Fixation with… Kintsugi: How a Japanese tradition brought me closer to my crockery

The dish in my kitchen had been upsetting me. Its heyday as part of my teatime ritual was long gone, but I hadn’t parted with it. In three pieces, it lurked moodily behind my mugs, wondering whether it would ever be invited to the table again.

I’d been uncertain how to fix it until one day, wandering the internet, I found kintsugi. In Japanese, kin means gold and tsugi means to connect to the world. Kintsugi is the art of mending broken pottery with gold.

The craft originated about 500 years ago when it’s believed that the Emperor, dissatisfied with the repair of some broken ceramics, ordered for a more beautiful means of mending. The idea of tsugi encourages people to see objects in a more spiritual way, to find beauty in broken or old things. The beauty isn’t within the object itself, but within the mind of the person looking at it.

It’s a way of thinking that’s gathering pace. Products like Sugru, a colourful mouldable glue, services like Restart, which revive broken electronics, and communities like Fixperts, who seem to repair just about anything, are making fixing much easier and more accessible.

So, having found a modern kintsugi kit, I set about spending an afternoon with the dish. Drinking tea and listening to Glaswegian soul, we bonded (so to speak). It felt intimate and heartwarming, taking such care over the fragile, broken piece. It was exciting to try a new craft, rewarding to solve the puzzle of fitting the shards back together, and satisfying to restore something beautifully. I could feel the tsugi between us, and I was (ahem) transfixed.

It can be heartbreaking when the things we love fall apart. As someone who gets emotionally attached to my things, it’s comforting to find that sometimes mending can make them better, more beautiful and more unique. The contrast of manufacture and handcraft in one piece is pretty special too.

Now the dish holds not just my teacup, but also the memory of our afternoon together. A memory my left index finger, with its big gold splodge, still holds too. Latex gloves are advised.