for between 2 days to 2 weeks as the urushi hardens. Traditionally, a wooden cupboard and bowls of hot water were used as the furo. Alternatively, thick cardboard boxes are sometimes used as the furo as they create a steady atmosphere of humidity or large vessels filled with rice, beans, or sand into which the mended pottery is submerged.[12][16]

Related techniques[edit]

Nanking reticulated basket, c. 1750, mended with metal staples

Staple repair is a similar technique used to repair broken ceramic pieces,[17] where small holes are drilled on either side of a crack and metal staples are bent to hold the pieces together.[18] Staple repair was used in Europe (in ancient Greece, England and Russia among others), South America,[19] and China as a repair technique for particularly valuable pieces.[18]

Yobitsugi (meaning "invite connection"[20]) is similar to kintsugi, except that pieces from visibly different broken objects are put together, patchwork-style, to form one whole one, e.g., a blue plate and a white plate.[21] Tomotsugi, by comparison, uses broken pieces taken from matching objects, e.g., if two matching plates have been broken, and the pieces can be combined to form a single plate.[22]

Influence on contemporary art, design, and culture[edit]

Kintsugi is the general concept of highlighting or emphasizing imperfections, visualizing mends and seams as an additive or an area to celebrate or focus on, rather than absence or missing pieces.

Modern artists and designers experiment with the ancient technique as a means of analyzing the idea of loss, synthesis, and improvement through destruction and repair or rebirth.[23] Through an artistic lens, a Kintsugi object is permanently both evidence of crisis and cure. [24]

While originally ignored as a separate art form, kintsugi and related repair methods have been featured at exhibitions at the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.[2][8][11][25]

Examples of contemporary artists and designers who incorporate kintsugi techniques, aesthetics, and philosophies in their work include:

