Muriel and I master kintsugi — almost
I jump into craft projects with exuberance and absolutely no talent.
Cronley’s American Indian turned wood vase, left, and her own attempt at kintsugi, right.
I jump into craft projects with exuberance and absolutely no talent. The results are so interesting, they can render people speechless.
Once I took a class in pysanky, Ukrainian egg decorating, from the late Tom Manhart, University of Tulsa art professor. Pysanky is a wax-resistant method of intricate eggshell decoration.
Manhart went around the room praising our work. When he came to me, he stopped dead still. Finally he said, “I love the energy of this.” I was trying my best!
Recently I was drawn to boro, the Japanese art of visible mending, which means rags or tattered cloth. I also like the sister art of sashiko, little running stitches akin to quilting.
I discovered this fabric art at Richard Neel Interiors. Colorful throws are handmade from the saris of India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The bold colors, the obvious patches and the neat white stitches appeal to my sense of the bohemian. This is the way I sew anyway, with visible — maybe not so neat — stitches.
Lee Radziwill, the stylish sister of Jackie Kennedy, said, “Taste is emotion.” Part of my taste must be compassion and part must be solace. When I buy small household items at garage sales and home auctions, I want to think I am continuing the original owner’s love for the green cup or the cut glass pitcher. It’s like a sisterhood of ordinary things.
Some of us have trouble letting go of things. Or places. Casey Cantwell, a musician friend, is so saddened by the closing of Petty’s Fine Foods that he repeatedly visited the empty place before and after demolition “for closure.”
In my neighborhood, we set used furniture, equipment or gardening supplies curbside, offering them to people free of charge. That’s how I found an antique wooden daybed someone had put by the curb. Instead of nails, it has wooden pegs! I had the mattress recovered and it is — again — treasured household furniture.
Which brings me to kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending porcelain with gold, silver or platinum. I have a similar American Indian turned wood vase, the cracks filled with turquoise.
After watching an online video of kintsugi I thought, “I can do that.” My house is full of mended items, especially wooden animal folk art that some cat has knocked from shelves and that I have patched back together with glue and twine. I think it gives them character, like the Velveteen Rabbit.
What I particularly like about kintsugi is the philosophy behind it, of finding beauty in broken or old things. The art not only acknowledges the break, but also enhances it with gold.
Kintsugi repair kits for sale online range from just under $100 to over $300. Instead, I went to Ziegler Art & Frame, where I bought a cheap brush, Elmer’s glue and Solar Gold powdered pigment for about $10. Then I set out to mend a piece of pottery I had knocked over with the vacuum cleaner. Muriel the cat helped me with the craft project.
What a glorious mess we made of it. I slathered gold pigment far beyond the glued seam, sloshing it wildly on the pottery.
“I have found my calling!” I proclaimed dramatically. “My mission is to baste the ordinary world with a dusting of gold.”
Muriel didn’t answer. She was busy traipsing through the powdered gold and making a pattern of dainty paw prints on the kitchen counter.
In my hands, kintsugi doesn’t work on porous pottery. It’s hard to wipe up the excess gold. It stays where it is splashed.
“Muriel,” I said, “we’ll try it again on glass or porcelain.” That’s our philosophy, Muriel’s and mine: It’s not a failure, it’s not a mistake. It’s an opportunity to try again.
Muriel is perfect as she is, but it would be lovely to think of my own patched-together self being mended with gold and turquoise.