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cracks and kintsugi
April 9, 2015, 3:49 pm
Filed under: Experience, Great Stuff, Service Design

Tea bowl with #kintsugi

Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen, Anthem

Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

Part of service design is describing and inspiring people about the real challenges of change, the need to to fix things, to look at something broken and believe that not only can it be brought back to life but be both  more beautiful and more valuable while retaining history and integrity.

I find it useful it to explore Mr Cohen’s insight that cracks provide illumination and how it intersects with this ceramic practice of renewal.

Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin….Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. …The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject.

—Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics

Mostly what this notion can tell us is that it’s ok. It’s ok to break, to have cracks and weaknesses. It’s natural and part of life and growth and of interacting with people. Even more than that, when you pick up the pieces, you can transform into something stronger, more resilient, utterly unique and desirable.


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