Jilly: Fix It With Gold

Just when you think 2020 might be getting a little better, it gets a whole lot worse. Elizabeth captured the zeitgeist perfectly in her Wednesday post, Living the Conflict Box. That’s exactly how the world feels to me every time I check out the news.

I spent much of yesterday staring at my laptop, trying to decide what to talk about today. Eventually, for reasons I hope will become apparent, I settled on the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi.

According to that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia:

Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as kinsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

I’m not Japanese and I’ve never been to Japan, so clearly I’m not the best person to talk about this (hi, Michaeline!), but I can broach the subject and invite you to learn more. I’ve been in love with the idea ever since it was featured on BBC Four’s 2017 season celebrating all things Japanese.

Click here for an article from the BBC series, including some stunning photographs.

I’d love to own a piece of kintsugi, but it would have to be something that has personal significance for me. If I ever break a cherished vase or bowl, say a wedding present, maybe something that was bought for my husband and me by my parents (who aren’t around anymore), I’m going to see if I can find somebody who can fix it with gold.

The reason I like kintsugi so much is that it doesn’t seek to hide a fracture, or even multiple fractures. There’s no attempt to mend something that’s seriously broken by fixing the damage so that it’s invisible to the naked eye. Quite the reverse. The idea is that the breakage is an important part of the pot’s history and should not be hidden or forgotten. But if it gets fixed with care, and love, and valuable materials, the pot not only becomes usable again, it becomes differently beautiful—a celebration, a reminder, even a triumph.

I love the idea so much that I incorporated a version of it into one of the stories I’m currently writing—a novella about sibling rivalry and family fractures and reconciliation.

And I hope it doesn’t sound naïve or pretentious to say that it’s what I wish for our world. The sooner the better.

Take care, be kind, and see you next Sunday.

9 thoughts on “Jilly: Fix It With Gold

  1. The concept of fixing something with gold, making it both more lovely and more valuable after the break, is wonderful. For some reason, when I think about that in terms of fiction and metaphor, what comes to mind is a couple that have been together through many years and many disappointments and small betrayals, knitting that relationship back together with the cracks still showing, but with the relationship more beautiful for that openness.

  2. I like this concept, Jilly, and can’t wait to see how you’ve incorporated it into your novella. A gold-mended break could have quite a story behind it and could be a reminder of experiences lived and/or things over come.

    I’m also reminded of an article I saw a while back talking about “Visible mending.” It has been taken up by those who want to protest fast fashion and disposable culture and, just like it sounds, it involves mending clothing that has visible holes or tears, but doing it in a way that does not attempt to hide the mend. On Instagram, hashtags like #mendingmatters and #makedoandmend mark tens of thousands of posts showcasing colorfully and often gorgeously patched sweaters, jeans, dresses and coats.

    • Visible mending–love that, and couldn’t agree more about fast fashion and disposable culture! I don’t spend much time on Instagram, but I’ll have to check out these hashtags.

  3. What a great concept! And those photos in the BBC article are incredible. The visible mend in the pottery not only adds visual interest, it adds value to the object, both emotionally and monetarily, if we’re counting those things. It reminds me of a pair of jeans I had years ago—and access to an incredible seamstress—who for a song, when I tore them in the rose garden, mended them better than new, and then, to disguise the patch, sewed a flower over the mend. I felt like a hippie. 🙂 Such a great repair. I wore those jeans until they breathed their last and no repair could bring them back.

    I love the idea of kintsugi and hope that our world can repair itself with as much style and grace as these artists repaired pottery—perhaps when at least this country is guided by a pair of hands that has more skill, patience, and training than it has now.

    • A flower on your jeans–perfectly hippie, especially if you were in California at the time 😉

      Glad you liked the article. Aren’t the photos something? The whole series was fabulous. There’s another one on how to make a samurai sword which I loved too.

      And as for the bigger picture? Here’s hoping.

  4. (-: I’ve only heard of this recently, and I agree, it’s a really cool idea! You can only do that kind of thing with something that’s really solid to begin with, though. I recently was mending some clothes, only to find that within a few wears, they were getting holey in new places. The fabric had reached its obsolescence point, and there was no use in fixing the item.

    As a metaphor for relationships, though, it is particularly beautiful. We just celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary today. It’s fun looking back on the joys we’ve shared, but some of the hard times and rough spots have been the gold that glitters.

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