Kintsugi Workshop, Gold & Behold: “It’s about unlearning what beautiful means”

Even after meeting and learning from various crafters across all the workshops I’ve attended, it never gets old listening to their stories and how they came to love their art form. Most went to Art school, some wanted to introduce never-before-seen crafts in Singapore. But for Winnie at Gold & Behold, slow crafting got her through her depression, and she’s ready to share the nature of creating with anyone and everyone seeking respite.

The why behind the how

Our workshop set up

What started out as a jesmonite business eventually grew and evolved—as all healthy things do—and Winnie has since launched the next phase of her artistic direction, Kintsugi pieces and workshops. Before you’re mistaken, she practices what’s known as modern Kintsugi, a modified version of the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold. Those familiar with the medium might know that its symbolism lies not only in embracing imperfections and flaws, but also seeing the beauty even in the cracks.

Crafting tools

In keeping with a low-waste philosophy, Winnie purchases rejected and imperfect goods from brands, warehouses, and retailers, and breathes new life into them through her restorative ways of modern Kintsugi. Through her latest drops, you’ll find upcycled barrettes, glassware, and my personal favourite so far—the Heritage Collection of kopi mugs and saucers that perfectly encapsulate the Singaporean coffee shop culture we so love.

Chisels & bits

Breaking the bowl with a golden hammer

Probably the only workshop where you’re allowed to break things, Gold & Behold’s modern Kintsugi workshop starts quite literally with a bang; cloth-wrapped porcelain bowl in one hand, and hammer in the other. Depending on the art style you’re gunning for, you can position your point of impact according to how you envision the Kintsugi strokes to go, but the interesting part comes in knowing that you cannot, and never will have complete control over how your pieces break.

My friend Olivia breaking her bowl

For those with a high need for control, this freeform might send you sweating buckets, but I say embrace it and let the process take you where it wants to. To quote Winnie, “sometimes, life slaps you in the face”, and ain’t that the truth. But sometimes that slap has a pretty outline or can send you in the right direction instead. I don’t know where this metaphor is going, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s always good in the ugly, if we take the time and perspective to look for it.

Mixing the epoxy

A few cautious knocks and one defining strike later, your broken pieces are then ready to be humpty-dumptied—or, put back together again. Logistically and practically speaking, it’s modern Kintsugi because we’re not actually merging the fragments with lacquer and real liquid gold, but the process pays homage to the age-old art nonetheless. Here, Winnie uses epoxy resin mixed in with a personally blended rose gold powder to form a gleaming, silky adhesive that helps to bind the bits, all while looking absolutely fabulous.

Applying the epoxy glue

Piecing the parts back together in itself is where the fun lies—you can choose to stick everything back just as it was before, or if you’ve got missing bits or just want to switch up the repairing process, freestyling is also an option. You make the rules in this house, baby!

My bowl broke into a neat three segments, so I’m taking the straightforward route today, but my crafting partner’s shattered bowl base needs a little touching up. Even sticking mismatched pieces to fill gaps and holes is also embraced. Don’t let anyone tell you how to patch up the very thing you broke yourself.

Piecing the bowl back together

As we go along, it’s becoming very clear how Kintsugi is about wayfinding as you go along, leaning into every curve, chip, and crack, and accepting that it’s high time we start unlearning what ‘beautiful’ even means. Growing up in a perfectionist household, undoing the learned behaviours and mentality has been a long time coming for Winnie.

Holding the pieces together

Once we’re done sticking everything back together, it’s important to hold it in place for five to seven minutes to allow ample time for the epoxy to set. The finishing touch is dusting the same rose gold powder over the half-dried resin just to give it that little sheen and matte finish. Think of it as applying blusher to your new lil’ creation, dolling it up in preparation to finally see the world. Wholesome and healing.

And now, we wait.

Dusting the piece

Kintsugi in review

As we patiently anticipate the setting of our finished pieces, the atmosphere comfortably gives way to unhurried chatter, and before we realise it, we’re getting to know Winnie on a much more intimate level. We exchange our experiences, childhoods, struggles—so her claims of the Kintsugi process being healing and calming is quickly becoming very apparent. You can find more of Winnie’s reflective and introspective pieces here.

Our finished pieces

You’ll come to realise that Kintsugi, or modern Kintsugi, isn’t like other art forms in the sense that you’re constantly on your hands and feet, racing against a tight timeline because of the restricted working period that many mediums are limited to. Instead, it’s a process meant to be taken slow, like a warm hug on a blustery autumn evening.

A finished piece by Winnie

And above all, it serves as a timely reminder, especially amidst a pandemic, that it’s okay to take things at your own pace. We’ve mostly been brought up with the idea that we should always be on the move, working towards something, becoming someone. But here, we don’t have to.

Sign up for your workshops here.

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Chokmah Singapore: Of pretty Jesmonite workshops & accidental life lessons