{K} Kintsugi: Adapting the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery to your {art} journal

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold or silver. As a philosophy, the belief is that the object is more valuable and beautiful with its history revealed.

But how can you adapt a pottery repair technique to your art journal?
By adapting Kintsugi as a transformative tool in your journal.

A Kintsugi artist rejoins a broken vase with gold epoxy, creating a new version of the vase. It will never go back to being what it was before it broke – instead, its cracks are highlighted to create a masterful work of art. In an art journal practice, the transformation comes by putting the pieces of you that are broken or hurting back together, working through the sorrow and pain to reinvent yourself – so you emerge into a stronger, more powerful individual.


Reframing your story

Once upon a time, I had a mug. It was white with the most gorgeous purple and blue pansies painted on it. It was my favourite mug…but then one day, it broke. I was devastated. But since it was shattered, I did the only thing I knew. I swept up the pieces and threw them away.

That was before I heard about Kintsugi. A Kintsugi master would not have seen a broken, useless mug – they would have seen a mug that had the potential to be repaired…to highlight its cracks and make it even more beautiful.

So Kintsugi’s first essential lesson is this: the story we’ve been telling ourselves – the one where we can never recover from the hurt or the loss or the betrayal – it’s time to change that story. Instead of letting our wounds define us, or looking at them as merely destructive, what if we looked at them as constructive? Instead of focusing on the hurt, what if we realize that the things that hurt us also have the power to make us stronger? The moment we do this, we can start to transform what was broken into something beautiful.

But how do we go about this transformational work?

kintsugi_in_art_journalHealing from your hurt
To mend the mug, the Kintsugi master would need to carefully prepare the gold epoxy – too much gold and the mixture would not be strong enough to mend the cracks; too much epoxy, and it would be too brittle.

In transformational work, the gold and epoxy represent the healing process and our willingness to go the distance. If we try to rush the healing process, we are only setting ourselves up for failure. We have to be willing to embrace set-backs, to circle back to some lessons until we’ve fully learned from them. Not only that, we must be willing to do the work it takes until that which is “bonding” us back into wholeness has had sufficient time to “cure.”

Owning all your parts

Once the gold epoxy is ready, the Kintsugi master will pick up each broken piece, fit it together and reconstruct the mug.

Similarly, when healing from our hurts, we need to embrace all of us – flaws and all. We need to look at each of our broken fragments and fully embrace the lessons from them so that we don’t repeat the same patterns again. And while some hurts may run too deep, we need to have the courage to understand that we can still stand strong…cracks and all.

Putting this into practice: Write out all the negativity and hurt in your art journal. Take a break and then look through it for the all the lessons that you can learn from that experience. Make a note of the wisdom you’ve gleaned on a separate piece of paper. Transform all the hurt in your art journal with paint and collage into a piece of beauty. Use the lessons you learnt as quotes on your page.

Disclaimer: If you’ve undergone significant trauma or think that this process could trigger some deep issues, please discuss this technique and work through it under the supervision of a registered clinical therapist.

Moving into fear

Basic painted face
A quick face painted with acrylics

How do you deal with fear? A lot of people will tell you it’s only by moving into whatever it is that you fear that you can overcome it. But how do you move into what you fear? How do you go boldly (or not so boldly) ahead into a situation that gives you the shivers? I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t have a clue.

Then, I took up painting. And as I tried and experimented and failed and tried again, I realized – this is how you move into fear!

You move into fear by sticking with something even when you’re scared and have no idea what the hell you’re doing. It means taking a piece you don’t like and working it until you do. And if you still don’t like it, chalking it up to experimenting and experience, and then cutting it up to use as the base of another piece, so you can reframe and redo.

Fearless painting
Some fearless mark making

And each time you take a deep breath and make another mark on that paper or canvas, not knowing where you will end up, you grow your muscles of bravery. It may not be bold bravery, but rather the quiet kind of bravery that enables you to stick with a task; to look for answers; to try one approach, then another, and another until you start to see some semblance of success; to constantly learn and evolve and grow.

It’s a knowing that mistakes can be fixed. And that if they cannot be fixed, they can serve as the foundation for the next stage of your evolution.

Fearless painting
The final piece – after many layers of mark making and re-painting. Moving through the fear of having “ruined” the face with my fearless marks.

Ultimately, it’s the knowledge that life is fluid, constantly moving and shaping and stretching and contracting – that nothing lasts forever (even though it sometimes feels like it does).

Just like one mark on the page can change the direction of your painting, so can one move…one choice…one decision, change the course of your journey. And so it is that each new mark…each new decision…can change the final outcome. And it all started by moving into your fear.

This piece was inspired by Annie Hamman’s lesson in Lifebook

Intention setting: The impact that one word can have on your year

the power of a word of the yearDecember is a month for reflection – for some quiet contemplation on the year gone by and planning for the year to come. While a lot of people set goals and New Year resolutions, I’ve learnt that this really does not work for me. What does seem to work is desire and intention. But first, we start with…

Contemplating the year gone by
Set aside an afternoon with a hot cup of coffee or tea (or even some mulled wine!) and look back at the year gone by.

Here are some prompts to get you started:

  • What stood out for you this year – positive and negatives both?
  • What did you finally achieve?
  • What made you happy?
  • Where did you trip up, and what did you learn from your failures and struggles?
  • What do you want to work on some more?
  • What do you need to learn from the year gone by?
  • What do you need to release as you move forward into a new year?
  • What are you grateful for?

