Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13
A cracked Japanese bowl with the cracks painted gold.

The Art of Kintsugi, or the Beauty of Scars


The Japanese practice of repairing cracks in porcelain with gold resin speaks to us all: sometimes defects are the greatest virtues.

“The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Among the swollen crowd of metaphors which we use to relate to life, the scar is one that concerns us all. As Hemingway said in the abovementioned quote, the world cracks us up, fills us with fissures, and that is where there is a whole spectrum of possibilities; the scar becomes a reason to face the world. And nobody has used this metaphor with more beauty and clarity than the Japanese in kintsugi (or kintsukuroi) art.

Kintsugi is the practice of repairing fractures in porcelain with varnish or resin powdered with gold. It follows that the breakages and repairs form part of the history of an object and should be shown and not hidden. By manifesting its transformation, the scars beautify the object.

A white japanese bowl with the cracks repaired with gold.

The poet Rumi said: “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”

In this philosophy there is something almost diametrically opposed to the Western way of seeing a fracture, both mentally and materially. Instead of a broken object no longer serving its function and us throwing it away, its function becomes another: that of an active message. A broken object goes from being one thing to a graphic gesture that incites us to emulate its powerful transformation and, metaphorically, the wound changes from being a dark stroke to a window of light.

Kintsugi is silent and manifest. By marking a painful incident with gold dust is to accept it as a jewel, like a luminous stripe on a tiger’s skin.

White bowls with the cracks mended with gold to allow the cracks to be shown, rather than hidden.


Related Articles