Kintsugi, or “golden joinery,” is the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramic with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Kintsugi treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object—part of its beauty—rather than something to hide.
“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
(shamelessly grabbed from Wikipedia)
Kintsugi plays a major part in my new novel Wreckage. One character, an art collector, has just found an ancient Kintsugi bowl in a thrift shop and is excited to have it evaluated. She herself has just undergone a disfiguring surgery that has wrecked her face and her career, and so finds a sense of kinship with the little broken pot that she buys. The book’s major theme (and thus the title) is the idea of damage and how we deal with it—whether it causes contraction and fear, or opens us up to a greater expression of life. Each of the characters in Wreckage has their own answer to that question.