  • British artist Charlotte Bailey, who was inspired by kintsugi to create textile works involving the repair of broken vases; her practice involves covering the shards with fabric and stitching them back together using gold metallic thread.[26]
  • American artist Karen LaMonte, who creates monumental sculptures of women’s clothing worn by seemingly invisible human figures; when a kiln explosion broke a number of these works, LaMonte used kintsugi techniques to repair the ceramic sculptures with gold.[27][28]
  • New York designer George Inaki Root, who worked with Japanese artisans to create a line for his jewelry company Milamore entitled "Kintsugi"; Root told Forbes that the designs were inspired by themes of beauty and brokenness, and his longstanding connection to kintsugi philosophies.[29]
  • Los Angeles artist Victor Solomon, who was inspired by kintsugi practices and philosophies to create "Kintsugi Court", a fractured public basketball court in South Los Angeles he repaired with gold-dusted resin. The project was finished in 2020 to coincide with the restart of the NBA season, which had been paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic.[30][31]
  • Poltchageist, a Generation IX Pokémon, is partially based on kintsugi.[32] It uses matcha, rather than gold, to repair cracks.[32]
  • Precious Scars is a helmet in Destiny 2 that was shattered and subsequently repaired with the kintsugi technique. Its exotic perk, also called kintsugi, temporarily increases your health and the health of your teammates after reviving them or being revived yourself. Additionally, killing an enemy heals nearby allies.
  • The third full-length album by the Welsh rock band Holding Absence, titled The Noble Art of Self Destruction, embodies a visual and lyrical theme based on kintsugi.[33] According to frontman Lucas Woodland, he felt kintsugi was a metaphor for overcoming trauma and growing from it.[33]
  • Lana Del Rey's 2023 album Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd includes a song titled Kintsugi. The song is about having your heart broken to be able to fix it again with love and light to make it stronger, much like the Japanese art.
  • Japanese contemporary kintsugi artist, Kunio Nakamura (artist)
  • In Star Wars, kintsugi is featured as a repair method for the helmet worn by Kylo Ren in The Rise of Skywalker and for Night Trooper armor in Ahsoka.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition of kintsugi". Definition-Of. October 28, 2022. Archived from the original on October 4, 2022. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gopnik, Blake (March 3, 2009), "At Freer, Aesthetic Is Simply Smashing", The Washington Post, archived from the original on November 7, 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Golden Seams: The Japanese Art of Mending Ceramics", Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, archived from the original on March 17, 2009, retrieved March 3, 2009.
  4. ^ "Daijisen - 金継ぎとは - コトバンク". Kotobank. Archived from the original on November 23, 2021. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  5. ^ "Kintsugi: The Centuries-Old Art of Repairing Broken Pottery with Gold". My Modern Met. April 25, 2017. Archived from the original on October 10, 2018. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  6. ^ Ota, Alan K. (September 22, 1985). "Japan's Ancient Art of Lacquerware". New York Times. Archived from the original on May 3, 2020. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  7. ^ Ken, Johnson (April 4, 2008). "A Craft Polished to the Lofty Heights of Art". New York Times. Archived from the original on May 3, 2020. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Golden Seams: The Japanese Art of Mending Ceramics". Smithsonian. November 8, 2008. Archived from the original on March 14, 2017. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  9. ^ "Celadon porcelain bowl, named Bakōhan". e-Museum - National Treasures & Important Cultural Properties. National Institutes for Cultural Heritage. Archived from the original on August 23, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2023.
  10. ^ "Kintsugi Is Recognizing Beauty in Broken Things | Make". Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers. August 17, 2015. Archived from the original on August 2, 2020. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Lippke, Andrea Codrington (December 15, 2010). "In Make-Do Objects, Collectors Find Beauty Beyond Repair". New York Times. Archived from the original on July 14, 2020. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Roma, Caterina (April 2013). "Kintsugi". Ceramic Review (260): 63.
  13. ^ Kwan, Pui Ying, Exploring Japanese Art and Aesthetic as inspiration for emotionally durable design (PDF), archived from the original on February 12, 2020, retrieved April 6, 2014
  14. ^ Flickwerk The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics Paperback, January 1, 2008 by Christy, James Henry Holland and Charly Iten Bartlett
  15. ^ "Gold joint (mending gold) What is it?" (in Japanese). May 4, 2013. Archived from the original on May 20, 2020. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  16. ^ Kemske, Bonnie (2021). Kintsugi: The Poetic Mend. Herbert Press. pp. 84–95. ISBN 978-1912217991. OCLC 1247084472. Archived from the original on August 23, 2023. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  17. ^ Kahn, Eve (January 17, 2013). "It's as Good as Glue: Mending Shattered China". New York Times. Archived from the original on May 3, 2020. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  18. ^ a b "Stapled Repairs on Chine; Confessions of a curious collector", Antiques Journal: 37–40, February 2012, archived from the original on April 7, 2014, retrieved April 5, 2014
  19. ^ Elliptical nose ring. Bogotá: Gold Museum. nd [Quimbaya style, Colómbia, Middle Cauca River region, Late Period, 700–1600]. O16113. Retrieved November 19, 2023.
  20. ^ Westall, Mark (October 5, 2022). "YOBITSUGI: Beyond Repair". FAD Magazine. Retrieved December 5, 2023.
  21. ^ Kemske, Bonnie (February 18, 2021). Kintsugi: The Poetic Mend. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 43, 74. ISBN 978-1-78994-000-8.
  22. ^ Hori, Michihiro (April 26, 2022). A Beginner's Guide to Kintsugi: The Japanese Art of Repairing Pottery and Glass. Tuttle Publishing. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-4629-2292-5.
  23. ^ Taylor, Andrew (February 27, 2011). "Smashing idea to put it together again". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on July 15, 2020. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  24. ^ Keulemans, Guy (January 2, 2016). "The Geo-cultural Conditions of Kintsugi". The Journal of Modern Craft. 9 (1): 15–34. doi:10.1080/17496772.2016.1183946. ISSN 1749-6772.
  25. ^ "The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics | Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art". Archived from the original on May 3, 2020. Retrieved September 23, 2017.
  26. ^ "Artist Mimics Japanese 'Kintsugi' Technique to Repair Broken Vases with Embroidery". Colossal. April 28, 2016. Archived from the original on August 23, 2023. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  27. ^ Elman, Leslie Gilbert (July 2019). "Monumental Femininity" (PDF). Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 23, 2023. Retrieved November 4, 2021.
  28. ^ Fasolino, Chris (February 2021). "World of Glass". Vero Beach Magazine: 142. Archived from the original on August 23, 2023. Retrieved November 4, 2021.
  29. ^ Shirley, Kristen. "Milamore Modernizes An Ancient Japanese Art, Kintsugi, In Its Jewelry". Forbes. Archived from the original on August 23, 2023. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  30. ^ "Victor Solomon mends dilapidated LA basketball court using Japanese art of Kintsugi". Dezeen. August 18, 2020. Archived from the original on August 23, 2023. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  31. ^ "Artist Uses Japanese Art of Kintsugi to Fill in Basketball Court's Cracks With Gold". My Modern Met. August 6, 2020. Archived from the original on August 23, 2023. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  32. ^ a b "Conoce a Poltchageist, el nuevo Pokémon que roba la fuerza vital de los humanos". Yahoo News (in Spanish). August 22, 2023. Archived from the original on August 28, 2023. Retrieved August 24, 2023.
  33. ^ a b Morgan, Tom (August 25, 2023). "How Holding Absence made their most hopeful album yet". Alternative Press Magazine. Archived from the original on August 26, 2023. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  34. ^ Binx, Anya (September 26, 2023). "The Beautiful, Traditional Japanese Art That Inspired Thrawn's Troopers". Collider. Retrieved January 23, 2024.

Further reading[edit]

  • Christy, James; Holland, Henry; Bartlett, Charly Iten (2008). Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics. Herbert Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. ASIN B009F3YENM.

External links[edit]

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