Kintsugi: Creating Beauty from Brokenness

Kintsugi: Creating Beauty from Brokenness

As we live in this fallen world, we are surrounded by brokenness. We experience brokenness in our own lives too. Jars of clay can crack and break easily. Yet Psalm 147:3 tells us that the Lord “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”. God is like the master kintsugi artist.  When we are broken, he doesn’t toss us aside or get rid of us.  Rather, he is close to us and saves us (Psalm 34:16).  In his grace he puts the broken pieces back together, and in that process, creates something even more beautiful.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

The other day I broke my favourite mug. It was a gift from a friend a few years ago. Not only was it a reminder of both the friendship and of Scotland, but it was also the perfect size for my daily mug of coffee.  I feel both sad and annoyed with myself for not having been more careful. Right now it is still sitting on my shelf because I can’t quite bring myself to throw it out!

Most Japanese bowls and cups are earthenware, made from clay. A Japanese meal will usually comprise several different items, each in their own bowl or small plate. So a typical household in Japan will have a plethora of small bowls and dishes.

The earthquake and tsunami of 2011 destroyed many houses and their contents, including a large amount of earthenware dishes. One Christian lady was helping to clear out a park in that area and began saving some of the many pieces of broken pottery. She wondered if she could make something beautiful out of all of the devastation around.

The next year she started to gather a group of women to make accessories out of the broken pottery. Some professionals then came to teach them how to make jewellery and the women started to make beautiful necklaces, earrings and other items and sell them worldwide. The Nozomi Project was born (Nozomi means “hope” in Japanese). Not only were the women able to make beautiful accessories out of the broken pottery, but they were also able to earn money doing so, when so many sources of employment in that area had been destroyed.

There is another Japanese way of bringing beauty out of brokenness – the art of ‘kintsugi’.  Rather than throwing away a broken plate or bowl, the pieces of pottery are put back together with gold lacquer. In some ways it might seem a strange thing to do – the repair with gold usually costs more than the original item. Also, rather than conceal the break, the lacquer accentuates it.

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