Trivia

Hard

Kintsugi Is The Japanese Art Of Repairing Pottery With?

Shark Cartilage
Gold
Volcanic Glass
Bone Meal
Repair work on a Mishima ware hakeme-type tea bowl with kintsugi gold lacquer, 16th century.
Daderot/Wikimedia

Answer: Gold

In most cultures, once a ceramic dish takes a tumble to the floor and shatters, that’s it for the dish. In Japan, however, there is a centuries-old art form devoted to piecing pottery back together. This art form, kintsugi, is the process of repairing damaged pottery with a lacquer mixed with precious powdered metals like gold, silver, or platinum. The end result is a unique looking piece of pottery held together by shimmering seams or patches of metal.

The process is more than just the action of mending the pottery itself, however. It’s a reflection of how traditional Japanese culture treats damaged objects and the imperfection of the repaired object. A well worn and repaired object is valued, and the evidence of breakage and repair seen in a piece of kintsugi-mended pottery is part of that object’s history. The repair process (and the value of the repaired object) also overlaps with the Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi”, an aesthetic that holds that things are most beautiful if they are imperfect, impermanent, or incomplete. Kintsugi ties together the two concepts by taking a damaged thing, embracing the imperfections, and highlighting them with beautiful veins of precious metal.

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