Kintsugi: The Japanese art of repair

You no longer have to climb the walls when your favorite dishes are broken.
Help is coming from the Far East! A repair technique comes from Japan that is also becoming increasingly popular here: Kintsugi.
Kintsugi is not just a DIY idea , but a real philosophy.

Kintsugi - a centuries-old tradition

Kintsugi (literally "repairing with gold") is a traditional Japanese technique.

Broken ceramic cups and plates are put back together using a special lacquer and then refined with gold or silver.

In Japan, the tradition of lacquer repair dates back to the Jōmon period, which ended around 300 BC. In the Muromachi era (14th and 15th centuries), this custom became a true art form that emerged at the same time as the tea ceremony was introduced.

The repair marks along the fracture lines are called keshiki ("landscape").

By emphasizing these newly emerging forms, Kintsugi gives the object an independent value and a new elegance. This traditional method does not just connect fragments together.

Kintsugi art also includes the creation of new keshikis and restores the lost harmony. We visited Kintsugi artist Miho Fujita at one of her workshops and give you instructions on the Japanese art of tableware repair.


This is what a repaired cup looks like, the broken handle of which was reattached to the vessel by Miho Fujita using the Kintsugi technique and refined with gold lacquer.


Kintsuki lacquers In traditional Kintsugi 

("real lacquer") is used . But we will be working with shin-urushi ("new lacquer").

What is the difference between these two lacquers? Hon-urushi is the resin of the lacquer tree ( Toxicodendron vernicifluum ).

It has an elegant shimmering color and is resistant to acidic and alkaline elements. However, as long as it is still wet, it can trigger severe allergic reactions.

Therefore, special care must be taken when processing it.


A practical alternative is the synthetic version shin-urushi . It looks exactly like its natural counterpart but is much easier to handle.

However, the dishes that are repaired with it may only be used for decorative purposes and may not come into contact with food.

Although both lacquers are very durable, the following applies to both hon-urushi and shin-urushi : bowls or plates that are put together with them using the Kintsugi technique should not be put in the oven, microwave or dishwasher.

Abrasive cleaners must also not be used.

Important: You can buy Kintsugi repair kits at craft stores or order them online.

Read the instructions for use of the lacquer you are working with carefully.

Follow all precautions and do not skip any of the steps stated in the instructions for the respective product.


Materials required for Kintsugi:

  • Ceramic adhesives
  • Two-component epoxy resin-based repair putty (curing time is about 5 minutes and varies depending on the brand; spraying alcohol on the surface can extend the processing time)
  • Waterproof sandpaper (400-1000 grit for the first pass and 1500 grit or higher for finishing)
  • Shin-urushi -Lack
  • Color powder or pigments (here: a brass-like color)
  • Special Shin-urushi cleaning agent
  • Tire war - Verdünner
  • Pipette
  • Fine brush (model building brushes are best)
  • Water
  • Aluminium foil

Repairing according to Kintsugi – this is how it works:

1. Examine the object. 

Clean the object thoroughly and check the condition of the broken parts. Look for cracks that only appear on one side of the ceramic (in Kintsugi there is a term for such cracks: nyu ).


2. Glue the pieces together. 

Think in advance about the best order to attach the pieces. Then apply the ceramic glue evenly and join the pieces together.
Make sure they fit together exactly and there are no gaps. "The pieces are in the right position when they fit together exactly," explains Kintsugi expert Fujita.
The surface should be as flat and smooth as possible. Set the object aside until the glue has dried.

3. Fill the gaps.

Knead the two components of the repair putty until they are a uniform color.
"If the components are not thoroughly mixed together, parts of them may fall off later. That's why it's important to knead them long enough," emphasizes Fujita.
"The putty usually hardens within five minutes. But don't rush it. If the putty has become too hard, just use new putty," advises the craftswoman.
Carefully work the putty into all cracks and irregularities until the ceramic surface is uniform. Start with the largest recess and work your way to the edges.
"It's important that you fill the gaps thoroughly with the putty. This not only means you have to sand less later, but you also get a nicer surface."

4. Touch up the nyu .

In Kintsugi, nyu refers to tiny cracks in the surface. Sometimes it is difficult to see them at all - so hold the object up to the light.

Apply a little shin-urushi to the cracks with the brush until the varnish has soaked in. Let the object dry for 15 minutes. Once dry, soak a paper towel in shin-urushi cleaner and remove excess varnish from the surface.


5. Sand the putty areas.

First, make sure the putty is actually dry. To tell, you can lightly press a fingernail into one of the putty areas. If it leaves no mark, the putty is dry.

Another method is to gently tap the ceramic vessel with a knuckle. If the putty areas sound the same as the rest of the object, you can be sure the putty is dry.

Dampen a piece of sandpaper and gently sand the putty areas. Choose a sandpaper that is appropriate for the material.

Softer material requires finer sandpaper (the higher the grit number, the finer it is). Stoneware or unglazed porcelain is usually softer than glazed porcelain. For the vessel seen here, 400 grit sandpaper was used.

As you sand the areas, use your fingers to check whether the surfaces are smooth enough.
If so, switch to finer, also damp sandpaper for the finish. Use 1500 grit sandpaper or higher. The mug pictured was finished with 2000 grit sandpaper. Sand all putty areas carefully so that no fingerprints are visible.

6. Apply the "landscape" ( keshiki ). 

On a piece of aluminum foil, mix shin-urushi , color powder (here: brass-colored) and thinner in a ratio of 1:1:1. First, mix shin-urushi and color powder.
Then, using a pipette, drop the thinner into the mixture while continuing to stir. The mixture will then have exactly the right ratio if a small line that you draw with the brush immediately disappears again.
Once the varnish is ready, brush it onto the repaired areas. Fujita recommends applying it in thick layers and creating thickenings to vary the texture.
You can create a thickening by holding the brush in one place for a longer period of time.
You can also stamp small dots on the object using a carved wine cork. Again, soak up some cleaning agent with a paper towel or cotton swab and use it to remove excess varnish from the ceramic surface.
Once the varnish is applied everywhere, let the jar dry for about two days. Rinse it carefully before using it.

Kintsugi is not just a repair technique, but creates its own aesthetic that was not present in the original object. Nowadays, interior professionals use the typical Kintsugi aesthetic for interior design, as in the example of Peruri Design Company .

Fujita (pictured) sums up what makes Kintsugi so appealing: "You give an object your personal touch.

This connects you with the object and it becomes something very special to you. Don't just throw away plates and cups that you have used every day. Instead, enrich the objects with their own story."


Kintsugi was developed for Japanese tableware, but can also be used with our western tableware without any problems. The artisan once again points out that caution should be taken when handling the lacquer. "But apart from that: just enjoy it!"

The Kintsugi workshop took place in the Tokyo gallery Suginami Uminoie , which belongs to the product designer Shunsuke Umiyama.

The rooms are located in a 60-year-old house in the traditional Japanese style, which he renovated himself.

On the upper floor he sells his products and provides rooms for workshops by artists and artisans.

Are you already familiar with the art of Kintsugi and have used it to repair your favorite pieces? Then please share your experiences in the comments.


  • Elizabeth Demolat

    Elizabeth Demolat is a Foodie, travel and lifestyle writer. Elizabeth loves exploring new destinations. Right now, Elizabeth is focused on finding cool local spots and taking trips through the southeastern Canada.

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