Kintsugi, golden joinery, is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery by putting the pieces together with gold, silver, or platinum—a metaphor for embracing imperfection.
Instead of hiding or concealing repairs, the method accentuates them and their inherent beauty.
Why Use It
Repairing broken pottery using this method celebrates the breakage and “scars” of its past. The golden cracks make the work more valuable than when it was unbroken.
The practice illustrates something true about humans: in healing, they can become stronger, more beautiful, and unique.
One radiates inner beauty by embracing the painful parts of life, the golden cracks.
When to Use It
Broken objects like cups are often thrown away without a second thought. Our society promotes a narrative of edifying perfection and adhering to norms. In that world, flawed objects are tossed aside. Kintsugi upends that practice by accentuating the breaks—the jagged lines.
In life, it’s helpful to see the inherent value in things. Rather than carelessly labeling an object worthless, it can have a second life. By focusing on how to reuse, one naturally focuses less on the need to replace with something new.
Individuals can extend this thinking to other people by seeing someone’s value and potential. Folks can also look inward to cast their crisis, tragedies, or failures in a new light.
How to Use It
Kintsugi is both an art and a practice. They can be learned and used to reframe your life.
There are a few types of Kintsugi:
- Crack is where resin and gold dust are used to put the pieces together, filling in the gaps.
- Piece Method is when there are missing parts to the pottery, and entire gold or lacquer sections are created to cover the holes.
- Joint Call is where a similarly shaped fragment from another piece in what amounts to a patchwork-like look.
Kintsugi, as a practice, connects to several Japanese philosophies:
- Wabi-sabi means embracing beautiful things that are flawed or damaged. In Japanese, Wabi means alone, and Sabi is the passage of time. As one concept, they ask folks to welcome the asymmetry within—the bad and good.
- Mushin is a mental state free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego—the mind is in flow and acts without hesitation.
- Gaman means to endure the agonizing with dignity and patience. Resiliency is practiced through breathing and meditation.
- Yuimari is the spirit of cooperation and togetherness. One seeks to take care of others and help them.
- Eiyoshoku in English means “nourishment” and asks folks to eat healthily and practice meditation.
- Kansha means to express gratitude sincerely for all experiences, good and bad. By reframing experiences, one can see the value in all situations.
In concert, the practice frees one to become a better person:
- It allows folks to accept their imperfections and see their merit.
- It asks folks to forgive themselves and practice self-love.
- It reminds folks of their history and how far they have come. The healing journey, like Kintsugi, is a lived one with visible scars.
- It promotes a growth mindset to overcome obstacles and commitment to nourishing one’s mind and body.
Recognize pain, fear, and struggles. Visualize them as golden cracks and you as a mended piece of pottery. You remain intact, despite the breaks.
How to Misuse It
Seeing and celebrating your imperfections is not a replacement for healing and the many forms that can take when overcoming pain.
Society might seem to expect perfection, but it admires those who have persisted and struggled to find themselves. Use Kintsugi as an antidote to perfectionism by applying it to your past.
Think about past trauma or imperfections. Honor those cracks and admire the person you have become. Acknowledge that everything you’ve lived has led to this moment.
Try practicing Kintsugi by picking up a kit or purchasing a repaired object. As you work through an issue, use the object as a reminder of the healing process.
Where it Came From
Kintsugi (golden joinery), also known as kintsukuroi (golden repair), is a Japanese art developed in the 15th century to extend pottery life. One origin story is that Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa mailed a broken tea bowl back to China for repairs but thought they made it ugly. The shogun then asked artisans to discover a better way to preserve the bowl, so they presented him with Kintsugi.
Although the practice began in Japan, other countries such as Korea, Vietnam, and China have applied similar techniques. Some collectors find the art more aesthetically pleasing than an unbroken bowl, so they deliberately crack it to repair it with golden joinery.
What Are Mental Models?
Mental models are thinking tools that help guide and shape our perceptions of the world. They simplify complexity so we can understand life better, make decisions confidently, and solve problems.