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Kintsugi Method

If you’ve ever used clay as a medium, you’re probably familiar with the risks

associated with placing a delicate piece of artwork into the kiln. You’ve likely had a

few pieces break during the cooking process. I remember using a mold in my high

school ceramic class to create a bowl that regrettably broke into 8-10 pieces in the

kiln. The teacher suggested that I use a Japanese method called Kintsugi, literally

meaning “golden joinery.”

Kintsugi involves repairing broken pottery pieces by mixing lacquer with gold or

silver powder to act as glue between the broken pieces. The finished product then

shows gold or silver shining through the broken edges, giving a seamless look that

erases any sign of damage or repair. Although Kintsugi traditionally uses real gold or

silver, there are plenty of other cheaper, reasonable alternatives in the art world.

There are three types of the Kintsugi method: crack, piece-method, and joint-call. In

the crack method, lacquer is used to fill in the cracks and connect the broken

pieces, creating those seamless edges. Piece-method involves using large pieces of

lacquer to fill in spaces where entire pieces were lost or shattered. The third

method, joint-call, entails using pieces from other broken pottery to finish the

original piece.

This method has been used in Japan for centuries, dating back to at least the 15th

century, but wasn’t popularized until the 17th century. Kintsugi originates from the

Buddhist belief that resources should not be wasted, known as Mottainai. Mending

broken pottery is a sustainable practice, reusing otherwise wasted materials. Rather

than camouflaging the broken edges, Kintsugi embraces the repair process,

displaying the history of the object for all to see.

So the next time one of your clay pieces falls apart in the kiln, remember to use the

Kintsugi method! Not only does this provide a simple fix for an artist in need, but this

method is sustainable, sensible, and has been admired for centuries.

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