Kintsugi : Six centuries of ceramic repair

Ellie Green | January.16.2014

tokyobike store : Saturday 25/01/14 11am – 5pm

tokyobike invites customers and all members of the local community to a one day workshop at the tokyobike store. Muneaki Shimode from Kyoto will be using his kintsugi skills to repair your ceramics for which there will be a modest charge.

If you have something at home that you would like fixed, made good to become re-usable, please arrive early to avoid disappointment.

An exhibition of repaired items will remain on display in the shop until 2nd February alongside Japanese ceramics illustrating the kintsugi process.

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About Kintsugi

From early times, imperfection has been the subject of aesthetic appreciation in Japan, particularly with regard to the repair of valued items that have suffered in the course of their daily use.

Kintsugi is the repair of damaged or broken ceramics using urushi lacquer and most commonly, gold powder. It is a technique that found wide acceptance in Japan during the era of Sen no Rikkyu (1522–1591), the great master of the tea ceremony.

The main constituent element of kintsugi is urushi, the lacquer obtained from the Rhus tree Toxicodendron vernicifluum, native to Japan and China, which contains an identical irritant to poison ivy. It is not uncommon for urushi artisans to suffer an allergic reaction to the urushioi (which is traditionally countered by immersion in sea water) although immunity is generally acquired in the course of their work.

The urushi makes for a solid durable adhesive in bonding broken ceramic fragments back together. Additional layers of urushi are applied to the repaired area, allowed to harden and then cut back with charcoal or polishing powder to re-instate the original surface of the damaged piece. Gold or silver powder is usually applied to the final layer of urushi although it can simply be left in its natural state. Metallic powder is sometimes mixed with urushi and used to decorate a repair. This technique is common elsewhere within traditional Japanese lacquerware.

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There are three common forms of kintsugi:

Kintsugi, where urushi is used to repair cracked or broken ceramics.

Tomosugi, where urushi is used in conjunction with natural or synthetic fillers to repair chipped ceramics.

Yobitsugi, where urushi is used to cobble ceramics from different items into a single repair.

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