Kintsugi – Creative Minds Art History Project

I’ve always loved Kintsugi pottery not just for its striking visual interest but also for the symbolism behind it. Kintsugi means “golden joinery”, and is a practice that started as early as the 15th century in Japan. With Kintsugi, artists fix broken pottery by using a special lacquer mixed with powdered metals to join the pieces back together. Influenced by the Japanese philosophies of wabi-sabi (seeing beauty in imperfection), mottainai (the regret of wasting), and mushin (the acceptance of change), Kintsugi pottery highlights flaws rather than hiding them, showing each piece’s unique history and turning brokenness into beauty. Our experiences, mistakes, scars, and the things that make us different are what build us into who we are, and beauty can be found in all of these things as we move forward.

I knew I wanted to incorporate learning about Kintsugi into my Artshop class, but the question was how? In this class, we typically do different small projects each week, so it would need to be something that could be completed in an hour and a half. Additionally, I have no background in pottery or sculpting (100% 2D artist over here!) and wanted to use supplies our studio already had on hand without depleting our clay class’s supply. A couple of months ago, a group of friends I do crafty girls nights with and I found an idea to make small, marbled ring dishes out of polymer clay on Pinterest. This craft got me thinking … why not make sculpey pottery?

It took some trial and error, but I ended up coming up with something that works using sculpey, a cool whip container and some 4″ diameter and 3-3.5″ diameter oven safe glass storage containers, hot glue, and broken teacups.

The first step was to roll out a sheet of clay to the desired size. Students mashed, twisted, and striped their different colors together and then rolled them out to about 1/2 cm thick. We happened to have acrylic polymer clay rollers, but a rolling pin would work just as well – Just make sure to put a piece of foil or parchment paper over the clay so it doesn’t actually make contact with the rolling pin if you ever want to use it for food again. Next, they cut out a circle by tracing around a template using an xacto knife. We used an empty cool whip container as a template for students who wanted a 4″ diameter bowl, and a 4″ glass container as a template for students who in the end wanted a smaller 3.5″ bowl.

IMG_20190528_150010Once everyone had their flat circle, we placed our chosen glass containers open side down and centered the circle of clay on the base of the container. We then gently guided the sides of the circle  down to form a bowl shape, being careful not to press the clay down too tight (This makes it easier to remove later!), and not to press hard enough to leave fingerprints.

After this, we made a selection of teacup fragments from our stash. We then laid them where we wanted on the surface of our clay bowl shape, and traced around the fragments with an xacto knife, cutting out an empty space into which we could glue the piece once the clay was baked. Some pieces were more curved than others, so this also influenced placement. The holes can be a bit bigger than the piece, because we can fill any gaps with hot glue – You just definitely don’t want the hole to be smaller.

Once the spaces were cut we baked the clay on the oven safe glass containers, still open side down, in the oven per the instructions on the sculpey package (275 degrees for 15 minutes). After letting the hardened clay cool, we were able to use hot glue to fill in our bowl with the teacup pieces. Once the glue has hardened and is painted with metallic gold acrylic, it looks just like the fusing used in traditional pottery!

These make for interesting decorative bowls or catch-alls, and though our process and materials were quite different, it was a fun way to reinforce the history lesson. My hope is that these tiny vessels will sit out somewhere as a reminder for people to love themselves, cracks and all, and remember that no one is ever broken beyond repair.

 

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Retro Tile Bathrooms Before and After

Even though I studied interior design in college and ended up going in a different direction afterward, I still love it. From time to time, I do still assist friends/family/acquaintances with their designing woes, and I’ve had a couple of fun opportunities over the last year or two to work with my parents in updating my childhood home. I worked with them to choose fixtures, finishes, and furnishings for the home’s guest and master bath, and they used a kitchen and bath design business and a remodeling contractor from the local Midland area to bring the project to completion.

My parents and I have pretty different design styles. They can be a little uneasy at times about bold colors, and favor timelessness. My mother definitely has a traditional style, and is not one of those people who wants to change a design up every other year (or even every 5). She especially wants more “permanent” aspects such as tile and cabinetry to be something neutral so that the space can be updated in the future if need be with not much more than a different color of paint on the walls.

The house’s original bathrooms were done up in (now vintage) tile, as were many in the neighborhood when originally built. My best friend down the street actually had an identical guest bathroom to ours, only accented in white instead of grey and sans crazy wallpaper. We decided to pay homage to the origins and stay with the idea of retro, bold, fun tile, but this time in black and white.

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Before: I may have mentioned the original guest bathroom was pink. In fact, this bathroom was just so into being pink that even the door and the window molding is pink. This is basically Dolores Umbridge‘s dream bathroom. It’s so odd and distinctly vintage, however, that it did have a certain charm and I was a little bummed to see it go. Yes, the ceiling is wallpapered – pretty trippy.

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After: Saying bye-bye to the original vintage was so worth it, however, for the end result. Since we didn’t have to worry about the guest bathroom transitioning into a bedroom like we did for the master bath, we could go with a fun color not present anywhere else in the house, and chose a cheerful pool blue. Being the only color present that isn’t a neutral, the room is pleasant even for those who don’t like to be surrounded by rainbows 24/7. The white is broken up by pops of black in the striping and the textile accents. The ceiling is still kind of fun, though certainly not wallpapered! I chose a paler shade of blue rather than just going with a stark white to balance the already ever present, high contrast, bold blue- to – bright white transitions. My parents also love antiques, and there is a variety of vintage glassware and decor scattered throughout. We also chose some unique vintage inspired hardware that further adds to the little air of whimsy in this room. The artwork on the wall is a print of one of my watercolor and ink pieces, The Idealist.

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Before: The master bath had already been through one soft redo in the 90s due to some cabinetry that was not faring too well. It had mainly been done for utilitarian reasons, and had pretty much the opposite problem of the guest bathroom … it was very, very bland.

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After: Hello, gold! Black and gold play off of each other so well, so a lot more black was incorporated into this bathroom. The cabinetry and shower are opposite each other, so to balance all the white tile with the dark counters we outlined the shower itself and the inset shelf in black tile, and used a more concentrated floor tile. The photography on the walls are photos of birds my dad took, one of his hobbies being hiking and “collecting” birds on his journeys via snapshots. And, of course, more vintage glassware (I have an addiction! Luckily, they love it too).

Another fun project completed! Next, my parents will be picking my brain about the living room. Maybe I can talk them into more brightly colored walls … maybe even purple! Only time will tell ;). (Mom, if you are reading this, I promise I’m joking).