WARNING: This is a long post. With an unsatisfactory ending. Sorry.
Have you ever heard of kintsugi/kintsukuroi? If you Google it, you will probably see this picture:
And if you click on that picture you’ll get all sorts of lovely information about what exactly the process is. Because I know your attention span is shorter than that (I mean, you’re here, right?), I’ll give you the skinny. Basically, this method of pottery repair is based on the idea that something can become more beautiful for having been broken, and, rather than throw away a broken vessel, we can make it more beautiful by putting in the effort to fix it. And to fix it in a beautiful way.
The problem is that doing it the real, traditional way is going to take a bit more actual effort than I really want to put in. Not to mention that the real process involves many toxic substances, and many of these substances are not allowed to be imported into Canada. So I couldn’t even do the real way if I wanted to. If you want to see someone go through the real process, read the Kintsugi Blog. The fact that the last post was in April 2013 should tell you something.
And I could buy some fancy schmancy repair kit from some other country, but I’d probably run into the same import issue and they’re expensive, if you include shipping and the fact that the Canadian dollar is tanking at the moment. I don’t like things that are expensive, because I don’t have any money. This is why my main hobby is talking to the internet.
I’ve seen a few attempts, like this one, to “hack” the method and do it more cheaply and easily. But they kind of suck. I can definitely do better than that.
Here’s the thing, though: so far, I haven’t quite managed to get it right — yet. But now I’m obsessed with it. So I figured I’d let you guys know how I was doing with it, and maybe some of you have some ideas about how I can make it better. Sound good? Okay good.
What I wanted to achieve with my kintsugi is a fixed vessel that could be used again. So I did my research and I found a food-safe and water-tight all-purpose adhesive from Dap. I had to order it online from Amazon.ca, because for some reason none of the hardware stores in Ottawa were stocking it.
I also picked up these awesome babies from Lee Valley. They’re teeny tiny condoms you stick on the ends of your nozzle-y glues to keep them from drying out. Because I hate that they come with a twist cap that you use to break the seal and once you add the nozzle the cap is useless. And then the glue dries up in the nozzle and you’re hooped.
These are awesome. And cheap.
Now, to adorn the adhesive I needed some precious, precious gold. Or a reasonable facsimile. I considered gold leaf but again, pricey, and too complicated. So I looked around and I found these nice metallic powders from Neuberg-Ebel that looked awesome. Of course I couldn’t find anyone who would ship them to Canada. But then I found some re-packaged Jacquard Pearl-Ex powders at DeSerres that were in my price range so I picked up a few colours. Make sure you get metal powder and not embossing powder, because embossing powder turns to plastic when it’s heated. Although now that I think about it, that might be a good idea for next time …
And, you know, protective gloves and sheets of newspaper and stirring sticks and containers and all that stuff.
I decided to start my experiments after I accidentally broke one of my parents’ porcelain bowls at Christmas time. Porcelain and ceramic are ideal for this sort of thing, because they don’t shatter when they break (unless you totally smash them, of course). Clay will turn into dust if you break it but porcelain is good stuff for dropping.
This bowl broke cleanly into three pieces, which was a good starting point for me.
My original idea was to mix the metallic powder with the adhesive and then apply it like regular glue. I reasoned that the metallic sheen would shine through the clear glue and it would look awesome. So I painstakingly removed the lid from the powder and tried really hard not to breath on the beautiful glittery copper stuff.
I squeezed some glue into a dish and carefully tipped some powder onto it.
Then I used a stir stick (these ones are left over from my coffee stirrer wall art) to mix them together.
And used a paintbrush to apply the glue to the first piece.
Then I stuck it to the second piece. Unfortunately, it didn’t goosh out around the crack in the nice smooth way I wanted it to, probably because I applied it with a paintbrush.
So then I tried to wipe some of it away. Yup, you saw that coming.
Whatever. This was an experiment. So I continued with the final piece, once the first two were dry. I left it to goosh as it would, though the ragged little wisps were so not cool.
What it looked like on the inside.
I used rocks and a box of matches to hold pieces in place while they dried. I think traditionally you wedge it in sand, but you do what you gotta do.
I wasn’t happy with the final result, so I thought I might try to trim off those wisps I disliked so much. I used an X-acto knife and it was super easy.
Except when the adhesive inside the cracks decided to come with the stuff I was trying to cut off. GARGLEBARGLEGRRRRRRRR …
And really it didn’t look that great anyway.
The bowl did, however, hold water. So I had that going for me.
For this one I was out of porcelain but I had this small pottery bowl thing. I knew that pottery would shatter more, but I figured if I controlled the environment in which it broke I might be in luck.
So after washing and drying the bowl I placed it in a paper bag and rolled the top down to seal it in. Then I took it into my garage and prepared to drop it on the concrete floor.
The only damage was a tear in the bag after the pottery shards had their way with it.
I definitely had more pieces than I would had the bowl been of china.
But only a little bit of shatter dust, which means I could still put the whole thing back together.
So I laid the pieces out and got ready to go.
In this attempt, I used the nozzle of the glue to lay a nice smooth bead along the edge of one piece.
Then I stuck them together and had a lovely smooth bit of glue smoosh out both sides. I carefully tipped some of the metallic powder onto the glue smoosh.
And did the same to the other side. What a mess!
Then I set the piece down and let it dry overnight before I tried to get the excess powder off.
Look at that! It’s beautiful!
The problem was that I couldn’t re-create the situation again. The powder got everywhere, and my hands aren’t that steady, so I ended up dropping pieces while trying to glue them together. It’s really hard to maintain pressure on two pieces of odd-shaped pottery (but not too much pressure) while also carefully tipping fine powder everywhere, especially if you have carpal tunnel syndrome and you have no gripping power.
So that’s where I am right now. If you folks have any ideas, I’d love to hear ’em!