The pieces we keep

When I break the stones I work with for my art work, there are always pieces that are lost.

Sometimes as the stone breaks, small pieces go flying out of the enclosure I’ve created to capture them and are simply lost elsewhere in the room where I am unable to find them.

Often times there are places along the break lines where parts of the stone crumble into sand-like particles that I simply can’t recover or work with.

In either of those cases, there’s really not much I can do about the pieces that are lost. I have no choice but to fill in the gaps left behind by the missing pieces.

There is one other common situation, though, where I do have a choice. In this case the missing pieces are just large enough that I can actually pick them up (though I may or may not be able to determine exactly where they go in the reconstruction), but they are still small enough to require a choice about whether incorporating them into the repair is more helpful or harmful.

The compound I use to make the repairs does actually take up physical space. When I’m replacing tiny pieces (especially when there are a number of them close together), this can make it difficult to re-create a smooth surface to the repaired stone because the repair compound can force the smaller pieces to sit slightly higher than the surrounding larger pieces simply because of the space the repair compound takes up.

In cases like this, sometimes leaving one or more of the tiny pieces out of the final repair and simply filling that space in with extra repair compound produces a better, smoother, more polished result, even though it means throwing out a piece of the stone that I was actually able to recover.

This is not so different from what we experience in real life, is it?

In the broken places in our lives, sometimes there are pieces that are simply lost to us, sometimes there are areas that have just crumbled into dust that we can’t put back together, and sometimes there are pieces that just don’t seem to fit into our reassembled whole in the way they used to.

These may even be pieces of ourselves or our former lives that were once precious to us but that now have become an awkward, ill-fitting shard that leaves sharp edges instead of sliding nicely back into a smooth whole.

It’s these pieces that no longer fit that create some of the most difficult choices in our recovery.

Do we try to keep these once-precious shards even though they leave sharp, painful edges in the repairs that we are creating? Or do we add to the loss we are already experiencing by choosing to leave them behind in order to create a better repair in our broken lives?

We face that choice over and over again through life as we grow and change and adapt to a changing world around us and the big and small areas of brokenness in our lives that all those changes cause.

While making that choice is never easy, I’ve found it easier to consciously sort through my options and make decisions like this with the art form of kintsugi as a guide.

There are actually three different styles of kintsugi repairs, and these can help us think about our choices.

The first style is known as the crack style, and this is what most of us associate with the kintsugi art form. This is the style where two pieces that have no gaps are reassembled with a line of repair compound between the two pieces to give a line along the joint in the final piece.

The second style is known as the piece method, and this is where gaps in the reassembly of the pieces are filled in with extra repair compound so that an area of gold repair fills what would otherwise be a gap.

The third style is known as the joint call style, and this is where a piece of something else is fitted into a gap using the repair compound so that a gap is filled with a contrasting piece. In pottery, this is usually a piece from another broken pot that has been shaped to fill the gap.

As we heal the broken places in our lives, it’s important to keep all three of these options in mind. If we get too caught up only on using the most common crack style of repair, the gaps we face in our mending may throw us for a loop or make us feel like we need to save and incorporate every shard we can find, no matter how ill-fitting it may now be.

Employing the piece method to let healing flow into the gaps (chosen or not) to create something new or the joint call style to choose something new to incorporate into the gaps in our lives expands our options to better allow us to make the best choices about which pieces we will keep and which we will release and we create our own kintsugi lives.

As you consider the broken places in your life, where do you have shards that no longer fit well into the repaired, reassembled life that you are creating?

Where do you have gaps created by things that you have lost in the brokenness?

How do these different kintsugi styles speak to you as you choose which pieces to keep, which to let go, and how you wish to proceed with filling any gaps left behind?


Image shows one of my broken stone pendants prior to a kintsugi repair

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