Kintsugi, a landscape born from a wound

Shiori Kishi

10th January, 2023

Our meals are very convivial.
The sound of dishes, conversations, but also colours and shapes enliven the Japanese table. Glazed earthenware cups, lacquer bowls, porcelain plates, wooden chopsticks, and glass...glasses; the materials and colours are as varied as the number of containers and utensils. In my country, each member of the family has his or her own cup, his or her own bowl; grandfather's or mother's. It is allowed to carry the dishes with you. 
It is allowed to carry the dishes in the hand, to stick the mouth on them. This is why the size of the dishes is important and specific to each person. You have one of each kind and use it for many years. 
So the Japanese take care of their dishes. Even if it is broken, it is not thrown away and continues to be used. For this reason, techniques have been developed to repair them. 

One of them is the kintsugi method.
Kintsugi is a restoration technique that consists of gluing the breakage back together with lacquer that is covered with golden powder. The important thing is not to camouflage the breakage but, on the contrary, to give it a new aesthetic by honouring its history. This practice has emerged within the tea culture where beauty can be imperfect, where lack can be filled. Imperfection must be accepted with reverence. Tea masters have always regarded a broken bowl as the natural course of its history. The key is to give it a harmonious rebirth.  
The adhesive used in kintsugi is lacquer, a resin from shrubs in the Anacardiaceae family. In its natural state, it is the colour of coffee milk and becomes as dark as dark chocolate when stirred. A woody scent characterises its enigmatic odour, which I have smelled in the past. I search my memory and remember a newborn baby. A mixture of the smell of vernix and mother's milk. The resin heals the damaged tree, just like the blood that irrigates the human body with antibodies. As mother's milk is secreted by the mother's blood, it is perhaps no coincidence that the smell of the lacquer is similar to that of the newborn. 

I mix red ochre with dark chocolate lacquer and obtain a substance with a bloody shade close to raspberry. I dip a fine brush into it and carefully draw lines on the break lines. It is a moment of recollection when one faces the breakage. As I pick up the broken dishes, I remember the first time I held my baby in my arms, so fragile and defenceless. I also remember the feeling of emptiness in my body, damaged by the ordeal of childbirth. 

After the lacquer, I apply the golden powder, obtained from a mixture of gold leaf and silk. Under the repeated caress of the brush, the gilding gains in brightness. It receives the light of the room and shines tenderly. 
The repaired tableware is left to dry for a week. A wound takes time to heal and leaves its mark forever. My crockery has lived and I find it very beautiful like this.  
The break is the mark of a break that reveals a new contour. Each wound brings a new expression and our horizon expands with each experience.
Knowing one's own pain teaches us about the pain of others. This person who is dear to me and yet laughs in front of me is broken somewhere deep inside. To spot the pain of our loved ones, and not to forget it.
What new life will this repaired dish embody?  

Original text

金継ぎ ―傷あとから生まれる景色


















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Shiori Kishi

Academic researcher / Author

Après avoir terminé ses études à l'université, Shiori Kishi intègre à distance un Master de sciences de l'éducation à Londres, tout en démarrant son activité professionnelle. Elle arrive ensuite à Paris pour entreprendre des recherches sur la formation à l'outil numérique. Son sujet de recherche actuel est "La numérisation des universités étrangères" Elle est diplômée d'un master à l'université de Paris pour son parcours EdTech et d'un master à l'University College de Londres en sciences de l'éducation. Elle est actuellement membre du laboratoire de recherche "atarashii hatarakikata" ( "une nouvelle façon de travailler")