This past weekend, Jody Seeley and I were on a road trip to visit friends at Lawlor Jewelers in Stettler. As it was the New Year, she asked me what I was hopeful for in 2016. I loved how she phrased that, “what are you hopeful for” – as I had been thinking about what I wanted for the New Year, I had my answer.
As most of you know, this past year has been one of enormous change – a breast cancer diagnosis, having a bilateral mastectomy, followed by reconstructive surgery, finishing chemotherapy, figuring out what this all looked like, and in general looking at life post-cancer. I was trying to encapsulate what I had been feeling, and couldn’t find the right word until I started thinking in jewellery terms (of course!).
When I first started my career, it was at Valley Jewellers, owned by my good friends Bill and Angela Dyck. They put me through the Canadian Jewellers Association Graduate Jeweller program, for which I’ll always be grateful – it gave me an amazing foundation to start my career on. Within the course, we had to study many different facets of the jewellery industry, and one of them struck me as the perfect metaphor for what I was experiencing, and the answer to my friend’s question.
In Japan there is a repair technique called “Kintsugi” or “Kintsukuroi” which translates to ” broken joinery”, a process where broken objects are repaired with gold (although other precious metals can also be used) to create a new, more beautiful piece of art, thus giving new life to what was once broken.
It is said that this technique has it’s basis in a Japanese legend, “concerning the teabowl named Tsutsui Zutsu – A Korean Ido-style bowl (that) was much loved by military ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537–1598), who had received it from Tsutsui Junkei (1549–1584). One day during a gathering,a page in Hideyoshi’s retinue dropped the bowl which broke into five pieces. All froze, fearing for the young man as Hideyoshi was known to possess a quick and harsh temper. Then one of the guests, Hosokawa Yusai, improvised a comic poem playing off three lines from a famous verse in The Tales of Ise:
Tsutsui’s well curb
Became split into five
Alas for that well-deep bowl
All of the blame –
It seems to have been mine.
HosokawaYusai’s complex play of language and ideas provoked laughter all around, and restored Hideyoshi to good spirits. From that day onward the bowl has been known as Tsutsui Zutsu. The mended bowl continued to be used and cherished for generations, occasionally returning to five pieces only to be mended again.” 1
It’s a beautiful idea to come to the understanding that something is more beautiful for having been broken or damaged, and it’s an allegory for life that we can see beauty in imperfection – loving ourselves, as well as our family and friends because of, rather than in spite of, flaws. Moving forward with this year, living a “Kintsugi” life really resonated with me. It’s made me reflect that, in spite of all we hear about living a “perfect life” perhaps what is better, is to focus on is the beauty of living an imperfect life.
An author whose works have really been resonating with me, and fits with this idea of a Kintsugi life, is Brene Brown – if you haven’t seen her TedTalk on vulnerability, drop what you’re doing and go watch it now! Then go out and get her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who We Think We Should Be and Embracing Who We Are (Hazelden, 2010). In it she talks about being vulnerable, and how embracing that vulnerability helps us live more wholehearted and authentic lives. As she says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
Given all the love and well wishes so many of you have given us, as I navigated my cancer diagnosis, I have a wish for all of you. My wish is that all of you find peace this New Year – we all see the news reports, and I think, realize that we are entering some interesting times. Perhaps by using the idea of living a Kintsugi life, and embracing vulnerability, it will make it easier to let go of what we think it should look like, and embrace what is.
Finally, bringing this back to jewellery, as it’s the New Year, I encourage you to look through your jewellery boxes to see what you have that is broken and/or damaged. We would love to help you repair, or restyle those items into something that is even more beautiful than it was.
I recently did this with a diamond tennis bracelet that I loved, which needed a large number of repairs, along with some outdated jewellery I didn’t wear any more. I took several pieces of old and damaged jewellery, and turned it into a new ring, which features one of my favorite gemstones, Morganite. I used all the gold I had, along with all the diamonds from my tennis bracelet.
It was my gift to myself, to commemorate coming through my cancer diagnosis, and feeling better than ever about life. Our talented goldsmiths can help you celebrate any occasion with one of a kind, custom styled jewellery, and also offer complete repair services – all at exceptional prices. With our CAD services, you can see a computer rendering of what your custom design will look like like before we start work on it, giving you complete control over the process. We’d love to see you, and show you how the idea of Kintsugi can breathe new life into the old.
1. The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics, Ms. Christy Bartlett, Dr. Charly Iten and Prof. James-Henry Hollandhttp://www.bachmanneckenstein.com/downloads/Flickwerk_The_Aesthetics_of_Mended_Japanese_Ceramics.pdf