June 01, 2022

Through the Lens - issue 24

Through the lens for amirisu by Masako Nakagawa


Through the lens for amirisu by Masako Nakagawa


I started learning kintsugi. A potter friend of mine hosts a group of us, we gather once a month with our chipped and broken ceramics. First we brush the broken edges with lacquer, set the pieces in place, and leave them to dry. The following month we meet again to smooth the joints and fill any gaps. It would be much faster to use a synthetic glue, but we’re usually repairing dishes and cups we eat and drink from, so we use true lacquer instead.

About ten years ago, a certain bowl captured my attention. My life was overwhelmed with the unfamiliar demands of caring for a baby, and this delicate, beautiful bowl seemed to promise to brighten my days. I purchased it and returned home with a smile on my face. But as I searched for my house key with my son in my arms, he let out a loud cry and I accidently let go of the shopping bag. The bag fell to the ground with a terrible noise, the bowl was shattered. I had failed to do something as simple as bring home a bowl. Nothing was going right. I started crying in the entryway before I had a chance to take off my shoes.

I wish I could give myself a hug, explain that there’s no need to cry so much. You can connect the pieces one by one, just like a jigsaw puzzle. Then carefully apply the lacquer and let it dry. Select which metal to use, for this bowl silver is best. Slowly apply the tin powder over the lacquer, highlighting the natural beauty of the radial cracks. The bowl was enchanting before, but with these intricate silver lines it is even more special and unique.

It’s not possible to return to a time before the damage, but really there’s no need to. Cracks don’t need to be hidden from view. They can be shown openly, become part of what makes something extraordinary and truly one of a kind. On the surface kintsugi is the act of repairing an object, but I also think of it as a metaphor for living. As I apply lacquer to the next piece, I find myself thinking that even if the bowl breaks again, I can repair it anew and that would only add to its charm.

                  – Masako Nakagawa