Smashing pottery and working detailed, delicate embroidery may not seem like the most obvious combination for a new body of work to be born from. However, these two unlikely process have merged in my latest creation: ‘kintsugi vases’.
‘Kintsugi’ is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. Rather than discard a cracked item, here the object’s wear and tear is celebrated, beautified, treasured: gold lacquer is applied to cracks, highlighting the resulting joins and transforming – even elevating – the broken pieces into an exemplary response to initial accident.
I had been aware of this ancient and incredibly beautiful technique for some time (believing no craftsperson should ever limit the scope of their inspiration to their own material discipline or process) and have a huge respect for this process.It’s a rather beautiful ethos that seems so at odds with our modern Western ‘throwaway culture’ that seldom values the craft inherent in an object, or the significant and valuable social and cultural role of the piece. The metaphor for beautifying damage, of elevating a perceived flaw into something altogether more valuable, is something I also personally find very poignant.
The moment of inspiration came when, waitressing one evening, I dropped a willow-pattern plate: Priceless Ming-porcelain dynasty it may not have been, but surely the concept remains the same. My mind then turned to the practicality of ‘rebuilding’ a shattered item of porcelain, integrating textile techniques and – most importantly – experimenting with an entirely new application for my ‘goldwork’embroidery. It is this application of gold thread that I feel is a vital part of connecting my textile reconstruction with its ‘kintsugi’ origins.
Thus, my fabric version – no glue at all! – combines a found shattered vase with fabric pieces, painstakingly patchworked together and highlighted with gold metallic passing thread. I wrap the pieces in fabric before re-assembly commences, after which gold ‘seams’ are carefully sewn. The assembly process draws heavily on my past experience of patchworking, but given an entirely different difficulty with the three-dimensional aspect required. The fabrics were carefully selected for their resemblance to porcelain from a distance, predominately blue and white. Developing the series, I am currently working on embroidering the underlying pattern of a plate onto the fabric fragments before wrapping and-reassembling the item.
I was very fortunate for the internet to show such interest in these vases –