Messy brokenness, or kintsugi for beginners

Published 8th June 2018 by lucy moore

You may have seen the beautifully-lit pictures on the web and the meaningful interpretations of the symbolism. The Japanese have an artform known as kintsugi which involves mending a broken pot with molten gold so that the end result is very beautiful in a different way from the original article. I’ve wondered about how this might happen at Messy Church, but have never managed to persuade our treasurer to find the budget for gold nuggets and a young forge. (I mean, how is one supposed to fulfil one’s potential in such miserly circumstances? So unreasonable.)
But while devising activities for an upcoming book (which will be brilliant, by the way) all about death and bereavement and how to talk about this as families and as Christians (‘Will Granny be an angel?’), I found myself really wanting to give kintsugi a whirl, as it goes so well with the idea of remembering or putting things back together again after any sort of shattering.
You won’t be terribly interested in my reflections, so I will keep them brief, but suffice it to say, I went through a bit of a process as I smashed and remade an old plate.

Deliberately breaking something whole is really hard and goes against all my instincts and training. Does God go through this tough call every time he breaks us or allows us to be broken? 
(But it’s very good fun. I must not get the habit.) 
Putting the pieces back together is very difficult. It takes patience, vision, imagination, hope, self-control, time and skill. Broken people or situations don’t get mended overnight, even by the most skilled craftsperson. 
Gluing the pieces together takes a surprising amount of craftsmanship and perfectionism. It’s easy to glue the pieces roughly in place; it’s hard to make the edges join exactly. We should treasure our peacemakers: they give out huge amounts of spiritual energy as they reconcile different sides. 
Supergluing your thumb is not a good idea when your iPhone relies on thumbprint recognition. 
I was expecting the end result to be a ‘Nailed it’ fiasco, as I’m a complete klutz with my hands. But it’s actually very beautiful and I have inadvertently made something I keep showing people with huge pride on Skype calls and Facetime. It is, in fact, now useless as a plate but much more gorgeous as a work of art and is on a windowsill rather than buried in a cupboard. Perhaps when we are broken and remade, we find we have a different (not better or worse, just different) purpose? But that’s too easy to suggest when I’ve never been broken myself and have only smashed and rebuilt an old plate.

Break the plate or bowl in a plastic bag. Reassemble it. Superglue it back together. Mix PVA glue with loads of fine glitter. Use the glitterglue to trace over the breaks. (Click on the image above to see my series of photos.)
It’s not obvious as an activity for Messy Church as it’s slow (and some may fuss about superglue or sharp edges), but it’s well worth adapting or doing over several months, or enjoying on your own as a meditation.

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