The art of mending ceramics and glass with natural lacquer and real gold.
This is the place for those seeking quality and authentic information from the lens of Japanese artisans.
We decided to write the following articles because of the many misinformation in kintsugi method and materials in the market. We understand the challenge for overseas advocates to get genuine English information on this rare craft and to procure material and tools. We are sad to see serious overseas advocates paying premium for anything from commodified kintsugi pieces, to substitute-material and amateur tool sets.
Ultimately, you choose the methods and tools for your own kintsugi projects. For us, we want to provide true understanding of this ancient crafts and gain respect for artisans that devoted their life in learning and practicing this slow craft. We hope you find our information and effort beneficial to your learning and practicing of this craft, being miles away from Japan.
Ceramics Repair in Japan
Japan's ceramics repair practice ties to pragmatic reasons (mending and recycling to sustain life-cycle of goods). The development of methods goes hand in hand with China, ranging from metal bracing to lacquer/tar bonding.
Bonding with urushi (natural lacquer) was practiced in Japan as early as 12th century. The biggest influence in elevating lacquer repair work to an art form is the development of wabi-cha, a style of tea ceremony started in the 15th century by Buddhist monk Murata Juko, and continued by other tea masters including Sen no Rikyu and Kobori Enshuu. This shifted the appreciation for delicate and ornate ceramics towards humble and rustic earthen wares. Followers started to appreciate the abstract "landscapes" from natural glazes and unadorned forms, including the blemishes from usage and repairs.
Japan's urushi and maki-e masters played an important role in the world of ceramics repair. A 16th century doctrine ”蒔絵師伝” "Legend of maki-e artisan" has extensive documentation on high-value ceramics tea canisters shattered during war being repaired by urushi and maki-e masters. Urushi masters performed flawless execution with lacquer, hiding all the joints and patch pieces, and the lacquer paint work re-created natural gradation of the original glaze. This was revealed when historians put the vessels under x-ray examination.
During that time, Maki-e Masters, expert in painting with gold, developed different aesthetics in repairing. Aside from Urushi-tsugi (mending with color lacquer), there are Yobi-tsugi (combining shards from different wares to form a new piece) and Kin-tsugi (highlighting repair blemishes with gold). Maki-e Masters set the foundation for kintsugi ceramics repair.
Maki-e Artisan 蒔絵師
The Master of Urushi and Gold
Maki-e is a Japanese traditional craft dated 700AD (Nara period). It is a slow and detail-oriented process of painting and polishing with gold over multi-layer lacquered background. The Japanese has perfected the art and craft of lacquer in combination with gold. There are various methods to create a range of gradation, embossed and debossed effects; all through utilization of various grades and fine-ness of metallic powder, different lacquer, refined brushwork and engraving technique.
Maki-e Masters set the foundation of kintsugi ceramics repair.
We have encountered many overseas advocates that are passionate and interested in learning Japanese ceramics and kintsugi craft, but find it challenging in getting the right information and supplies in their home countries.
We are committed to provide authentic information, material and methods for those who are as dedicated as we are in preserving, learning and practicing this traditional craft. Shokunin (Japanese artisans) are also keen on demystifying and correcting some of the misunderstanding about their craft. In the process, we also want to communicate the spirit of true Japanese artisanship.
SLOW CRAFT . DISCIPLINE . PASSION
"That" Broken Bowl
How many times have you read the generic stories about a shogun sending an expensive broken bowl to China for repair and was returned with ugly staples, thus started the Japan's development of a more refined and artistic method call Kintsugi?
THAT broken bowl has a name and a documented history.