Kintsugi’s Philosophical Take on Mistakes: Aka DIY Cheap Kintsugi

A lot of us grow up and we grow out of the literal interpretation that we get when we’re children, but we bear the scars all our life. Whether they’re scars of beauty or scars of ugliness, it’s pretty much in the eye of the beholder.

Stephen King

Traditionally, Kintsugi is a Japanese method for repairing broken ceramics with a special lacquer mixed with gold (silver or platinum can be used, too).

Kin = golden

tsugi = joinery

The history of Kintsugi’s origin isn’t completely clear, but the story goes that back in the Muromachi period (12 AD), the Shogon of Japan by the name of Ashikago Yoshimitsu broke his favorite tea bowl and sent it to be repaired. When it was returned, it was filled with ugly staples – he sent it back for a more elegant solution. What his crafters came up with didn’t attempt to minimize the damage, but rather to glorify it.

From that beautifully repaired tea bowl came an entire buddhist philosophy: that things can be made even more beautiful after they’ve broken.

Kintsugi was the perfect solution to my next DIY project when the mistake happened BEFORE the DIY even started.

The Problem: A Broken Vase

I found this beautiful elongated black vase in my mother-in-law’s basement when she was moving out, so I asked her if I could have it – I knew the perfect place for it!

The moving van, however, had other plans.

It arrived to our house in the condition above which isn’t exactly how I’d pictured it. It was actually my sister-in-law who asked if I had ever heard of Kintsugi.

I hadn’t.

When I looked it up I had my next DIY project! Everyone doing Kintsugi was doing it “right” though, expensive glue and gold powder. With a recent wedding and a new house, gold powder wasn’t in the budget. I decided to try to muddle my way through my very own brand of kintsugi!

The Failure

If you’re just looking of a DIY, skip ahead.

The first thing I tried was to basically use paint as glue. It seemed like a good idea at the time… I mean, paint can be sticky and dry nice and hard.

I painted on a nice thick line of paint figuring it would squish out the sides for a nice seam of paint.

As you can see, SEVERAL things went wrong. The most obvious problem was that the paint wasn’t sticky enough. If I did get two pieces to stick together, I either got tape (which I was using to hold the pieces together while they dried) or my fingers in the paint and smudged it everywhere. Not a good look.

I tried to scrub as much of the paint off as I could and set it aside because

A) The ceramic is porous so once I got it wet I absolutely had to wait for it to dry before I could glue anything together, and (more importantly)

B) I was frustrated as heck and had to put it aside and rethink.

Three cooling-off months later, and I was ready to give my cheap Kintsugi another try.

The Success

This is how you should ACTUALLY do it!


  • Super Glue Gel – I got this stuff at the Dollar Tree, works great. Try to get the “gel” kind so it’s not as liquidy.
  • Metallic Paint – Any acrylic kind will do.
  • Masking Tape – Or blue tape or green tape.

Step 1:


Gluing the vase together

Any and all paint you see here is strictly from my original fail – no paint was used during the successful gluing phase.

Filling the gaps with glue

This part is your preference, but I filled the gaps with glue and used a toothpick to smooth it out a bit because the branches sticking out of the top are attached to unsightly stems inside the vase that I didn’t want seen.

Step 2: Wait for it to Dry

I left mine overnight.

Step 3: Paint over the Cracks

I’m usually a major advocate of thin layers of paint, 92% of the time it’s way better to go thinner than thicker, but I gooped it on like crazy in this case. I looked up a lot of different kintsugi examples and some lines were thin, some were thick, so I decided on thick. I like the texture of the thick paint – a bit solder-looking.

Finished Kintsugi Vase

Voila! Finished Kintsugi! I love the way this came out – worth all the pain and frustration it caused.

Hopefully yours goes better than mine did the first time!

Don’t hesitate to let me know if I wasn’t clear on anything and I’m also always up for comments/suggestions!



P.s. I did a bunch of research for this post, but most of the information used is from this site:

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