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Title: Kintsugi  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Japanese pottery, Ceramic art, Sōma ware, Jōmon Pottery, Takatori ware
Collection: Ceramic Art, Conservation and Restoration, Japanese Pottery
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Tea bowl repaired with the Kintsugi method

Kintsugi (金継ぎ) (Japanese: golden joinery) or Kintsukuroi (金繕い) (Japanese: golden repair) is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum a method similar to the maki-e technique.[1][2][3] As a philosophy it speaks to breakage and repair becoming part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.


  • Origin 1
  • Philosophy 2
  • Types of kintsugi joinery 3
  • Related techniques 4
  • Influence on modern art 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7


Lacquerware is a longstanding tradition in Japan,[4][5] at some point it may have been combined with maki-e as a replacement for other ceramic repair techniques. One theory is kintsugi may have originated when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China for repairs in the late 15th century.[6] When it was returned, repaired with ugly metal staples, it may have prompted Japanese craftsmen to look for a more aesthetic means of repair. 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.[1] Kintsugi became closely associated with ceramic vessels used for chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony).[2] While the process is associated with Japanese craftsmen the technique was applied to ceramic pieces of other origins including China, Vietnam, Korea.[7]


As a philosophy kintsugi can been seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect.[8] Japanese æsthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.[9]

Kintsugi can relate to the Japanese philosophy of "no mind" (無心 mushin) which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change and fate as aspects of human life.[10]

Types of kintsugi joinery

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), where 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), where a similarly shaped but non-matching fragment is used to replace a missing piece from the original vessel creating a patchwork effect.[11]

Related techniques

Nanking reticulated basket, c.1750 mended with metal staples

Staple repair is a similar technique used to repair broken ceramic pieces,[12] where small holes are drilled on either side of a crack and metal staples are bent to hold the pieces together.[13] Staple repair was used in China, England, and Russia as a repair technique for particularly valuable pieces.[13]

Influence on modern art

Kintsugi as a general concept of highlighting or emphasizing imperfections, visualizing mends and seams as additive or an area to celebrate or focus on rather than as absence or missing pieces, the artist project dispatchwork by Jan Vormann[14][15] can be seen as a modern take on kintsugi.[16][17] Other modern artists experiment with the ancient technique as a means of analyzing the idea of loss, synthesis, and improvement through destruction and repair or rebirth.[18]

While originally ignored as a separate art form, kintsugi and related repair methods have been featured at exhibition at the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[1][7][8]

The concept of Kintsugi inspired Tim Baker of the Canadian band Hey Rosetta! in the making of their 2014 album, Second Sight. The lead single, "Kintsukuroi," takes its name directly from the artform and the cover art of the record features a bowl repaired in the kintsugimethod. Canadian folk band The Rural Alberta Advantage also used kintsugi as inspiration for the art for their tellingly-named 2014 record, Mended With Gold.


  1. ^ a b c Gopnik, Blake (March 3, 2009), "At Freer, Aesthetic Is Simply Smashing", The  .
  2. ^ a b "Golden Seams: The Japanese Art of Mending Ceramics", , Smithsonian, retrieved 3 March 2009  .
  3. ^ "Daijisen". 
  4. ^ Ota, Alan K. (September 22, 1985). "Japan's Ancient Art of Lacquerware". New York Times.  
  5. ^ Johnson; Ken (April 4, 2008). "A Craft Polished to the Lofty Heights of Art". New York Times.  
  6. ^ Gopnik, Blake (March 3, 2009). Golden Seams: The Japanese Art of Mending Ceramics' at Freer"'".  
  7. ^ a b "Golden Seams: The Japanese Art of Mending Ceramics". Smithsonian.  
  8. ^ a b Andrea Codrington, Lippke (December 15, 2010). "In Make-Do Objects, Collectors Find Beauty Beyond Repair".  
  9. ^ Kwan, Pui Ying. "Exploring Japanese Art and Aesthetic as inspiration for emotionally durable design". 
  10. ^ Flickwerk The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics Paperback, January 1, 2008 by Christy, James Henry Holland and Charly Iten Bartlett
  11. ^ "Gold joint (mending gold) What is it?" (in Japanese). 2013-05-04. Retrieved 2014-04-02. 
  12. ^ Kahn, Eve (January 17, 2013). "It’s as Good as Glue: Mending Shattered China". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  13. ^ a b "Stapled Repairs on Chine; Confessions of a curious collector". Antiques Journal. February 2012. pp. 37–40. Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  14. ^ "Jan Vormann: Artist Used Legos To Fill Cracks In New York Buildings".  
  15. ^ "Untapped Cities: Street Art With a Bigger Purpose".  
  16. ^ "Dispatchwork Manifesto". Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  17. ^ Pinatih. "LEGO fix for distressed walls Amsterdam repaired with plastic bricks". Platform 21. Retrieved 2014-04-02. 
  18. ^ Taylor, Andrew (February 27, 2011). "Smashing idea to put it together again".  

Further reading

  • Flickwerk The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese CeramicsChristy, James; Holland, Henry; Bartlett, Charly Iten (2008). Flickwerk The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics. Cornell University, Herbert Johnson Museum of Art.  
  • Kintsugi: The Meaning of Mending by Adam Fulford (Video on Vimeo)
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