The philosophy of this Japanese practice teaches us to repair instead of throw away and to celebrate the history that lies in flaws.
So much of the most popular interior design trends are inspired by and borrowed from cultures all over the world. The Murano glass trend which, of course, comes from the Italian island of Murano is soaring in popularity while the Scandinavian aesthetic has long been a byword for stylish.
Burgeoning on the horizon though, there’s an ancient practice that’s seeing renewed popularity, which could perhaps grow to be the biggest, and most important, home ‘trends’ of them all.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing something that’s broken with powdered gold. Its philosophy, quite beautifully, lies in the idea that breakages should be repaired (not simply thrown away), and actually celebrated as part of history.
Its origins date back to the 15th century and it’s a long-standing tradition in Japan most often used on pottery, to trace the lines of breakage and seal a piece back together using a gold lacquer. Suddenly a smashed bowl becomes even more beautiful for its cracks and instead of being tossed out, it’s treasured for its individuality.
The message behind this philosophy is to appreciate flaws and find beauty in them, something that, in the midst of a culture obsessed beauty standards and a world facing an environmental crisis, has never been so poignant.
Jane Badu, the founder of homeware brand We Are Nomads, fell in love with the idea after travelling to Japan in 2018. What she didn’t know at the time was that this practise would later help her as a small businesses owner who, when faced with a delivery of broken stock, found an aesthetically pleasing and eco-friendly way of salvaging the materials.
“When I saw Kintsugi in Japan I instantly fell in love with how the people there wanted to showcase the repair in such a beautiful way. I hate throwing things out so when a package of cups arrived from Morocco and they were all broken I was at a loss at what to do with them,” explains Badu.
“I thought back to Kintsugi and bit the bullet, taping the pieces back together and teaching myself how to repair them with gold powder through videos online. It’s a painstaking process and very fiddly, but that makes the finished product even more special. It’s very satisfying when it’s finished and each cup is unique.”
Homeware has been one of the biggest passion points for social media users in 2020 and 2021, with small, independent businesses rapidly gaining cult followings as more of us search for special items to make our homes feel unique.
The time and care involved in a Kintsugi piece combined with its eco-friendly ethos and love of flaws, an antidote for a society infatuated with perfection, is exactly what we need. Plus, it looks stunning.
If you’re thinking “I want some of this Kintsugi magic for myself” here are three ways to explore this ancient Japanese trend and even try it yourself.
We Are Nomads Kintsugi cup
These Kintsugi cups from We Are Nomads are one of the most beautiful examples of this incredible practise in, well, practise. Instead of being designed this way, Jane, the founder of We Are Nomads, actually applies the gold paint and Kintsugi method herself as a way of repairing any of her stock which has been damaged on its way to her.
By doing this she helps her small business recover otherwise lost costs and, of course, has an eco-friendly solution for what would otherwise be waste. Not to mention that the effect is stunning, with the rich gold lines standing out against the cup’s teal paint.
We Are Nomads offers a selection of Kintsugi products, currently including teal, turquoise and green cups, as well as green glass plates. By treating yourself to one of these pieces you are not only contributing to a waste-less system created by a small business, but also receiving a one-of-a-kind purchase.
Notonthehighstreet Kintsugi repair kit
There’s no better time to try your hand at a new skill than in lockdown. If you like the Kintsugi aesthetic and connect with the ethos behind it, this beautifully curated set could be the perfect opportunity to give it a go yourself.
This kit specialises in repairing ceramics and includes two bowls for you to practice on, but enough materials for you to repair a few of your own items too.
Inside the kit you’ll find gold pigment, glue, a spreader, two practice bowls, protective cloth and gloves. It’s important to note that any repaired items should only be used for decorative purposes and should not be used as eating or drinking vessels.
Kintsugi: The Poetic Mend by Bonnie KemskeWriter, critic and ceramic artist Bonnie Kemske has chosen this month to release her new book Kintsugi: The Poetic Mend, which explores not only the history of this practice with interviews with traditional masters but looks at how modern ceramicists are embracing this idea of ‘creativity through destruction’.
The book, a chunky hardback, would make for a lovely addition to your coffee table and its serene front cover imagery feels as though it would have a calming effect even without opening it. Then, when you find the time to sit down with a cup of tea, you’re given the opportunity to travel to Japan through its pages and absorb more of this brilliant philosophy on objects and life.
Images: We Are Nomads / courtesy of brands