Beauty in brokenness by Sue Irving 14th February 2016

I have recently found out about the Japanese art of Kintsugi (“golden joinery”) or Kintsukuroi (“golden repair”), which is employed when valuable ceramic or china breaks. When the shards are put back together, lacquer, bonding glue or epoxy is mixed with powdered metals like gold, silver, bronze or platinum.  Everybody who looks at the restored object will therefore notice the repairs - there is no pretense of perfect wholeness.
The ceramic’s history is not only accepted, but celebrated, creating a remodeled piece of pottery with a new kind of beauty and strength. There are even services which offer to BREAK your pot so that it can be put back together in this distinctive style!
I did not know about Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi when a plumber broke the glass panel I had recently created. When something breaks, my natural instinct is to buy a new item or at least aim for an invisible repair. In this instance I faced a dilemma: The panel was a one-off, so I could not simply go into a shop and replace it. An invisible repair was also impossible. Some parts of the panel had shattered into tiny fragments, so there was some damage that could never be undone.
I did not have the heart to throw away something that had taken a lot of time and effort to create. To rescue this panel I had to let go of my idea of perfection. I would have to accept from the outset that the original panel could not be resurrected.
After some trial and error, I put the larger pieces together with Sugru, a mouldable silicon glue. I then glued on sand and shells to cover holes and hairline cracks. Accepting what had happened stretched me as an artist. I also think that the new panel is now more interesting than its undamaged counterpart...
I am also learning that making use of the broken pieces in my life strengthens my writing. I am very competitive so when my Kilimanjaro adventure went wrong, I was tempted not to write about it. I knew that there was no way to invisibly mend the broken pieces and conceal the scars and disappointment. My story would have holes in it and look messy and incomplete, especially when compared with my husband John’s story.
However, reader feedback has reminded me that when I tell the truth about my life with all its ups and downs it can encourage and inspire others. None of us goes through life unscathed – we may have been broken in different places, but we are all broken.
Community can flourish when we dare to be real with each other and share not only our victories, but also our burdens. Hiding pain prevents intimacy and true connection. Maybe we do not become heroes despite our weaknesses, but because of our weaknesses…
About the author:
Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity.


  1. Thanks for this very honest post. Something I needed to hear this morning

  2. Brilliant post. I discovered Kintsugi a year or two ago and have never attempted to actually do it but the lessons it gives about beauty in brokenness is wonderful. Thank you for this much needed reminder today. Bless you

  3. I think this is a really important message. So often we attempt to paper over the cracks in our lives, instead of allowing God to use our vulnerabilities to help others. Thanks, Sue.

  4. It's a challenge to be honest about our struggles because we believe the lie that people will look down on us. As you say, conversely. honesty breeds trust and openness. A lovely analogy. Thank you.

  5. This really helped me. Thank you, Sue

  6. I recently wrote a poem about this. Willing to share it here, but please don't reproduce it anywhere else without my permission.


    Your fingers lover-tender
    and yet untrembling,
    I feel you lift each splintered shard,
    turn it over and round, thinking;

    now into your furnace hotter than shame
    you feed the metal, ready to lose
    all its dark flaws, to be refined;
    then let it cool to human touch.

    careful and slow, you paint the liquid gold
    between each fragment, till the whole is re-made
    - scarred, yet much more beautiful
    than it ever aspired to be.

    I knew you were a potter
    but not this


    1. That's beautiful, Veronica! Would you mind if I copied it into my journal?


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