The Art of Imperfection
When the Imperfect Holds More Value Than the Perfect
Kintsugi Pottery is a Japanese art form that has been in practice for better than 500 years. It may be the only art form where broken, imperfect, even shattered works of art can hold more value than the once perfect piece of pottery. Giving ordinary, broken pottery a second life certainly has a parallel that is infinitely relatable to the human condition. And the beauty of it can be just stunning.
Kintsugi is roughly translated as “golden joinery”. The process is tedious - even arduous, and some of the materials required are unique and rare, not to mention highly toxic. The broken pieces of pottery are joined together and bound with a natural lacquer made from the Urushi tree. This lacquer is not only rare (only a single cup of lacquer can be made from a 20-year-old tree), but it is highly toxic to touch in its natural form. The process of filtering and homogenizing urushi sap can take five years to complete.
Once the pieces of the broken pottery are bound together and each layer has dried, the final coat of urushi lacquer is applied. What remains visible are the cracks that have been bound. This is where it gets really interesting. Pure gold powder is applied to the final layer of lacquer before it dries, leaving a beautiful piece of art that has more value than the ordinary piece of pottery had in its former “perfect” state. Google “Kintsugi Pottery” and you’ll see what I mean.
How does this relate to the human condition? How often, upon the birth of a baby, do we hear “he’s perfect”, or say “what a beautiful baby girl”? We look upon this brand-new baby in awe and wonder. We are stunned at the literal perfection we are beholding. Love abounds, and we can’t think of a better representation of innocence and beauty. We are completely captivated. But as life goes on and that baby grows into a young child, cracks begin to appear. The teenage years can wield damage and disappointment as she figures out who she is. He stumbles and falls, and he breaks. By the time this once innocent, perfect, beautiful baby becomes an adult, there is disappointment and injury and brokenness. Sometimes, the sense of self worth is all but lost - and others may judge them as having little or no value.
But that’s a lie.
The truth is, there is far more value than the world ever sees. So much worth. And there is a potter who wants to take this broken, shattered life and restore her to someone who is far more beautiful than the day she was born. There is a potter who desires to mend his broken life, using the most precious and valuable elements available. Will they ever be perfect and innocent again? Not in this life. Not in this world. But their imperfections can be made beautiful. The cracks can be bonded with pure gold. And they can have far more worth than the world ever sees.
“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8 (ESV)
Details on Kintsugi Pottery take from https://www.japan.travel/en/blog/the-art-of-imperfection-kintsugi-pottery-and-wabi-sabi/
Kerry “Kry Baby” Skaugset