I have received many enquiries about my ‘kin-tsugi’ restoration recently. Last year, I was asked to repair a broken ‘Hagi’ chawan from a young lady in the USA. (See the images as above) Now she has got her chawan back and enjoy ‘maccha’ tea whenever she fancys. I have restored many of my broken vessels in order to use them again.
Now ‘Kin-tsugi Studio’ is open for those who wish to restore their precious broken treasures.
A Japanese word ‘kin-tsugi’ can be literary translated as ‘gold-joint’ in English. It is one of traditional methods for repairing broken treasures and has been commonly applied for damaged antiques which were rather expensive and too difficult to find a replacement.
You can find how I learnt this old repairing method from a professional restorer on my ‘Anagama’ website – I later added my knowledge and skills from lacquer artisan friends in Wajima (famous lacquer town) Japan. My name is also mentioned as a technical adviser on lacquer in the V&A book ’Japanese Inro’ (1997) by Julia Hutt. My ‘kin-tsugi’ method is rather old-fashioned and takes time to complete a job from start to finish. This is due to slow drying nature of ‘urushi’(lacquer).
Nowadays, there is a fast drying ‘urushi’ called ‘cashew urushi’ for restoration which is popular among many professional restorers. ‘Cashew urushi’ can be dried in an ordinary atmosphere. It is also easy to mix with any colours for retouching in order to cover up the damage. I have seen many museum pieces restored with this modern way and we can not tell which ‘urushi’ method is used by just looking at the surface after some fine restoration is done. Modern ‘cashew urushi’ and some chemical glue restoration is good enough for displaying purposes but it is generally advised not to use. Because it has no guarantee of how long the fixture will last. Some said ‘cashew lacquer’ would be lasting only 10~15 years and might start showing the repair.
For my ‘kin-tsugi’ restoration, ‘ki-urushi’ (raw lacquer) and fine gold powder are main mending materials. It is required careful preparation with a mixture of ‘ki-urushi’ and glue made from natural ingredients. ‘Ki-urushi’ is a hazardous raw resin and difficult to handle without having knowledge of its nature, especially for people with sensitive skin. Even the first stage of this repair takes at least a month to dry a glued joint in a humidified room or container. Sometimes I have to repeat this process a few times on one item. Once the joint is dry enough, I can start working on the surface accordingly, using traditional ‘makie’ artist techniques. A complicated restoration may take a few months to complete a job. Yet a strong merit with old ’kin-tsugi’ is your restored vessels can be used again as before. It is said that good ’kin-tsugi’ would last three hundred years.
As my main work is making wood-fired vessels in Anagama, I can only manage limited commissions for your broken ceramics or treasures. My ‘kin-tsugi’ restoration needs many months before sending restored items back to its owner. It also does not come cheap to restore with ‘kin-tsugi’. If you think your ceramics or treasures (sometimes with a sentimental value) worth paying cost, you are welcome to contact me by email with photos of your broken treasures [fine resolution is preferable] for my free consultation. [G.K.]