To keep instead of discard
Using the Japanese art of kintsugi. Plus, fall giveaway winners announced.
America: land of the free, home of the brave. America’s myths tend to center around the idea of resistance. We see ourselves as the lone holdouts, the ones who will stand against tyranny and injustice. We are the brave soldiers of the Revolutionary War standing up to the tyrant King George the III. We stood up to the Nazis and then the USSR. We see ourselves as tough and unmoving. And that is still part of our culture.
This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world, ‘No, YOU move.’
Around the 1920s, Western Civilization started discovering Eastern philosophy. A new way of dealing with events came into being. The concept was that the oak tree breaks in the storm, but the reed bends and springs back. This idea began to become more and more mainstream with the introduction of Confucianism and Taoism. But it really gained ground with the introduction of Eastern-style martial arts such as Tai-Chi, Wing Chun, and Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kun Do.
Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Maybe we have reached the point in our culture where it is time to start looking at a new metaphor. The oak, no matter how strong, can break. And the reed can only bend so far, or it can be cut. In the end, we may need to realize that anyone, and anything, can be broken. And once broken, some things can be repaired. But even the best repair will leave evidence of the break. Then what do we do? Right now our culture tends to see the broken and repaired as either something to be ignored, pitied, or tolerated. But what if we saw this process as a natural thing? Everything and everyone will be broken at some point. Nothing is immortal. Nothing is perfect. Perhaps there is a beauty in this process.
I first encountered the Japanese art of kintsugi while reading Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan by Azby Brown. Purely by coincidence, Lisa and I vacationed at the Pacific Coast, and in a small gallery there, I got to see an example of the art form. It was amazing. I was entranced by what looked like a bolt of gold lightning flashing across a beautiful ceramic bowl. I also loved the idea that what was broken can be mended and be all the more beautiful for enduring that process.
The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.
Personally, I tend to see the path that our world is on as unsustainable. Kintsugi touched me on a number of levels all at once. I decide I wanted to share this idea with Lisa. And what better way than giving her an example of the art. Now, I am no artist. But I can Google with the best of them, and I found an artist who could do the work. I got Lisa this bowl.
It is gorgeous. And being a wise and sensitive soul who has had more than her share of brokenness, she loved it. So, much so that this year, when I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she said she wanted the broken pestle of a marble mortar and pestle she owned repaired using the kintsugi method.
You see... you get something started, and then it’s on you to keep it going. But now I was in a pickle. When I bought the bowl above, the artist supplied both the bowl and the repair. This was a particular and personal object. And try as I might, I could not find an artist who would do a commission for anything less than a small fortune.
Remember how I said, “I’m no artist?” Well, needs must. I bought a clear epoxy that was designed for use with stone. Then I bought fine ‘gold’ metal powder. Not real gold. I would have bought real gold, but I couldn't find it in powder form. I mixed the two together, glued the pestle together, and... ta-da!
It’s not perfect. It has a bit of a junior-high-school-girl-taking-a-home-crafting-class look to it. But Lisa loved it. Because she is wise and sensitive. And because all of us are broken, but when we are repaired by love, we end up all the more beautiful for having undergone that journey.
Lisa: I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece from Anthony as much as I do. It’s one he wrote a few years back for our old blog, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. It’s perfect for this time of year, and maybe it will encourage you to look at things that can be repaired to give as gifts, or to purchase lovely used items instead. Or maybe you’re handier than we are and can make something! Yay, you, if that’s the case.
We still have that mortar and pestle in our kitchen and use it all the time.
A few announcements:
The winner of our fall giveaway isof Rowlett, Texas, USA, who received this cutie, which we purchased from of .
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Sara’s lovely demo videos on how she crafts each stained-glass piece by hand.
We have another winner as well, Silke Van der Stockt, a European subscriber who received a six-month extension on a paid subscription.
Congratulations to both winners and thank you for supporting Brunette Gardens as paid subscribers. On that note, I want to share the results of our recent reader poll, which suggests that giveaways are actually of little interest.
These results chime with Substack’s own advice, as apparently readers perceive giveaways as a cheap attempt to entice them into a paid subscription, though that’s never been our intention here. While it’s a lot of work to set them up, we’ve done it to give back and highlight small businesses, craftspeople, and writers we admire, such as these.
Since we pay for the items ourselves, we’ve restricted winning to paid subscribers, as otherwise this Substack becomes a truly costly hobby! But taking your feedback to heart, we’ve decided to award differently for this winter’s giveaway. We’re going to open it up to all subscribers and award five of you each a six-month paid subscription, or a six-month extension if you’re already a paid subscriber. You can also take advantage of our deep holiday discount and upgrade now.
Either way, you’re eligible to win! We’ll draw the winners when this sale’s up on January 15 at 9 am CDT. Thanks for your interest in all that we gab about here on Substack.