kintsugi: emphasizing the breakage

I can’t remember who, but one of us, me or Mike accidentally broke this little ceramic bowl. I have a feeling it was Mike, but don’t trust my memory so I can’t say for sure. The grief and trauma have significantly affected my memory which is troubling in several ways, but particularly because I don’t know if I’m remembering our all too short time together correctly. I wish I could remember his exact words in so many moments, but sadly I don’t.

The bowl broke into four clean pieces, and I remember (correctly or incorrectly) telling Mike it was fixable. I told him about kintsugi, the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold. The philosophy emphasizes the breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, embracing the flaws.

Mike liked this idea, he embraced flaws in everyone and accepted them as they were – human. He did this to me, and I offered the same to him. We are all flawed.

I taped the broken pieces together as a temporary means and planned to fix it properly later.

I don’t remember exactly when this happened, but I know it was over a year ago because this past weekend marked the one-year anniversary of Mike’s death. It was big and hard and painful. I had been looking for activities to do at home for the days when I found it hard to be out of the house. Days when the world just felt too loud and harsh. I remembered this broken bowl and wanted to mend it.

As fixing things often does, it made little monetary sense to do this. It would have been cheaper and easier to buy a new one. I paid more in epoxy glue and colour powder than I did for the bowl (plus the additional items I picked up while in the store for unknown future arts and craft emergencies).

Kintsugi is usually done with gold, but they were sold out of gold and I didn’t want to go to another store. I thought this “black gold” suited the piece and me better anyways.

I loosely followed these instructions from this calm sounding man. I had a small setback when I couldn’t get the epoxy glue lid off (always triggering – I also recently went to tears because I couldn’t open a bottle of stupid Smart Water), but came back to it later and this is the result.

I accept that in using a syringe of epoxy, black gold dust, and clumsy handwork I’ve butchered the tradition of this beautiful art form. But it still had meaning for me. Now I have this bowl which got broken in an accident and it has been fixed. It’s not the same as it was before. It’s unique and no one else has this bowl that was broken and repaired and has uneven black gold scars.

I’m not going to preach how best to operate within the hellhole of grief, but I can offer that I found value in mending this bowl. I subsequently went through my apartment looking for other things to repair including my favourite Christmas ornament – my grinch. His hat was broken. It doesn’t change much, but I have less broken things now and my grinch has his hat back so he can continue to steal Christmas in style.

One year on from Mike’s death I know I cannot be “fixed” like this bowl. But I’m still here and learning how to wear my scars, flaws, and brokenness.

3 thoughts on “kintsugi: emphasizing the breakage

  1. Love this reflection Maz, the metaphor of your bowl & hearing about your learnings on brokenness. In many ways it’s weird that the goal is ever to be fixed anyway, who out there is ever really fixed!?! Also, is anyone ever really ‘whole’? I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s the feeling bad for not being whole that can leave us feeling so empty & inadequate. I watched Mare of East Town recently which is essentially a crime thriller that at its heart is about grief & loss. When asked about grieving her son the lead character says gradually you keep making the bed, doing the daily tasks of living & whilst it doesn’t get better you ‘learn to live with the unacceptable’. That resonated with me. I’m big on acceptance & in most areas of my life it works well to try to accept things. You know accept what you can & can’t control. Accept people for who they are & yourself etc etc. But, I’ve discovered recently that some things happen that you can’t accept, they’re too awful & senseless that you’ll never accept them but you have no choice but to live with them. Big hugs 🤗

    • Thanks Jessie for your reflections on my reflections!
      I love your question “is anyone ever really ‘whole’?” It’s a good one to ponder.

      I haven’t watched Mare of East Town yet, but it sounds great. I can definitely identify with the going through the motions of daily tasks like making the bed just because.

      Re acceptance, I feel I may have gone too far the other way… Accepting that the world is pure uncontrollable chaos is difficult and disheartening — would not recommend!

  2. Thank you for sharing Mazzy. The black scars on this ceramic bowl have a powerful story and will always represent a moment in time with Mike. I’ve never heard of Kintsugi – thank you for also teaching me about this – lots of fascinating articles on the healing powers of Kintsugi as a concept and that a bowl with imperfections, much like life, is more realistic in the passage of time. Lots of love dear friend. x

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