At the end of last year I attended a Kintsugi workshop run by An Astute Assembly at Te Toi Uku – Crown Lynn & Clayworks Museum. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold. The philosophy is that a broken object becomes more beautiful because of its scars and its history. I brought along my Dad’s old Toby jug to mend.
When I was growing up, it sat on corner shelf in the kitchen, near the telephone, and was used to store pens & pencils, but also paperclips, sewing needles or pins, coins, erasers and dust. I never thought to ask where it came from or how it got there, he was just a comical little face that looked down at me from the shelf.
This little jug has had its share of mishaps. It had been damaged and repaired previously by Dad, creating the white patch of glue on his sleeve (I could have cleaned it away, but I love that it is a trace of my Dad’s hand). Since moving out of home, the Toby jug has come with me wherever I’ve lived, and has always been symbolic of ‘home.’
The majority of the damage came when it was accidentally knocked from my mantlepiece and, though I wasn’t the one who did it, I was tormented with guilt for not keeping it safe.
This little guy has been through a lot, and has obviously had adventures of his own that I don’t know about. Long after my Dad died, and I could no longer ask about the jug’s origins, I found a photograph Dad had taken in the 50s when he first arrived in New Zealand, and there on his dresser is the Toby jug!
I wrote about this little jug before, and I said at that time: “It now has a large triangular bite out of the rim. I have the pieces, and I have thought about getting it fixed, but the idea of passing it on to a stranger to operate on, someone who doesn’t understand its true value is too much for me. And somehow I love it even more with all its scars.”
Kintsugi repairs don’t disguise damage, but highlight it. It shows that a beloved object is more beautiful because of its story and its history.