“The world breaks everyone, and then some come out stronger than those broken places.” -Ernest Hemingway
Life comes crashing down on everyone and sometimes we break. We get the idea that a breakage is bad, hard to fix, and even if it is repaired, the scars it leaves behind will always be there and look bad. But Wabi-Sabi, a Japanese philosophy, does not look at breakage and imperfections that way.
The Wabi-Sabi philosophy developed from the three signs of existence in Buddhism, self-confidence, suffering, and emptiness/meaninglessness. It focuses on the acknowledgment of fault. Wabi can be translated into Turkish as “rustic simplicity, simple elegance” and sabi as “enjoying imperfections”.
In the ancient Japanese Kingdom, imperfection was seen as one of the key steps on the path to enlightenment. While there was this approach to blame in the East, in the West there was the prevailing opinion that everything that was defective, spoiled or broken would no longer work. Issues such as aging and the flow of time were seen as beauty in Wabi-Sabi philosophy.
The art of Kintsugi emerged from this philosophy. It is the art of reassembling broken ceramics such as vases, cups and teapots with gold instead of throwing them away. It shows us that imperfections and cracks can actually be beautiful. The aim of this art is not to hide the deformation of the broken item and make it ‘better than before’ or ‘like new’, but to reveal these deformations and defects as much as possible. In this way, the value of the item increases even more because there is experience on it.
The story of Kintsugi begins in Japan in the 15th century. Japanese commander Ashikaga Yoshimasa’s favorite Chinese teapot is broken and wants to be repaired. The commander, who did not like the state after it was repaired, this time calls the Japanese craftsmen and asks them to repair this teapot in an aesthetic way. Japanese craftsmen also repair the teapot with gold from the broken parts and take it to the commander. The commander likes the teapot more this way. This is where the art of Kintsugi emerged.
In today’s world, we are in a period where perfection is sought in everything. Perfect body measurements, perfect fruits and vegetables, perfect clothes, perfect houses, perfect lives… And this trend is tiring everyone from the inside out. For people who spend all their energy for perfection, nothing they achieve is enough.
Instead of repairing something that is broken, stitching up the ripped one, and recycling it, it is more tempting to throw it away and buy a new one. In this situation, Wabi-Sabi philosophy and Kintsugi art make you think a little bit. Are we doing it right by trying to cover up the flaws? In fact, isn’t it the pain, memories and adventures we experience that make us beautiful and strong? Isn’t it tiring to try to hide them instead of accepting them and seeing their beauty?
“The wound you get is where the light will flow to you.” – Rumi
Some of the works of Kuntsugi artist Muneaki Shimode;
Some of the works of Kuntsugi artist Charlotte Bailey;