Kintsugi: The Art of Repairing Pottery with Gold

Kintsugi, the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold and other precious metals, is a wonderful absorbing craft and hobby, and you can make amazing pieces for your home

This ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold and other precious metals, can be an absorbing and beautiful hobby and craft to try.

If you want to start a craft hobby that is unique and backed by thousands of years of practice and specialty, then Kintsugi could be what you are looking for!

Gray bowl being held up by a woman's hand that has been repaired using the Kintsugi techniquePhoto: Clara Graziolino/Domestika


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What is Kintsugi?

Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold and other precious metals.

The resulting pottery looks so beautiful and is an art in itself. ‘Kint’ means Gold and “Sugi” means to join. 

To make the join itself, laquer mixed with precious materials, such as gold, are used to repair broken pottery in a unique and beautiful way.

This beautiful ancient art is an experience in itself to explore and participate in.  It has been practiced for over 500 years, and practitoners of Kintsugi eventually become masters in the craft.

Most of the materials used for Kintsugi are quite expensive, such as the gold and also the special laquer used too (Urushi). But as a beginner you can use less expensive materials, especially while you are experimenting and learning.

The special laquer actually used traditionally in Kintsugi takes 3 months to dry! But today less time-consuming products can be used.

Why Kintsugi is a Great Craft Hobby

Embracing Imperfection: Kintsugi celebrates flaws and imperfections rather than hiding or disguising them. This philosophy encourages acceptance of impermanence and the beauty of transience, fostering a mindset of resilience and acceptance in one’s own life.

Creativity and Expression: Repairing broken pottery with Kintsugi allows for creative expression. You have the freedom to choose how to mend the broken pieces, incorporating gold or other materials in unique patterns or designs, making each piece a personalized work of art.

Cultivation of Patience and Mindfulness: Kintsugi is a meticulous process that requires patience and attention to detail. Engaging in this craft can help cultivate mindfulness and focus as you carefully mend each piece, encouraging a sense of calm and presence in the moment.

Environmental Sustainability: By repairing broken pottery instead of discarding it, Kintsugi promotes sustainability and reduces waste. This aligns with the growing movement towards eco-friendly practices and encourages a more mindful approach to consumption.

Cultural Appreciation: Learning Kintsugi allows you to connect with Japanese culture and tradition. Through practicing this ancient art form, you gain insight into Japanese aesthetics, philosophy, and craftsmanship, fostering a deeper appreciation for cultural diversity and heritage.

Therapeutic Benefits: Engaging in creative activities like Kintsugi has been shown to have therapeutic benefits, such as stress reduction, improved mood, and increased self-esteem. The process of repairing broken pottery can be cathartic, symbolizing the transformation of adversity into beauty.

Overall, Kintsugi is a wonderful craft hobby to try for its blend of creativity, mindfulness, sustainability, and cultural enrichment, offering both aesthetic pleasure and personal growth opportunities.

Materials Needed for Kintsugi

There are many different materials required for Kintsugi.  As previously mentioned the more traditional methods require quite expensive materials, but there are cheaper alternatives that can be used today, especially if you are a beginner to this art and craft.

Materials used include  Epoxy glue, which is one of the key materials used in Kintsugi.  Gold dust powder (or other precious metals powder) is mixed with the epoxy glue.  There are many different brands and varieties to choose from, and also different shades of gold/metals. But it does have to be a very fine texture.

In addition to those main primary materials, you will need clear paint varnish, scalpels or x-acto knives, sandpaper, Plaster of Paris, paint brushes, primer, nail polish remover, making tape, a hammer and pliers, and many other smaller materials.

Of course the main materials needed are bowls and vessels to mend and decorate!

Wooden stirrer stick stirring gold liquid ready for Kintsugi.Photo: Clara Graziolino/Domestika

How to Choose Bowls & Vessels for a Kintsugi Project

Traditional Kintsugi involves repairing ceramic or porcelain bowls, cups, and other pottery items. These materials are commonly used because they are fragile and prone to breakage, making them ideal candidates for the art of Kintsugi.

