December: Kintsugi

The word of the month for December is kintsugi.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer. You can see an example of the process here, and this is an example of what the finished product looks like:

In kintsugi, the repairwork is not supposed to be hidden and the item is not restored to “good as new.” Rather, the cracks are highlighted, often with gold or silver.

The evidence of cracks in the mended piece—depicting the history of the breakage, as it were—is part of what makes the mended object so beautiful. As Tiffany Ayuda writes: “in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art.”

Ayuda and others have observed that kintsugi serves as a useful metaphor for healing and resolution. For Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, part of the appeal of kintsugi is how the practice reminds us of our restorative power and reorients us toward our surroundings:

If something sparks joy for you but breaks, learning to mend and reconstruct that item is not only empowering — it can also act as a lesson in material, integrity and form. The Japanese craft of kintsugi can teach you how to appreciate your own handiwork and increase your compassion for your belongings: it feels wildly satisfying to fix a broken object instead of discarding it.

Kintsugi helps us reconsider what is meant by “broken” and serves as a counterbalance to perfectionism, self-judgment, intolerance, and other all-or-nothing conceptions of the good and the beautiful. Kintsugi also reminds us that we have the ability to fix things—even ruined, wrecked things—and that the process of fixing, along with the fixes themselves, are important and precious.

Fixing, restoring, repairing, reflecting . . . this is the work of conflict resolution as well. Now that we are in December, I hope that you are able to trace the lines of the past year and admire (and celebrate) everything you have accomplished. The world is better for the work you are doing.

3 thoughts on “December: Kintsugi”

  1. Jennifer,
    This is one of my favorite words. I use it in family mediation training and sometimes within a mediation. There are too many references to “broken” homes within divorce. I think this is a wonderful way to describe how the future will contain the pieces of the past in new ways and how our perspective changes with time and effort.

  2. Singer-songwriter Peter Mayer has a beautiful song called “Japanese Bowls” that is worth a listen. He brings this idea down to the individual and the way we embrace our own brokenness and repair. You can find the song on YouTube.

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