Upcycle: Kintsugi Final

Project Background

Kintsugi is a pottery technique that glorifies imperfection and embraces the cracks that bring us together. The art-form dates back to the Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who sent sent a piece of pottery back to China to be repaired. After the piece return, lackluster held together with only staples, he decided to have it mended with gold. The piece took on a new found glory, and this method is still used (slightly modified) today.


“The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.”
-Ernest Hemingway

The shattering realization of the one mug in the cupboard happened to slip off the counter top is a feeling so gut-wrenchingly awful that is seldom the cause for celebration. What if I told you that there was a way to piece back the puzzle from destruction and make something beautiful? That is my test with this upcycle project.

The Project

My subject was a $0.99 ceramic piggy bank that, from the thrift store. This item caught my eye because the idea of ‘braking the bank’ just to repair it with gold seems. The end aesthetic of a bank bleeding of gold really drew me in.

Figure 1: Before

One really important key to the success of the re-construction was the forethought to place the piggy bank into a plastic bag before demolishing it. It saved time collecting pieces that otherwise might have been lost. With that said, the piggy was dropped from about 2.5 feet (which was a bit high) onto concrete, resulting in a few pieces to pulverize beyond reasonable repair.

Figure 2: Broken Piggy Bank

The assembly process used a mix of the transparent industrial strength adhesive E6000 and a gold paint. They mixed together very well and it turned out to be a great alternative to the expensive kintsugi kits that can be purchased online. A chopstick was used to mix the two together and it was easy to spread onto the fractured surfaces.

The Final Product

The piggy bank’s final construction came out better than expected. While some pieces were lost to the demolition process most of the major identifying pieces came out with interesting fracture patterns. The adhesive also worked well, giving the final product a rigid durable feel.

Figure 3: The Final Product

The Aesthetic

Part of this project was exploring a new aesthetic, and for me that was an introduction to a philosophy of beauty called wabi-sabi. Beauty doesn’t have to be an attempt at perfection, it can be embodied by that which has imperfection or that shows wear.

As this class continues I want to take a closer look at how wabi-sabi can be woven into the design aspect.

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11 Comments. Leave new

Owen I enjoyed your presentation and the background behind your project. Their is a pleasing aesthetic when observing broken pieces being put back together. I like the gold color with the piggy bank and the different aesthetics you combine with this ancient method of fixing ceramics with the 21st century aesthetic of the piggy bank. Great work and great presentation.

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Ambrogino Depolo
February 25, 2019 4:56 am

Wabi Sabi. I like it. It reminds me of the grunge aesthetic that I went for but yours is far more beautiful and appealing in its imperfect design. This must of been the most unique overall aesthetic and I really appreciate that. It does feel like modern art. It is very simple yet beautiful in the subtle cracks as viewed from each angle. I am excited to see what you come up with for the rest of the semester as you pursue and investigate the aesthetic. Good job

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Owen, I really enjoyed your presentation, especially the reason behind your project. I had seen pieces of art like this but I didn’t know that it was such an old art form. I thought your final piece was really well done with its imperfections and all. Could you have found some object to break around the house or somewhere in boulder rather than buying the pig at a thrift shop?

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Joseph Coulombe
February 18, 2019 8:52 am

I love how the final product came out. This project made me realize that maybe broken dishes and other items can still be saved applying this concept to them instead of just looking at them as trash.

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Brittany Callin
February 17, 2019 8:56 pm

I loved this so much. I have heard of this technique before and I have never actually seen someone actually execute it. I absolutely loved it and want to try it myself now.

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I really liked your project, I think it turned out well! It also was super helpful to have some background on Kintsugi because I have never heard of it before. During your presentation, you had pictures of Kintsugi teapots that were put together to form one piece. I think it would have been interesting if you mended two different piggy banks or two different objects even to make one piece.

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Great work Owen! Kintsugi is something I had only heard of and getting all the history behind it was very interesting! Although your pig was fantastic and the aesthetic you intended is clearly on point I think you should have gone with the coffee mug, maybe Im bias because Im a coffee lover myself.

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Ibrahim Alhajji
February 15, 2019 1:46 pm

Hi Owen,
Great idea. I love how the pig turned out. Similar to the whole class, the idea of using Chinese techniques to fix an original American idea. The gold color is great and add aesthetics to the product.
Have you thought to research ways to break the pig down so there would not be little pieces? I think eliminating the small pieces will make the end result a lot better.

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I should try Kintsugi when I accidentally break something that I love. If I put some effort into the broken thing that I like, I would love the thing even more.

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I liked that you chose to rebuild a piggy bank, since those are traditionally meant to be broken, and then discarded. I think upcyling that in a Kintsugi style is rife with potential conceptual meanings. The final product turned out great! I feel like you could create many more objects in this style, its quite pleasing.

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Taylor Whittemore
February 15, 2019 1:35 pm

This was a really cool project and your presentation was super interesting. I really appreciated the background you gave into Katsugi. I think that the pig shows a really cool juxtaposition between usually “American” items and ancient Chinese techniques (although I would wager that the pig was made in china so really you are comparing the old craftsmanship of china to the current mass production that we are used to. ) I think that the pig turned out really cool and more interesting than it was before.

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