TUTORIAL: Kintsugi, the Art of Ceramic Scars by Emanuele Drago

What do you do when a glass or ceramic object of yours falls and shatters? You see a broken glass or vase you cared about, and do the only thing you can think of: throw it away, as it is already useless in your eyes. Yet, know that there is another way of looking at that broken object: the Japanese practice of kintsugi does exactly the opposite.


The Philosophy behind Kintsugi 

In the Western world, anything that deviates from the ideal of perfection is often considered to be a defect that must be eliminated. Instead, objects repaired with the kintsugi technique take on a philosophical meaning that goes far beyond their simple use: the difficulties in life that we overcome can cause wounds deep inside of us, yet those scars should not be hidden away because they are ugly. Instead, they represent personal growth. Once we have processed them, we can learn to wear them with pride, making us more beautiful inside and out.


How to repair broken pottery using Kintsugi 

Broken pottery is restored to its original form thanks to the use of a resin that is combined with precious metals (gold or silver) and that reconnects the broken shards. The resin is substantially used as a putty to fill in any holes, cracks or areas where parts might be missing from the original pot. This is the most complex step, as the pieces all have to be placed at the same time and the lacquer cannot be removed once dry. The lacquer then needs to dry and harden – a process that takes several weeks.


If you would like to try your hand at repairing broken ceramic objects you are fond of, there are online kits designed to easily replicate this ancient Japanese art at home.



Ultimately, the kintsugi philosophy welcomes imperfections and uniqueness, seeing those ‘scars’ as signs of the passing of time: a rebirth, rather than a sad epilogue. The repaired object becomes a work of art whose cracks, like wise and precious wrinkles, testify to its history and distinguish it from other objects.


Emanuele Drago