The ancient art of kintsugi involves taking a broken vessel and carefully joining the broken pieces with liquid gold. The beautifully rebuilt vessel is considered more valuable than it was before it was broken. This practice has often been used as a metaphor for the psychological healing that many of us have experienced and is one that I have regularly shared with various groups. I love the metaphor as it allows us to view our broken selves as even more precious because of the psychological healing, like liquid gold, needed to put ourselves back together.

So… I want to share a humorous story that compares the beautiful analogy above with the reality of kintsugi in practice!

In a recent group, a participant chose to gift every member of the group a kintsugi repair kit! Having included me in the gift list, I was thrilled to receive such a thoughtful and relevant gift. I love creativity, mindful practices, up-cycling, and general make-and-do type projects so for me, the kintsugi kit seemed like the perfect gift.

On the final night with this group, we shared our plans for our kintsugi kits and I had the spontaneous idea of smashing a mug, there and then, in front of the group. I wrapped the mug in a large napkin and hit it on the floor and nothing happened. My next attempt involved considerable more force and the mug smashed in earnest! There were more pieces than I could possibly count and quite a lot of dusty shards. Maybe this was the point where I should have decided that this was too difficult a challenge for my first attempt at kintsugi.

A week or two later I prepared the kitchen table, read through the instructions contained in the kit, and began the process. The epoxy glue included in the kit combines two substances to which I needed to quickly add some powdered gold, mix thoroughly with wooden sticks provided and apply immediately before the glue hardens. Simple!

Logically I started with the base pieces of the mug which, being thicker, also hadn’t shattered quite so badly. I soon had a few of the larger pieces joined together and the handle attached. The rest of the many similar looking but different shaped pieces were extremely difficult to organise and ‘home’ because so little was fitted together. Only when one piece was fitted and fully hardened, could the next be found.

Meanwhile – there was another problem.

What I cannot emphasise enough is just how quickly the epoxy glue dries. This sounds great for the vessel under reconstruction but is extremely challenging for the worker! Each wooden stick provided was soon rock-hard and unusable. I was also beginning to struggle to take off the lid of the epoxy as it was sticking to itself.

In my haste to use the mixed glue before it hardened, I found myself disturbing the pieces of the mug before they were securely dry. Some of the glue ended up on my hands and then on the mug and then everywhere! It felt like all the wrong things were sticking together and all the right things were still broken or falling apart. I became more and more frantic and repeatedly wanted to give up and throw it all away. 

The beautiful mug I envisaged creating was barely standing, had multiple small gaps in it, and had a massive hole in one side. Beside the mug were two remaining pieces to fit but they didn’t even fill the remaining space! I wanted to cry. With one final struggle, I managed to remove the epoxy lid, I poured out the remaining glue, mixed in some more gold dust and somehow managed to balance the two pieces in the open space.  The last dregs of glue I dabbed frantically over the mug in an attempt to hold it all together. It looked hideous!

My mindful, creative exercise had turned into a frustrating, disheartening mess! The beautiful images in my mind were not reflected in the mug in front of me. It looked ugly, useless, and worthless. And then I wanted to cry again. This time because I realised that this mug was really a representation of me and the work that I have done on myself.

The journey for each of us in growing personally is not an easy one. It is a messy, sticky process that often doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes there are pieces that just don’t seem to fit or there are gaps or voids in us that never seem to be filled. We may feel ugly, useless and worthless. There are times when we want to give up and throw ourselves away!

So, despite my judgement of my mug, I have not thrown it away. I have kept it and will even display it in my room. It is most certainly not perfect! It cannot function as a mug. It will not win any kintsugi awards. But it has nice colours and could be beautiful in someone’s eyes – I will try hard to view it as beautiful myself. It is a reminder to me of the frustration that I have felt at times in my personal journey and the messiness of the work. It is also a reminder of the precious group I had the joy of working with and the gifts experienced with this group. Despite my brokenness I am still valuable.

So, kintsugi remains for me a powerful metaphor for the personal journey of healing. Perhaps it is an even better metaphor than I realised previously. Kintsugi is not as simple as I thought – neither is the personal journey of healing. Both will take determination, gentleness, resilience, imagination, patience, and time. 

Wherever you are in your journey, please know that you are worth it. None of your broken pieces need to be hidden away. None of your emotions are anything to be ashamed of. Embrace the whole of you. Hold those pieces with the strength of liquid gold. See how you are gradually piecing yourself back together. See the beautiful person that you are.

Each vessel repaired by kintsugi is absolutely unique – a one-off masterpiece – so are you!


  1. Nathalie says:

    This is such an inspiring experience Paula!! 💖
    Thank-you SO MUCH for sharing! 🎁
    How I love the fact that the journey is so frustrating and messy at times…
    This sentence made me cry: “Despite my brokenness I am still valuable.”
    This is so much how I feel.. And it also makes me want to cry out: “you are so valuable Paula!!” Maybe BECAUSE you are broken and we can identify to you? Or does it make us feel unterstood? Or more at ease to approach someone who is not perfect?
    Thanks again for everything.

    1. Thank you Nathalie for taking the time to share your thoughts and feelings about this post!

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