Kintsugi-Inspired Ceramic Reconstructions

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In the second in a series of blog posts about our current project The Repair Centre, creative producer Jenny Walker talks us through some of the stages of repair, and the cultural significance of a teacup. 

The first steps of our journey into repair and recovery have been through a series of Kintsugi-inspired ceramic reconstruction workshops. Utilising non-traditional methods, with a mindful approach, we have respected the philosophy behind the mindful act of repair: 

A broken pot is made whole again, and within its golden repair we see a world of meaning. Kintsugi is the art of embracing imperfection.

Initially we began with careful golden reconstructions, endeavouring to faithfully re-build objects ‘back better’, restoring them to their former glory. A chance online purchase (a set of five once expensive Royal Copenhagen bowls, broken in the same moment in one ‘kitchen disaster’) afforded us the opportunity to attempt their reconstruction as our first group exercise.  

 

A set of five broken china bowls
Mending one of the bowls using Kintsugi techniques

Moving on from this and gaining in experience, we pursued familiarity and control of the process. The group then worked on individual projects, to reconstruct broken teacups and saucers. 

English bone china teacups were deliberately selected for the obvious references across tea drinking cultures - that of the ancient Japanese tradition (from which Kintsugi originated), to the historically loaded English conventions. From associations with Empire and money, through to working class staple, the teacup provides a vehicle for visual metaphor.

Despite being ubiquitous, even the bone china itself is an often prized material, associated with gentility and luxury. Through the introduction to the repair process of surprising materials, even ‘impossible’ constituents, the participants have brought together unexpected juxtapositions, removing function and replacing it with implied narratives. 

Broken teacups and letter writing
A near-finished Kintsugi repair

In the hands of our inventive and imaginative group of creative menders, these small cultural icons began to offer up the possibility to visually challenge conventions through their subversion. Gently we have begun to question what it means to reconstruct ourselves but in an unconventional way. 

Join us on Tuesday 31 May and Wednesday 1 June for a special pop up display of work created by our participants, at Manchester Craft and Design Centre.