Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with precious metals, enhancing and elevating the importance of the damaged areas rather than hiding them. This deeply philosophical approach to restoration has a place in our studio as a time-honoured tradition, meaning that as well as conservation methods, our experts can also perform kintsugi upon request. 

Kintsugi bowl

This article will look at the ideas behind kintsugi, as well as the ways in which it can be achieved and the beautiful restoration it can result in. 

Kintsugi philosophy

The kintsugi approach to restoration allows a breakage to become an important part of the object’s history, whether this is a bowl, plate, cup or ornament. This is connected to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an artistic outlook that accepts and appreciates imperfection. This focus is seen throughout Japanese art, an acceptance of impermanence has its origin in Buddism as one of the three marks of existence. The word kintsugi translates to English as ‘golden joinery’. 

This philosophy of beauty in imperfection can also be found in Japanese pottery, with raku ware and hagi ware often having a wholly unique finish unlike the industrialised ‘perfect’ porcelain produced in Europe. 

Historically, staples were used to mend broken ceramics. Just like kintsugi, these repairs were seen as inspirational in their imperfection. The many origin stories of kintsugi hint toward it being a new and more luxurious way to restore breakages that still allows for a focus on the shattered pieces. 

Materials and processes

Kintsugi history is also linked to the popularity of lacquerware in Japanese art and design, the process of maki-e decoration is similar in its use of lacquer with a metallic powder. This can be completed in gold, silver or platinum. Kintsugi materials include resin, mica powder and liquid gold leaf. 

Kintsugi

There are several processes including crack kintsugi, makienaoshi and joint call. Crack kintsugi repairs the lines between the breakages, acting in place of an adhesive. Makienaoshi or the ‘piece method’ recreates a missing fragment in the metallic lacquer rather than ceramic. Joint call includes different pieces of ceramic that are combined by kintsugi to create a new object or dish.

Restoring failed kintsugi 

Our studio often sees failed ceramic repairs including amateur attempts at kintsugi that have not resulted in the desired effect. These can either be reversed and restored to a conservation standard or repaired with a professional kintsugi finish. 

Rallye Monte Carlo ceramic ashtray before and after restoration following a breakage

An example of this was a small ashtray that had been covered in a kintsugi resin, the result was messy and obscured the original ceramic. Our specialist conservator reversed the kintsugi repair and restored it with conservation methods, as this was preferred by the owner. 

Professional kintsugi restoration 

Our team consists of professional conservators who can perform kintsugi alongside conservation repairs. Our team can liaise with you to ensure a kintsugi approach is an appropriate method and can help you decide upon the type of metal used, the most popular is gold but silver and platinum can also be sourced. 

Kintsugi chicken restoration

Kintsugi can be performed on all ceramic items, from large vases to small ornaments. Depending on the level of breakage, you may require a simple crack to be filled or a wider missing fragment to be recreated in the makienaoshi style. 

How can we help?

If you have a broken ceramic that you would prefer to have a kintsugi repair rather than a conservation-lead restoration, our team can liaise with our experts to achieve a restoration that includes gold, silver or platinum kintsugi instead of a seamless finish. 

Please speak to our helpful team about how our experts can help you achieve a professional and beautiful kintsugi restoration. Call 01228 521 231 or email [email protected]