The Art Of Kintsugi

Mind your Meals: Part One
November 5, 2019

At The Artistic Recovery, we recently hosted a Kintsugi workshop. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery by filling the cracks with gold. 

The significance of Kintsugi is that it takes something broken and makes it even more beautiful when mended back together by filling the cracks with gold. This is to emphasize the beauty of what was once broken. Our struggles are what make us beautiful and Kintsugi teaches us to wear our scars proudly. 

During the workshop, we discussed how Kinsugi is relevant to our experiences in recovery because like Kintsugi, recovery is a process of taking what was once broken and making it whole again. The more we experience, the wiser we become and deeper we understand ourselves. When things happen that cause us pain, in the moment we do not think about the lessons and growth we experience from going through it. But oftentimes we can look back and understand those experiences as part of what makes us who we are and feel proud of how far we have come. We look at what we have been through as evidence of how strong we are. When something happens that makes us feel broken, we can allow it to take away that piece of ourselves and remain broken, or we can put ourselves back together. Not only are we able to put the pieces back together, but we can become even more beautiful than before when we are able to embrace our struggles, and heal ourselves emotionally, spiritually, and physically. 

During the workshop, sometimes someone would have their bowl complete with all the pieces together and one of the pieces would fall back off. We discussed how this reflected real life because even after we put ourselves together, things can still happen to throw us for a loop and cause us to “break” again. We can experience a relapse or painful event that sets us back in our progress until we decide to put ourselves back together again. 

Another lesson this made me think about is that when we are broken, we do have to make an effort to fix ourselves in order to get better. We can choose to remain broken or we can choose to try and fix what is broken. This choice is always available to us, and sometimes we allow our doubt in ourselves to prevent us from trying at all. We might feel as though we do not deserve a chance, do not deserve love, or are not worthy of becoming a better person. 

Everyone on this Earth is worthy of love and a good life. All it takes is to believe this is true for yourself to let go of the doubt that prevents you from making progress towards change. Someone does not begin to heal until they make the decision and take action towards change. This illustrates gluing our pieces back together instead of leaving the bowl broken. When we stop feeling ashamed of our past and learn to embrace what we have been through as part of what makes us who we are, this is the gold (“silver lining”) that makes what was once broken beautiful again. I think a lot of people forget to give themselves credit for how far they have come in recovery, and that is unfortunate because it would have been easy for them to remain broken, anyone can do that. It takes strength and courage to decide to put yourself back together. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Recovery is a process of changing your life for the better and taking all of the pain and struggles you have been through, accepting and overcoming them, and becoming a better person because of it. This is something to be proud of. The individuals participating in this workshop were all at different points in their recovery journey, but just being there was indicative of their effort towards change and progress. Some felt like at that moment they were broken and knew something had to change so they were just beginning to put pieces back together. Some felt that they had been putting the pieces of their life back together for a while now and are able to see the silver lining in what they had been through. Regardless of where someone was currently at in their life, they were able to appreciate the value of this workshop in regards to how it relates to their lives and experiences. 

Hopefully this will inspire people to realize that instead of remaining broken, they can put the pieces back together and find that silver lining. Recovery is what makes this possible. Through recovery, we can learn to embrace our struggles as part of what makes us strong, whole, and beautiful.

History of Kintsugi and it’s Meaning

The art of Kintsugi dates back to the 15th century when it is believed that Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl to China for repairs. When it returned having been repaired with ugly metal staples, the Japanese were prompted to try and identify more aesthetic means of repair. This is when they began repairing broken pottery using lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum to mend the areas of breakage. Kintsugi (Kin=Gold and Tsugi=Repair) is a philosophy that treats the breakage and repair as part of an object's history and not something that should be hidden. This poignancy of existence is known in Japan as ‘mono no aware’, or a compassionate sensitivity, towards objects outside of one’s self. The Japanese feel that marks of wear by the use of an object add to its aesthetic value, and highlighting the cracks marks an event in the object’s life instead of allowing its service to end when a break happens. The Japanese philosophy of Mushin or “no mind” relates to Kintsugi in that it embraces concepts such as non-attachment and acceptance of change.


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