Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold or silver. As a philosophy, the belief is that the object is more valuable and beautiful with its history revealed.
But how can you adapt a pottery repair technique to your art journal?
By adapting Kintsugi as a transformative tool in your journal.
A Kintsugi artist rejoins a broken vase with gold epoxy, creating a new version of the vase. It will never go back to being what it was before it broke – instead, its cracks are highlighted to create a masterful work of art. In an art journal practice, the transformation comes by putting the pieces of you that are broken or hurting back together, working through the sorrow and pain to reinvent yourself – so you emerge into a stronger, more powerful individual.
Reframing your story
Once upon a time, I had a mug. It was white with the most gorgeous purple and blue pansies painted on it. It was my favourite mug…but then one day, it broke. I was devastated. But since it was shattered, I did the only thing I knew. I swept up the pieces and threw them away.
That was before I heard about Kintsugi. A Kintsugi master would not have seen a broken, useless mug – they would have seen a mug that had the potential to be repaired…to highlight its cracks and make it even more beautiful.
So Kintsugi’s first essential lesson is this: the story we’ve been telling ourselves – the one where we can never recover from the hurt or the loss or the betrayal – it’s time to change that story. Instead of letting our wounds define us, or looking at them as merely destructive, what if we looked at them as constructive? Instead of focusing on the hurt, what if we realize that the things that hurt us also have the power to make us stronger? The moment we do this, we can start to transform what was broken into something beautiful.
But how do we go about this transformational work?
Healing from your hurt
To mend the mug, the Kintsugi master would need to carefully prepare the gold epoxy – too much gold and the mixture would not be strong enough to mend the cracks; too much epoxy, and it would be too brittle.
In transformational work, the gold and epoxy represent the healing process and our willingness to go the distance. If we try to rush the healing process, we are only setting ourselves up for failure. We have to be willing to embrace set-backs, to circle back to some lessons until we’ve fully learned from them. Not only that, we must be willing to do the work it takes until that which is “bonding” us back into wholeness has had sufficient time to “cure.”
Owning all your parts
Once the gold epoxy is ready, the Kintsugi master will pick up each broken piece, fit it together and reconstruct the mug.
Similarly, when healing from our hurts, we need to embrace all of us – flaws and all. We need to look at each of our broken fragments and fully embrace the lessons from them so that we don’t repeat the same patterns again. And while some hurts may run too deep, we need to have the courage to understand that we can still stand strong…cracks and all.
Putting this into practice: Write out all the negativity and hurt in your art journal. Take a break and then look through it for the all the lessons that you can learn from that experience. Make a note of the wisdom you’ve gleaned on a separate piece of paper. Transform all the hurt in your art journal with paint and collage into a piece of beauty. Use the lessons you learnt as quotes on your page.
Disclaimer: If you’ve undergone significant trauma or think that this process could trigger some deep issues, please discuss this technique and work through it under the supervision of a registered clinical therapist.