Friday, February 28, 2014

Broken Things

I remember one time my dad asked me about a quirk I had when I was little.

If a pencil or a piece of chalk (fast forward to extreme art personality here) got broken, I was unnaturally mournful and stressed about it.

Sometime after college, he asked me if it was because I thought that things had a sort of a spirit when they were whole.

I hadn't thought about it before he asked, but yes, I believe that is what I believe(d).

I've noticed that a lot of my fellow artists have this same anxiety about wholeness. Many of us, especially those who teach a lot of classes, get stressed when our beloved art supplies are abused or degraded in one way or another. Many of us, for this reason, have two sets of everything where we can afford to, because we can't bear to have stained wood stamp blocks or frayed markers. It's a mania of sorts. It's painful.

But then I saw something this month that completely astonished me and made me realize that there are these permanent themes in art - and that we are really not all that unique :).

It's called Hari Kuyou - and it's a Japanese ceremony for broken sewing needles. Yes, you read that correctly.

It is believed that these inanimate objects have souls and by using them, some of their pain is released. Broken or worn needles, pins, and some small scissors are brought to the ceremony and thanked for their good service in creating sashiko, kimonos, or even for daily mending. Then they are gently laid to rest in a soft tofu cake.  Source

And this...

It was believed that the tools and utensils used roughly should become the monsters (the Gods named Tsukumogami) to attack people 100 years later. Tsukumogami, or “artifact spirit”, are a type of Japanese spirit. According to the Tsukumogami-emaki, tsukumogami originate from items or artifacts that have reached their 100th birthday and thus become alive and aware. Any object of this age, from swords to toys, can become a tsukumogami. Source

Aha! It's not just me.

I love the idea that broken things get honored for their service. It's like the Navajo tradition of giving ceremonial thanks to the hunted animal.

So when Dina found Kintsukuroi - I was thrilled. It's the subject of today's Mix-Ability Challenge. Kintsukuroi is the art of repairing broken things with gold, thereby making them even more beautiful than they were before they were broken.

Here's an example:

I think there are other examples too - I think that animal rescues do this. I love what The Furrtographer does - he takes beautiful photos of shelter animals so that people don't see a scared, broken animal in a cage, but a beautiful little creature they can imagine being loved in their home. He has also adopted a series of blind kitties, who look flawless under his care.

And just because he's awesome, I have to share this photo of his - perhaps the greatest photo ever taken. Who could imagine that this kitty is a broken little orphan and not a beautiful, confident and  much beloved pet?

My apologies if you have the sudden urge to adopt a cat. Well - actually, I'm not sorry at all. :)

So all that to say - today's challenge speaks to me in a squillion ways -  thank you, Dina.

Now, please enjoy, by contrast, this terrible low resolution Iphone photo of the beginning of my project. I started with garbage - literally - a piece of used grid paper that I had inked, sprayed, sponged and abused in 1,000 different ways, but in Lydia style, could not bear to throw away. It had too much potential. I've kept it for months without knowing what to do with it.

So today I stuck it onto a piece of the Sizzix multi-purpose adhesive sheets and then die cut it with the Beautiful Butterflies die. Then I hand cut it up into a mosaic and stuck it onto Basic Black cardstock.

To "fix" the broken spaces with gold, I used a teeny spatula to put InkaGold into the open spaces.

The much better photo of the cleaned up version follows.

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The greeting is from Really Good Greetings and I used the Deco Labels Framelits and the Decorative Dots Embossing Folder (SAB).

I guess if it's going to get broken, you may as well fix it with something sparkly and gold.

I just love this technique. And the philosophy.

Hope you can play along and make something imperfectly beautiful.



  1. Phew! You made me cry! Not entirely your fault since an early morning conversation caused me to look into brokenness I thought was dealt with!

    I love the cat pics and I went and looked at every photo from the Furrtographer link! I love to think that I have helped bring a little beauty into our 2 rescues! :)

    Your butterfly is amazing! I have been keeping some papers because I can't throw them away .....wonder where they will end up! Love your gold and I really love the wording on this one. Your elegant bow finishes off this gorgeous card!

  2. Oh what a most beautiful post. I have passed your blog onto a very dear friend who is physically broken from chondrosarcoma(and breast cancer). She used Moffitt cancer centers art therapy classes. She is a 'thinker' like you AND is in the garbage business(consulting). She has been selected for a body painting for a PBS documentary. She will be so pleased to read your blog today and know that with a little gold paint she will be fixed! . She has a heart of GOLD also!

  3. I love this philosophy, too. Something in me has always felt terrible when something dear to me is hurt. Maybe I am really an artist underneath it all. I think the photographer and you have such a wonderful spirit, and I am so glad to be connected to you. I wish I could adopt those cats, but I am afraid my dog wouldn't be kind, and I have a severe allergy to cats. Thank you for sharing this side of you.

  4. I had a similar spiritual connection with this technique while I worked on my piece. Dad has commented that he likes it, but I've not shared the motivation and connection this piece provided. Dina is super-zen-master in my art studio now. Ohhhmmmm....

    BTW - why would you ever apologize for making people suddenly want to rescue a kitteh? Heehee!

  5. Nice. Very nice.If I ever get broken I know where to go.

  6. nice, very nice. if I ever get broken I know where I'm going

  7. Nice. Very nice.If I ever get broken I know where to go.

  8. Lydia that wa beautiful. What a great way to look at "things". Very interesting how other cultures have variations of the same caring spirit towards our tools. And I love the idea of the use of gold to "fix". Your butterfly is demonstrates this philosphy and what you've learned in an extrememly creative way. Thank you.

  9. What a brilliant sentiment to go with that amazing butterfly. And that it's made out of scratch paper makes it even more wonderful.


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