Kintsugi 金継ぎ : Restoring Broken Pottery

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I often have received e-mails with questions not only about Anagama but also about Kintsugi (gold lacquer restoration). Many Kintsugi questions came from the States. I made a new German friend with the same interest in Kintsugi this month. I made a category ‘Anagamania’ for kiln building in January and I have now decided to open another category. It is called Kintsugi and open to anyone who is interested in traditional restoration techniques with Japanese lacquer (urushi) for broken pots.

Stefan’s First E-mail
Dear Gas,
Your pottery is like life – if you see it you would like to touch it…
You’re the first master of kintsugi who speaks English, I could find. (I do not speak and write English well but I understand.)
I hope you are not angry with me because I just want to ask something to kintsugi because I will not make a fake.
For bonding of porous ceramics, I use mugi urushi made from ki urushi and wheat flour mixed with a spatula.
For bonding of porcelain I use nikawa urushi made by mixing hot glue solution (Hide glue) one part with four parts ki-urushi.
Are these the traditional recipes?
Can you give me instructions for drying mugi urushi in a muro.
The processing of nikawa urushi is not easy. What should I consider?
Here are two examples of my kintsugi work:
http://www.kintsugistudio.com/index.php/studio-galerie/
I would be happy to hear from you!
Have a good time.
Stefan

My Reply
Hello Stepfan,
Many thanks for your e-mail and your kind words on my website. I am very sorry that I could not reply to you sooner.
I looked through all of your links with great interest.
As you read on my website, I learnt kintsugi restoration from an old restorer for Shosou-in (Todai-ji, Nara) and I didn’t realise importance of kintsugi techniques at that time. He must have restored many National Treasures in his life. I now feel that I was really lucky that I met him.
And another lacquer story is I used to have a have lacquer-maker friend (from Wajima) who makes traditional lacquerboxes like inro, suzuri-bako and kougou. I had a good contact with curators in V&A museum and Japanese antique galleries in London. He needed my help and now his work is in the museum. (my advice I gave for Lacquer techniques is credited in one of V&A publication)
Your bonding application for porous ceramics and porcelain seem to decent. Most restorer work for museums these days use cashew lacquer which only last a few decades (20 years with careful use) while real lacquer restoration lasts 3 centuries with every day use.
This is why I don’t like those modern quick fixing, because it seems some modern materials which have not been tested and proven. I can see nikawa is problematic. I believe nikawa is best to be used with wooden surfaces, yet it does not like to be kept in humidity. Where did you learn those techniques?
I only use sokui made from cooked rice and had no problem with any kind of pots (porous pottery and porcelain).
I am not a professional lacquer restorer. I only learnt it when I was very young. I am not sure if I am qualified to teach this skill to someone. All I can suggest is that it is would be better to learn a traditional skill where it was born.
I have received rather too many emails with questions about kintsugi. If you don’t mind I would like to upload your links on my Anagama Blog under a new category called Kintsugi. So anyone interested in kintsugi can post their questions through my Blog and I don’t have to write the same reply with my emails over and over again.
All the Best and look forward to hearing from you again,
Gas

Stefan’s Latest E-mail
Hello Gas,
it wars a nice day, when I get your email – I was happy…
Thank you for the nice Photo – urushi art is very interesting to me.
I think kintsugi is a repair technique. For western-understanding a restoration must be invisible and reversible.
I was also reading about cashew lacquer and I feel it is for tourists. But the worst thing is “Bison-Kintsugi”…
Now let’s talk about nikawa urushi –
The humidity is no problem if nikawa is mixed with ki urushi. The problem is just to mix the right quanities and I have to work quick. It is a very strong glue.
Seven years ago a japanese artist explained me this bonding application for porcelain as kintsugi technology when he was in Meissen.
Here I found a link also for this technic:
http://www.toraba.com/forum/threads.asp?forum_urn=177&t_urn=8069
On this page bottom – one can find this information:
Nikawa urushi
Urushi used as an adhesive. It is made by adding warmed nikawa (animal glue) to ki urushi. Of all urushi adhesives, nikawa urushi has the greatest adhesive power. Because it also has resistance to water, it is used in treating porcelain and glassware.
I think every urushi artist often has its own recipes. That I also found during study of literature. A very good book about urushi titled Hikone Butsudan I found – written by Prof. Carla Eades. But there is nothing written about kintsugi…
I also know sokui urushi – the recipe was also described by Carla Eades. Rice has different qualities, so I am not sure which sort of rice I have to take. It has to be a rice with many glue – Khao Youak for sushi may be ok, but I have to found out where I can buy in Germany. I will ask a sushi master…
To me it is not possible to learn this traditional skill in Japan. I believe the basic technique I’ve seen. But there are some contradictions I have to clear.
Yes, you may link my website to Anagama. I hope in some days I will have an own blog on http://www.keramikrestaurierung.com/
I will link also to Anagama.
Thanks again for the help.
Have a good week!!!
Stefan

Phone: +49 (0)3521-451354
Fax: +49 (0)3521-452018
Email: kintsugi@kintsugi.de
Here’s Stefan’s Web Links
http://www.porzellanrestaurierung.com
http://www.keramikrestaurierung.com/
http://www.kintsugi.de
http://www.kintsugistudio.com

If you have a question to ask about Kintsugi, please leave your comment.
Gas

About Gas

Hi, I am a wood-fire potter, living and working in the Japanese tradition in Tring, Hertfordshire (UK). Following mediaeval potter's wisdom, I design and build simple wood-fired kilns called 'anagama' for long period of firing and 'raku-gama' for quick (glazed tea bowl) firing. My anagama firing usually takes 9 - 10 days.
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6 Responses to Kintsugi 金継ぎ : Restoring Broken Pottery

  1. Hello Gas,

    I’m watching the news about the disaster in Japan. This is very bad. I hope your family is not affected.

    My blog is ready: http://www.keramikrestaurierung.com/

    I wish you the best

    Stefan

    • Gas says:

      Hello Stefan.
      Thank you for your kind words. My mother and sister live in Tokyo. (I believe they are safe)
      Congratulations for your blog. I look for ward to going through reading it.
      Gas

  2. Vidar Neuhof says:

    Hi Gas,
    Since I cannot find an appropriate sensei in Montreal, I am presently experimenting with kintsugi techniques. Would you be willing to share some your knowledge?
    Could you explain what you use, and in what proportions, when you make sokui-urushi ? I have made a rice paste using rice flour and water to mix in the urushi but I find the end product rather granular and wonder if that will interfere with the fit of the ceramic pieces.
    Thanks,
    Vidar.

    • Gas says:

      Hi Vidar,
      I do not think that I am qualified to teach you about Kintsugi. I am a wood-fire potter using Mediaeval type Anagama in the U.K.. Although I do kintsugi restoration, my method is rather too old fashioned as I learnt it a long time ago (over 40 years). I am not a full-time restorer. You should ask it Stefan Drescher indtead.
      Gas

  3. Thanks for sharing these letters Gas. I’m really curious about pottery restoration. Nice work.

  4. Pingback: Is cashew safe for kintsugi. | Kintsugi supplies, manuals, and knowledge base.

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