We live in such a throwaway culture these days, if something breaks it is instantly considered useless and we simply discard it. There is a lack of respect and care towards our belongings, we are never satisfied and always looking to buy something new. I really disagree with this attitude and believe we need to view more of our belongings as lifetime objects that can be passed on to the next generations. We need to reduce the waste the human race generates which is polluting our environment. Sometimes looking back in history can teach us important lessons that will help us to protect the future of our planet.
Originating in the 15th century, the Japanese art of Kintsugi, highlights the importance of not only repairing objects but using it as an opportunity to enhance them. This technique involves using lacquer mixed with powdered gold to repair broken pottery. The lacquer is used to bond the broke pieces back together, with the gold making the cracks aesthetically pleasing. The practice is linked to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi which is all about seeing the beauty in flaws and imperfections. Kintsugi is all about emphasising the cracks rather than trying to hide them. Often we wouldn’t want to display a broken object but in this case the scars of the object are accepted and even shown with pride.
The irregular golden trails are unique for each piece as it is dependant on the way the object shattered which is entirely random and impossible to replicate. I think the idea of every piece having its own story and its history being on show like that is a beautiful concept. We have been living in society that pushes for perfection and measure success on this. We all have our scars and as this is slowly starting to become more accepted in modern society I don’t see why we can’t apply it to products as well.
Another fascinating aspect to the practice of Kintsugi is the time and patience required. Instant gratification is something we all expect these days. Waiting isn’t something we have to do often with the development of modern technology. The lacquer used to bond the broken pieces together is very slow to cure. It is applied in layers, with each layer taking up to a month to dry. After all the layers are finally finished, the piece needs to be carefully sanded so that there is no discrepancy between the gold filler and the original piece. This is a hard and time-consuming process but the results are stunning. In most cases the object actually looks better with the addition of the gold than before it broke.
I believe the important message from Kintsugi is that objects should be treasured and if they are damaged then they should be repaired in a thoughtful, beautiful way that embraces the scars that are left. You should buy an object with the intention of keeping it or passing it on to others, landfill should be avoided at all costs. In an attempt to reduce the waste we are creating I think we should change our perspective when it comes to the ownership of products. If we own something then we are responsible for it and should treat it with respect and not get caught into the idea that imperfections are a negative feature.