permanence and (im)perfection

From top: 15th century bowl with 18th century porcelain yobitsugi repair, mid-17th century stoneware cup with kintsugi, 19th century tea tea bowl with kintsugi, mid 15th century bowl with maki-e repair.
All from the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution
12th century Korean ewer with replaced spout. V&A museum

All images of western repaired objects below from Past Imperfect, a blog by Andrew Baseman

My favorite items from Past Imperfect are unequivocally the glassware with prosthetic bases

First: kintsugi, I'm rather taken with the concept. Kintsugi ("gold joinery") is a traditional Japanese method of repair for cracked and broken ceramic ware. Lacquer is used to reattach broken pieces, the resulting "veins" of adhesive are then coated with silver or gold powder. Yobitsugi and maki-e are related techniques, the first utilizing "alien" pieces of ceramic to fill in for missing fragments, the latter replaces loss with areas of solid, decorated lacquer.

From a beautiful almost overwhelmingly sensitive essay by Christy Bartlett in Flickwerk:The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics interpreting the exquisitely subtle aspects of Japanese aesthetic philosophy:
Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin....Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. ...The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identiļ¬cation with, [things] outside oneself.
Quite a while ago I wrote briefly on the related Japanese sensibilities of wabi and sabi. The terms wabi-sabi taken together identify and connote appreciation of qualities such as impermanence, humility, asymmetry, and imperfection. (These underlying principles are diametrically opposed to their Western counterparts: values based in Classicism, perfection, rationality and the heroic.) I was dumbstruck when I first learned of these concepts. This dialectic or opposition appeared to explain one of my longstanding issues: a certain loneliness I'd felt growing up, in part because most everything I found aesthetically interesting, pleasing, or desirable seemed to be the farthest thing from what was all around me. (This was Queens in the 1970s and 80s. I carried with me a sense mild alienation most of the time.)

I have to clarify that it is the idea of kintsugi— mending as transformation, a sort of reified transience— rather than the physical ceramic objects themselves that truly seems beautiful to me.//

From the philosophically suffused, rarefied aesthetics of kintsugi to the stalwart thrift and ingenuity of necessity: Interior designer Andrew Baseman's blog, Past Imperfect, the art of inventive repair is a great find for anyone interested in the beauty of mended objects. Andrew's blog focusses on his collection of artfully repaired items, mostly 18th and 19th century western artifacts. Professing a longstanding appreciation of "make-dos"— folksy or crude homemade repairs— Baseman prefers the term “inventive repairs” for describing and appreciating the embellishments on the pieces. His collection is a parade of charming, quirky, even mystifying, everyday items from the past made even more so by the eclectic methods employed in mending physical mishaps. These objects lie somewhere outside but near the boundaries of "folk art." They seem to be animated with a spirit that pristine examples don't necessarily hold, a paradoxical demonstration of perseverance and resilience.

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