Have you ever tried to fix or repair something when it was broken?

If so, why did you decide to do that?

If you think the answer is too obvious, this Japanese repair technique called “kintsugi,” which is applied to broken ceramics, will change your definition of “repair.”

Kintsugi goes beyond restoring an item to its original status. It’s almost a healing process for injured ceramics, although the items are inorganic and cannot heal on their own.  Kntsugi artists help broken plates, cups, vases…any ceramics with accidental wounds, so that they can acquire an entirely new raison d’etre, through a fascinatingly delicate process.

Kintsugi means “putting broken pieces together using gold.”  The origin of kintsugi is not clear, but it is believed that the wabi-style tea ceremony, established in the Middle Ages, appreciated using repaired ceramics rather than replacing them. The technique must have been established by the 17th century because Hon-ami Koetsu (1558-1637), an artist, calligrapher and tea ceremony master, left one of the first defining kintsugi masterpieces in the early 17th century.

The traditional kintsugi process involves: 1) reconditioning of broken parts, 2) application of urushi (tree sap collected from poison oak – yes, it causes a skin rash) to glue the broken parts together, and 3) application of gold or silver powder to enhance cosmetics.  Each process is very delicate and requires skills and aesthetic focus.

For hundreds of years the technique has been handed down from generation to generation. Today, it is still appreciated in the world of arts and crafts.

The peculiar thing is that the ceramics that go through the kintsugi process end up possessing different qualities compared to the original.  But it’s not really because the broken areas are now highlighted with patches and lines of gold.  It’s as if the products had injuries, went through some healing process, and acquired a new status when they were recovered.  They recover, but recover only surrounding the wounds, which are not obscured at all.  Wounds are rather recognized, appreciated and given a new dimension.

One kintsugi artist, Hayato Fukasawa, who did all the beautiful works of art on this page (see below for his bio), describes the art of kintsugi as a mechanism to assign broken products a new place in between life and death.  Through his experiences working on so many broken ceramics and glass, he’s become convinced that broken products are never re-born as new, even after they are impeccably repaired.  Once they are broken, they are “dead.” But that’s exactly where the beauty of kintsugi comes from, says Fukasawa.

In today’s highly modernized society, our world consists almost entirely of things that are “alive.” Once something becomes “dead” it is immediately pronounced “valueless” and swiftly removed from our value system. But kintsugi succinctly brings back otherwise “dead” products to our world…albeit not as “live” products.  It quietly makes this ambiguous and mysterious space between alive and dead, and places repaired products there.

Its mysterious manner rattles and intrigues our inspiration by challenging our value system, which tends to prioritize everything “alive,” assuming that they have more value.

But if we think more about it, dead things have always been part of our world. Throughout the world, our ancestors maintained culture and tradition to stay connected with various kinds of dead things and dead people.  Fukazawa suggests that kintsugi may be talking to our sub conscious-level memory, that takes deep root in our existence, and embraces both life and death.

Hayato Fukasawa

Hayato was born in Saitama, Japan in 1977.
He graduated from the Tokyo University of the Arts, specializing in Urushi-Art (Japanese lacquer).
Before becoming a kintsugi artist, he was engaged in various works including the preservation of cultural assets such as statues of Buddha, renovation of shrines/temples, and teaching.

In addition to taking orders from customers to produce beautiful kintsugi ceramics, he has been holding highly popular kintsugi workshops and running an online library to share his passion and skills for kintsugi with other people.

All works and images in this page by Hayato Fukasawa, Hatoya

Zero = abundance is going to release more contents on kintsugi and Hayato Fukasawa’s work.  Please sign up for our newsletter, via the side bar, to receive updates.

In the meantime visit Kintsugi Library, run by Fukasawa, to learn more about the beauty of kintsugi.