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We live in an age of consumerism where if something breaks, we throw it away and buy a new one. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and places like Agbogbloshie in Ghana – the world’s largest electronic waste site – are reminders that as a society, we need to shift our focus towards sustainability now more than ever.
Today, we are going to look at a culture that repairs things that are broken in a way that makes them stronger and more valuable for having been broken.
Japanese Kintsugi (pronounced Kint-soo-gi) style artwork is the practice of mending broken pottery by piecing it back together and sealing the cracks with a precious metal. The result is stunning!
Dating back to the 15th Century CE, the Kintsugi philosophy emphasizes the elimination of waste and urges us to celebrate flaws and imperfections – not just in material objects, but in ourselves as well.
As of 2021, nearly 1 billion people live with a mental disorder worldwide and more than 75 percent of them do not receive treatment. There is a stigma around the topic of mental health that results in many people not getting the treatment they need and rightfully deserve.
What would the world look like if we embraced the Kintsugi philosophy by appreciating the value and potential of not only objects in need of repair, but by appreciating individual human flaws and stifling the desire to achieve society’s standards of perfection?
Let’s put our innovation and creative skills to the test by making a Kintsugi-inspired creation!
Learning Time: 10 - 15 minutes
Activity Time: 20 - 30 minutes
Age Range: Elementary and up
- Something broken (a toy, pottery, an electronic device, etc.)
- A binding agent (glue, clay, needle and thread, tape, etc.)
- Additional accessories (stickers, jewels, beads, paint, etc.)
- Paper and pen/pencil
Safety First! Safety gloves and caution are recommended when handling broken pottery or glass. Children handling broken pottery should be closely monitored and assisted by an adult or caregiver.
1. First, you will need to find something broken to transform. We had a few broken pots laying around to use for this activity, but you could use other broken/ripped items like a toy, stuffed animal, piece of jewelry, favorite shirt or even a book.
The idea is to brainstorm ways to put the pieces back together or create new pieces. We are essentially giving an old object a new face.
2. Our pottery only cracked into a few pieces, which makes this activity a little easier. If it had shattered into multiple pieces, we would need to figure out where the pieces fit – like a puzzle. This is where fun brainstorming happens! Using a piece of paper and a pencil, draw out how you would like your creation to look and think about the materials you may need to make it happen.
For example, if you are fixing an old shirt, do you have a fun patch you could use or will you make one yourself? If you are mending a toy, what binding agent will you use? What will you transform it into? Will you make a sculpture?
3. We do not have liquid gold to fill in the cracks of our pottery (per the purest form of Kintsugi), so we kept it simple and used colorful air-dry clay. Bulk packages typically come in white and can be dyed using food coloring, or you can paint the clay after it has dried.
4. We rolled out a thin strip of clay and gently laid it along the broken edges of the pottery, making sure every edge was covered.
5. We took the next piece of pottery and pressed it along the edges where it fit. Be gentle when applying pressure or you may end up with more broken pieces.
6. After attaching the pieces together, we smoothed down the excess clay and made sure the edges aligned nicely. If you have multiple pieces, you will need to repeat steps 5 and 6 until all the pieces fit together.
7. If you look at the picture above, you will notice there is a nice sized chip in the pottery. That piece went missing when the pottery broke, so we filled in the space with new, colorful clay.
8. We smoothed the new clay down to align nicely with the rest of the pottery. However, if you want to add lumps of clay to the pottery and make new shapes, we encourage get creativity!
9. Repeating steps 2 through 8 with the rest of the broken pottery, we ended up with three unique looking pots.
As the clay was drying on the pottery, our creative brains were wide awake and we searched for another broken item to transform. We found this peacock barrette with a broken back piece but beautiful jewels on the front.
1. We completely repurposed it and turned it into a clay stone for the garden! We rolled clay into a medium sized ball and pressed the barrette into it.
2. We also pushed some colorful beads into the clay around the barrette before setting the stone out to dry.
3. Now, we have a unique garden stone that no one else in the world has!
4. The clay takes 24 hours to dry and a full 72 hours to cure. After it dries, you can paint the clay with acrylic paints and add a glaze to seal it. A few options are DecoArt Triple Thick Glaze or ModPodge Acrylic Sealer.
We would love to see what you’ve created, too! Share your innovative pieces and creative artwork on social media and tag @discoveryplacescience.