Kintsugi and the Art of Imperfection

This is our team mascot, Kintsugi. 

I rescued him from a street corner stall on Hollywood Road in Hong Kong’s Central District, in the early days of 2016. I dusted off his plastic white frame, but could not fix his raised paw, indented on the pinky corner. I’m glad I couldn’t. To me, he is perfect! He has traveled to dozens of apartments, offices, and pop-ups I’ve lived and worked in ever since. (Yes, dozens, in less than two short years. I sometimes wonder if I move too much. But remain addicted to new scenery.)

I didn’t know at the time, but Maneki-neko cats like this one are often displayed as talismans of good fortune. The raised left paw signifies luck and success for business in particular. I’ll take all the goodwill I can find, even if it has to be purchased. Secondhand finds, and also pennies and fortunes cards or notes picked up off the ground, count as a double win. Kintsugi cost me 70 HKD (~$10 USD at the time). His battery still runs.

The name comes from the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い, きんつくろい, “golden repair”). In this method, lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum is used to repair cracks. As a philosophy, kintsugi treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise(1). As a mascot, Kintsugi reminds me to celebrate the imperfections instead of hiding them. This goes for imperfections in our work (when we make a mistake, or don’t know an answer) as well as holes or stains in our clothing, which I have been learning to repair (or paying professionals to repair), at times opting for colorful threads or patches to transform a once “broken” item into a refurbished one-of-a-kind piece.

I learned Patagonia celebrates this philosophy with Worn Wear and Worn Stories, their ongoing initiatives to collect stories behind their beat-up products, to repair broken items using leftover parts, and to recollect and resell products from old seasons to new owners.

If you have any good repair cover-ups, share in the comments or on social media

Thank you for reading, for believing, for celebrating the art of imperfection.

– allison

Thank you to my altMBA classmate AJR for the Kintsugi tip.
(1) Source: My Modern Met

By allison v.

Designer and DIY'er in Detroit by way of NYC

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