Friday, July 12, 2013

"Kin-tsugi" to the rescue

I made the pot shown above last February. During the final firing one of its corners warped and lifted the foot attached to it off the ground. The effect was awful. I was about to throw the pot away when one of the potters in the studio said: “If you don’t want it, I’ll take it”. That made me pause, and then my ceramics teacher challenged me to come up with a solution to fix it. The solution came when I remembered a story about a Japanese tea master who adhered to wabi sabi aesthetics so sternly that he would smash tea bowls and then glue them back together to meet the criteria of "imperfect, impermanent and incomplete". I didn’t smash my pot though, just cut the crooked leg off (image below right).

The traditional Japanese technique of repairing ceramics called kin-tsugi is to glue broken parts with shellac and then apply gold powder while it is still wet. It makes repaired seams appear as gold lines. Some of the European bonsai pot makers took this tradition to the next level and repaired their pots with pure gold (see Well, I took it down a notch and glued my pot with a two-part epoxy glue and then applied gold nail polish while it was still wet. Both epoxy and nail polish are acetone solvable and combine really well. The nail polish I used contains some epoxy as well, which adds to their compatibility. Another upside is that epoxy is really strong and weather resistant. You can see different stages of my take on kin-tsugi below.

1 comment:

Lakeside Pottery Ceramic and Sculpture Restoration Studio said...


Thank you for the post. We implement many kintsugi repairs as part of our ceramic sculpture and pottery repair of restoration daily activities. We have restored a few Bonsai pots kintsugi style and wonder if you have a thought on how this art can be more recognized in the Bonsai community. For more details, you are welcome to visit the following link:

Kindly, Patty and Morty

Lakeside Pottery Studio