The art of mindful mending

A Kintsugi workshop at an emerging cultural space in Okhla provided citizens an opportunity to find beauty in imperfections.
Stills from the session. (Photo | EPS)
Stills from the session. (Photo | EPS)

After the pandemic and the devastation that covid brought forth, many people started taking up hobbies that helped them attain a sense of peace. In fact, tactile and slow artforms such as pottery have seen a revival in the post-covid world, with hobbyists often calling it meditative.

The Japanese art of Kintsugi—derived from the words ‘kin’ meaning ‘golden’ and ‘tsugi’ meaning 'repair '—literally means 'golden joinery'. Instead of making a broken object pristine all over again, the art of Kintsugi encourages the practitioner to repair the piece using lacquer mixed with powdered gold. This technique allows a person to embrace the flaws in a piece, and treat the breakage as part of its character. Okhla-based Red House, a cultural centre and amphitheatre, brought the experience of Kintsugi to Delhiites by means of a three-hour workshop on Sunday.

An exercise in patience

After a degree in nuclear physics, Arjun Shivaji Jain (31) went to London to study art and science. Six months into taking care of his family-run ferrite core transformer business post his father’s death, Arjun—he has also worked as a physics teacher in a Noida school—decided to transform the space into Red House. The events at Red House, which range from cinema screenings to Charkha workshops, are currently conceptualised by a two-member team—Arjun and his sister, Sunaina Jain.

It was after an informal course in Kintsugi by one of his professors in college at London, that Arjun decided to continue “practising the art” and share his learnings with others. “For me, Kintsugi has been a metaphorical thing and I treat it like that. So, while working on this piece [a mug] yesterday, I was remembering my dad [who passed away during COVID]. In fact, this whole place is Kintsugi-d; the factory had to be abandoned because we were not able to work on it anymore. It's converted; it’s still broken.”

As the participants entered the venue, they were asked to pick out a ceramic piece from an eclectic collection of mugs, bowls and plates. Once seated in the venue, Arjun eased the 27 participants into the workshop by delving into the history and ethos of Kintsugi. While the original artform is done using real gold, the materials provided here included mica powder for gold, and epoxy instead of lacquer. Forming groups of six, the participants then moved to one of the most relaxing parts of the process—they were asked to carefully break their pieces using hammers. While some of them managed to crack the pieces neatly, there were a few who weren’t as lucky. This was followed by a step-by-step assembling of the pieces—after the mix of epoxy and mica were applied the fractured parts, each piece took about ten minutes or more to set. To give the piece a lovely lustre, participants were told to brush the mica powder over the mended areas.

A wholesome experience

Talking to us about her experience, Parul Chauhan (27), a participant from Mayur Vihar, concluded, “If there were fewer people, it would have been more intimate. But the group activity was good. For Kintsugi to be meditative, it is important to have a smaller group and quiet space.” We also spoke to Kunal (24), a video producer, who concluded with his takeaway, “I personally feel this is a metaphor for life: We are as good as the experiences, which have broken us in the past. Then we repair them; learn from them; and engrave them with our own gold carvings. Also, today I learnt that you repair yourself first, and then help others do the same.”

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