In Sweet Company

In Sweet Company

Kintsugi: Granting New Life to Broken Dreams

“Life is composed of wonderful moments and tragic losses. We need the skills to negotiate both.” — Rabbi Laura Geller, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE

My friend Eileen sent me some words from artist Barbara Bloom, words I’ve had fun thinking about:

“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

My first take was this was a twist on another quote that describes how, at a certain age, a woman’s past can make her “wildly beautiful.”  Then I thought about the reparation process as an art form in the same way I think about a Japanese tea ceremony — the purposeful commitment to usefulness as beauty. 


I looked up the word “aggrandize” — to widen in scope; to enlarge, to make great or greater — then I let Google take me all the places Google goes and discovered an exhibition of kintsugi, golden joinery — the technique used to grant new life to broken tea bowls — was featured at The Smithsonian about a year ago. I learned that bowls used in tea ceremonies are passed from generation to generation, prized not only for their antique value, but also because their flaws represent the imperfections and transient nature inherent in the human condition. The “golden seams” of kintsugi tea bowls, thus, have spiritual, emotional, and material value.
Today, I’m thinking about kintsugi as a spiritual practice, that I can repair my human imperfections — and aggrandize my heart and my days — by filling the ruptures, the rifts, and the chinks of my life with the gold of forgiveness of self and other, perseverance, gratitude, and faith. And kindness; let me not forget the gold of kindness.


Another friend told me recently it seemed to her that my work in the world has a lot to do with taking the difficult experiences I’ve weathered and writing about what I’ve learned in the process. Writing about my exploits is transformative, deeply healing. It expiate the ruptures, the rifts, and the chinks from my thoughts, airs out my mind and heart, helps me become a kintsugi artisan and create “golden seams” amidst my wounds.

Sharing our stories, if only with a single trusted friend, is particularly important for women. It brings clarity and meaning to our experiences — for us and for others.  Though our flaws represent the imperfections and transient nature inherent in the human condition, our reparation represents our resilience and our wisdom. Sharing our stories gives us something beautiful to pass on to those who come after us. It is the gold that allows us — and others — to fill our tea cups once again. Sharing our stories is how women aggrandize the world.

Your thoughts?

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Una Nakamura

posted July 25, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Dear Margaret,

I noticed that you received information re Barbara Bloom, the artist, in terms of Kintsugi. I’d like to use the quote and photo I saw on the internet. Do you know how I can contact Barbara Bloom or where I could go to get permission to use the quote and photo for a book cover? Thanks!


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