While Kintsugi can be applied to various types of vessels, shallow bowls and plates are commonly used because they are easier to work with. The process involves filling in the cracks or breaks with lacquer and metal powder, and shallow bowls provide a flatter surface for this purpose.

The glaze and surface finish of the pottery can affect the appearance of the final Kintsugi piece. Some glazes may be more challenging to work with due to their texture or composition, so it’s essential to consider the aesthetics you desire when choosing your vessel.

Ultimately, the choice of bowls or vessels for Kintsugi can be a matter of personal preference. Some artists and practitioners may prefer to work with specific shapes, sizes, or styles of pottery based on their artistic vision.

Wooden stirrer stick dribbling liquid gold onto the side of a piece of broken pottery for the Kintsugi technique.Photo: Clara Graziolino/Domestika

How to Break Pottery for Kintsugi

Breaking pottery for Kintsugi is a deliberate process that involves creating controlled cracks or breaks in a piece of ceramic or porcelain pottery.

You must take appropriate safety precautions when breaking the pottery, such as safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying ceramic fragments, and gloves to protect your hands.

When you break the pottery you have to prepare a controlled break. You can do this by using several different methods, which include tapping it with a hammer or mallet, scoring and snapping with a glass cutter, or dropping the pottery onto a hard surface from a certain height to create cracks.

After creating the cracks or breaks, you should carefully inspect the pottery to ensure it has broken in the desired pattern. If needed, you can further refine the cracks by tapping or scoring again.

Use a brush or cloth to clean any loose ceramic fragments and dust from the broken edges of the pottery. Ensure that the surfaces to be joined are clean and free of debris.

Once you have successfully broken the pottery in the desired way, you can proceed with the Kintsugi repair process. This typically involves filling the cracks with lacquer mixed with powdered precious metals such as gold, silver, or platinum.

Kintsugi Techniques

There are two main different Kintsugi techniques. They are the Gold Relief Technique and the Gold Flush Technique.

Kintsugi: The Art of Repairing Pottery with GoldPhoto: Clara Graziolino/Domestika

Gold Relief Technique

The Gold Relief Technique uses gold to not only fill in the cracks but also to create raised or elevated patterns or designs along the mended lines. The result is a visually striking piece of pottery with golden accents that emphasize the beauty of the repairs.

This technique involves applying base lacquer along the cracks to bond the pottery.  Then once the base lacquer has dried, the artist applies of layer of lacquer (traditionally this is Urushi lacquer) mixed with powdered gold or other previous metals along the cracks.

Instead of simply filling the cracks flush with the surface, the artist uses the lacquer to create raised patterns or designs that follow the contours of the cracks

After the gold relief work is complete, the pottery is left to dry and cure. It is then carefully polished to create a smooth and even surface, making the gold accents shine. The final piece often showcases a combination of the repaired cracks and the decorative gold relief patterns.

Gold Flush Technique

In the Gold Flush Technique, the emphasis is on creating a seamless and smooth surface by filling in the cracks and gaps left by the broken pottery with a layer of lacquer mixed with powdered gold. This results in a repaired piece of pottery where the mended areas are flush with the original surface, creating a subtle and elegant effect.

In this method the pottery is bonded together the same as in the Gold Relief Technique, but the cracks are flush and seamless with the rest of the pottery surface.

In this method the final piece of pottery has repaired areas that are visually indistinguisable from the original, except for the subtle shimmer of the gold.

How to Learn to do Kintsugi

There is a wonderful course on the platform Domestika that is an Introduction to Kintsugi, and the various techniques and more.  You can view the course details here.

This course lets you know everything about Kintsugi, and it is presented by Clara Graziolino, who is a renowned ceramics artist and Kintsugi expert.

You can actually see in action how to make your own Kintsugi vessels, how to break pottery and more.  There is also an in-depth guide to the tools and materials that you need, and you get to do your own project too!


Woman's hand holding a light gray pottery cup that has been mended with gold in the Kintsugi technique.Photo: Clara Graziolino/Domestika

Kintsugi, the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold and other precious metals, is a wonderful absorbing craft and hobby, and you can make amazing pieces for your home









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