Or you may just wish to reflect, remember, and give thanks for the year gone by.

Once you’re done, set your journal aside and stretch…go for a walk…dance to some music…do some yoga…basically, use motion as a release for everything that came up.

Mapping out the year ahead

Once you’re finished looking back, it’s time to look forward. There are a number of ways and tools that you can use to plan the year ahead. One that I tried last year that worked really well for me – and that I am doing again this year – is choosing a word of the year. One word that will serve as a guidepost to how you design and plan your year.

 As you think about this concept, you may have a word that pops out for you based on your reflection on the year gone by. Don’t worry if nothing comes to mind – sometimes it needs a little bit of an intervention to find the word that’s calling to you. Here’s a very short list of words that you could choose for yourself – see if any of these resonate for you.


If you don’t know how this works or need some help to choose a word, Susannah Conway has an excellent (free) 5-day email class to help you discover your word.

Now that you have a word, what’s next? 

One word has the power to shape and change your life. It just requires a little effort.

Start by contemplating the following questions in your journal:

  • If you lived and breathed your word in 2016, what would be different for you?
  • Are there any ways in which you’re already living your word?
  • What can you do to bring more of this word’s energy into your life?
  • Think ahead to December 2016. As you reflect on the year gone by, where do you want to be with regards to your work, relationships, spiritual practice, health and fitness, and any other areas that are important to you?
  • As you look at your answers to these questions, do you see a theme emerging? How can you make this theme work for you?

Plan out your year

Now comes the fun part! Download and print out a 2016 weekly calendar and start fleshing out your year. Plot out the things you want to start and when you want to start doing them. Don’t forget to pencil in some holidays and some rest time. And remember, this is just a rough guide to get you started. You can change, add or subtract anything at any time during the course of 2016.

Here’s wishing you a beautiful holiday season!

No, everything does not happen for a reason

On some level, I’ve never quite believed that everything happens for a reason. I’ve never believed that tragedy is necessary for or a precursor to transformation. Tragedy may or may not transform you. But there is never a “reason” for tragedy.

There are a huge number of empty platitudes floating around the interwebs, supposed inspiration that actually is a pill to ignore the grief. To get up and move on, to treat grief and loss like an illness or disease that must be cured.

  But you cannot move on unless you sit with your grief. Unless you allow yourself to feel the spaces and the contours of your loss – no matter how big or small said loss might be. So allow yourself to sit with your loss for as long as it takes. To bear witness. To mourn. To cry.

Personal transformation can certainly occur after a tragedy. It occurs through your choices in how you deal with the aftermath of tragedy. In the daily decisions you take to cope with your grief. But to believe that there was a reason for your tragedy is a fallacy. As is the belief that tragedy is necessary for transformation. But that is a post for another time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on grief, transformation and things happening for a reason. 

This post is in response to this article

On following your passion and quitting your day job

On creativity and money

I always thought that if you’ve got the talent, creativity should provide. Well, apparently not! And this quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic Monday post dovetails very neatly with the realization I’ve come to recently – you DO NOT need to quit your day job to pursue your passions! When you do that, you’re forcing your passion to provide for you, and then you run the risk of making your passion your day job – with all the associated frustrations of a day job!

If, on the other hand, you pursue your passions on the side, when you have the time and the crazy drive, and when (and if) it turns into this huge-ass success, by all means, quit your day job. Because once you’ve achieved crazy-ass fame, or even a steady income stream, chances are that you will be called on to be involved with your passion in multiple ways. Then your passion will also be driven from the outside – through demand for your time, your thoughts, your opinions…

Your fan base, your influencers, your cheerleaders will want more of you…they are likely to give you at least a couple of chances…because they “know” you, love your product, flock to your name…and then even if your passion wanes a bit, the “fame momentum” will be enough to carry you along for a while.

Case in point – J.K. Rowling. Her first “adult” novel Casual Vacancy, published after the Harry Potter series, was panned by almost everyone who read it, but that didn’t stop her mystery novels (published later) from becoming super hits. When she was outed as Robert Galbraith , sales of The Cuckoo’s Calling skyrocketed even though it hadn’t done all that well previously, and even though it wasn’t all that marvelous a novel. And before her “overnight success”? Well, she worked as a research assistant at Amensty International, taught English as a foreign language in Portugal, and even lived on state benefits while pursuing a teacher’s training course. And during all this time, she wrote. In the pockets of time between work, in the spaces between falling in love and raising a child. She wrote. She collected rejection slips aplenty, and still, she wrote. And I believe that even if Harry Potter had never seen light of day (which would have been a crying shame!), she would still be at a cafe, somewhere in England, writing her heart out. Because that is just what she does. She writes.

Which is basically the point that I am trying to make. Your passion is something that you will do no matter what. I believe that it should be something that you nurture, that you support, something that continues to bring you joy day in and day out. And if you become an “overnight success”, sure, quit your day job!

But this whole “leap and the net will appear” thing – well, it can also lead to a hard landing, ya know! So instead of then getting disillusioned with your passion, why not just pursue it when you can? Take a sabbatical, switch to a part time job. But don’t quit your job until you know you’ve arrived!

Where do you stand on the passion vs. job debate? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic Monday post on Facebook.