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  • Writer's pictureMicky

Kintsugi and Wabi-sabi: A Touch of Japanese Wisdom

CRASH! I've had a few mornings start like this... the tragic sound of broken ceramic. Usually accompanied by a grumble from the dropper. Then the solemn sweeping of a dust pan and brush ensues, as the remnants are disposed off. It's a sad moment when a beloved mug or dish breaks; all those memories smashed in an instant.

But the memories don't have to stop there. Recently in the studio we have been exploring the concepts of kintsugi and wabi-sabi; in particular, how it can be applied to the ceramics that we're producing, as well as to our own lives.

What is Kintsugi?

The exact origins of this art form is unknown, but it is thought to have developed sometime during the 15th or 16th centuries in Japan.

Kintsugi ensures a second-life for broken ceramics. When pottery becomes broken or chipped, it can be repaired with a combination of lacquer and gold. Kintsugi is an art form that avoids disguising a breakage; instead, utilising cracks to create a new piece to display with pride!

What is Wabi-Sabi?

Wabi-sabi is more difficult to translate, as it is a concept rather than an action. It's about savouring the beauty that derives in natural simplicity. Much like the slow-living focus that mindfulness brings, it helps us admire the falling of autumn leaves, or a lone streetlamp during a foggy night. Ageing is also seen as a positive. The wrinkles in a face, or a wall scarred by overgrown ivy pulled away long ago. It's a sign of a life lived!

Both kintsugi and wabi-sabi have a similar outlook: embracing what could be perceived as imperfection. A concept that doesn't apply just to art, but as a metaphor in our own lives.

Do you ever feel like a piece of ceramic?

If you're reading this then you have experienced life, and as much as we hope for an ideal life, it's guaranteed that we'll take a bumpy ride at some point. Our lives are speckled with the spectacular as well as the heavy moments. Much like a broken bowl, we too are covered in chips and cracks (both mentally and physically!) and the longer we exist, the more these will grow.

Kintsugi provides such a great metaphor to see ourselves like a broken ceramic piece! We are all a little broken, but those experiences help us grow and become the people we are now. In a way, we are more valuable for those experiences, because of the wisdom that they help us gain. Wabi-sabi celebrates this wisdom through experience and ageing. Ageing isn't a 'perfect' process and with it comes wrinkles and scars, but those are also a sign of knowledge and experience gained!

You can't be a perfectionist with these concepts

Perfectionism is such a struggle to overcome, especially because true perfection can never be achieved. It is worth noting, that kintsugi and wabi-sabi isn't about settling for second best, but about refocusing our perceptions. Imperfection isn't a fault, but something to be celebrated for its uniqueness.

There is a freedom in accepting the inevitability of imperfection. Chips, cracks, misshapen creations are all part of the learning process when it comes to art.

With this in mind, Rae has been inspired to create a 'not quite perfect' collection, which will consist of all the products that can't be sold at full price. They're all fully functioning pieces, just with added character. Some might have a slight wobble, and on others the glaze might have gone a bit funky- they're all wonderful in their own way! To distinguish them as not quite perfect they will have gold elements added to them (kintsugi inspired!). It's a freeing collection, and a statement that even when art/life doesn't go to plan it can still be beautiful and desirable!

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