Kintsugi, how to restore pottery with gold.
Updated: Apr 14
Kintsugi literally means "fixing with gold" and is an ancient technique born in Japan centuries ago.
It's fascinating to study this antique technique, understanding how the restoration process works, and how old broken pottery reborn in a stronger and more beautiful shape.
The Kintsugi method, followed by RealKintsugi, reflects the antique genuine technique.
It's a long process where time is one of the ingredients as important as other materials.
The method follows a total of 4 steps, and each one requires different materials and skills.
1 - ASSEMBLING AND RECONSTRUCTION
The first step consists in rebuilding the shape of the pottery putting together the broken pieces.
A lot of people think that kintsugi glue is melted gold, but this is very incorrect. Using melted metal on a broken pottery wouldn’t work, either because metal and pottery are not compatible, and because high temperatures materials would break the pottery even more due to the temperature shock.
Kintsugi technique uses the Japanese natural lacquer resins mixed in the right proportion with water and stone powder. The chemical reaction will form a thin but extremely hard layer in between the pieces, stronger than ceramic.
The reconstruction works at the same way, just using the glue to fill and modelling the missing parts.
After the reconstructions the pieces requires 3 to 5 days in a humidity controlled environment to control the drying process.
2 - CLEANING
Once the glue and the filler are dry, is possible to proceed with the cleaning process which consists in eliminating the excess of material and smoothing the filled parts.
This phase is extremely delicate, because the dried resin is extremely hard while the ceramic surface is delicate. Is very easy to scratch the glazed surface of the pottery or detached the filled parts.
In case the reconstructed parts break, it's necessary to start all the process from the first phase.
3 - GLAZING
This step is very important to guarantee the resistance to the restoration.
After the pieces are clean and smooth, it's possible to apply a thin layer of Japanese lacquer resins on the cracks and filled parts.
The resins make the parts lucid, more resistant and prepare the restoration for the gold finishing.
This steps requires a dry session of 1 to 3 days in a humidity controlled environment to control the drying process.
4 - GOLD
Once the resins are dry it is possible to apply the last finishing layer.
In order to apply the gold, it is necessary to apply another layer of Japanese resins, extremely thin and let this dry in the humidity controlled environment for about 30-45 minutes.
At that point it is possible to cover the semi-dried resin layer with gold powder and let it dry for 1 to 3 days in a humidity controlled environment.
It's also possible to use gold flakes, but the resin layer need to be extremely thin, otherwise it is possible to use air pre-drying adhesives.
Kintsugi is not a decorative technique, but is a delicate and long process. It requires years of practice to find the perfect balance in the materials proportion, to understand the drying time and to make a resistant and clean product.
It's easy to find online a lot of products which use the word "Kintsugi", just to call a look alike decoration made out of synthetic products. Kintsugi is not just a simple gold color decoration painted on a vintage bowl, but is a traditional and antique restoration technique.
RealKintsugi goal is to preserve this precious practise, to keep it alive and not being forgotten.