I ran a Kintsugi inspired workshop with my partner, Mandy Bruce and wanted to share some thoughts and images of the beautiful work made by the participants (all of whom have given permission for me to do so).
The workshop was an amazing affirmation of how powerful the combination of the arts and shared story can be.
We began by everyone saying something about the object they had brought in to mend and from the very outset it was clear that the objects held both meaning and memory, both loss and longing and both attachment and tenderness. The conversation ebbed and flowed throughout the making/repairing process and what struck me was how embodied this process was.
Whilst the hands were busy in their tasks of non-verbal expression through art-making, the cognitive function was active in the talking through of what it was they were experiencing. This embodied process shed light on how the making, playing and experimenting with art, supports feeling and shared empathy. It was really a joy to be a part of.
I’ve been to a couple of great workshops in the past few weeks, one to learn Kintsugi and one using clay as a tool for reflection on body image. Perhaps it’s a January thing, I’m not sure, but both reminded me of the importance of shared learning and how being a part of a group allowed for the sharing of stories and personal histories to be heard. It also felt good to begin the year naming, out loud, reflections on the past along with passions and motivations for the future.
Kintsugi feels like it’s becoming more and more relevant in my thinking, the focus on the act of repair, in psychotherapeutic terms, represents the symbolic act of emotional or psychological repair. In Kintsugi, broken piece are brought together to make the object whole again.The seams of gold or silver become visible scars of the objects history, not to be hidden but seen and beautified.Interestingly, the mending process make the objects stronger.
Clay continues to be a great resource, a bit like an emotional ‘pick-me-up’. And, in practical terms, the two are made for each other.
Learning Kintsugi and working with clay had similar properties, they were both absorbing, creative activities that brought my focus into the present moment and the task at hand. Contact with clay has the power to connect or re-connect me with an embodied sense of self. I find there is a transmutable quality between thought, contact and form. This is transformational in itself but it also offers space, both mentally and emotionally and with space comes perspective and with perspective decisions can become clearer, emotions can feel less overwhelming or perhaps the space allows for feeling itself. Whatever the creative act allows for, space, felt emotions, I think that this enables our authentic selves to flourish.
Research done by the APPGAHW – The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Well being on, ‘Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Well Being’, found that, ‘The arts can help keep us well, aid our recovery and support longer lives better lived.’ A beautifully clear message. Alongside the research, the APPGAHW commissioned artist David Shrigley to create some images. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the art of Kintsugi when I saw them.
Since writing my last post, I have been developing a series of workshops that draw from the philosophy of Kintsugi and invited friend and fellow art psychotherapist to help me run them.
Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of mending a broken piece of pottery with lacquered gold.The tradition began as an aesthetically pleasing solution to mending a precious tea bowl in the 15th century.Its philosophy however, is rooted in the idea that an object’s history becomes the very thing that makes the object more precious and by enhancing its ‘brokenness’, which becomes part of its ‘story’,it becomes that much more beautiful.
As I mentioned before, Peter Levine compared Kintsugi to how we might view someone who has been through any number of life’s challenges such as; trauma, bereavement or loss and see that person as more beautiful with the marks of their experience as visible signs of their life’s journey.
How wonderful then to embrace our imperfections, our fragility, our tender hearts and celebrate these as part of our humanity, particularly in a time where culture not only encourages the opposite but rewards it.
So the aim of these workshops are to bring a little bit of Kintsugi into your life.
Last week I attended a day’s symposium with the trauma expert Peter Levine. I have followed and admired Peter’s work for several years. His theories on how the body holds trauma, how it can become trapped within viscera and muscles and lead to chronic pain, and mental health issues, have inspired me to explore further how listening to the body in psychotherapy, can offer insight and understanding to a persons experience.
Within this capacity, my aim is to slow things down in a session, to notice sensations, movements, small nuances that manifest in the body. This is a first step in creating a closer, more respectful relationship with our bodies, so that we can be receptive to what it might be telling us.
Peter talked about the Japanese tradition of Wabi Sabi, the art of imperfection. He spoke about human beings as being more beautiful with wounds that have been healed, like the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which is that of repairing pottery with gold.
I am looking to do a creative making workshop that incorporates this idea of repair and mending. I will post further details in the following weeks.