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34 The Colour Collaborative: July: Mend

Japanese bowl repaired with gold lacquer
It's like a tiny moment of free jazz played during a fugue by Bach.
Blake Gopnik

My father is a fixer of things. Even now, in his late eighties and hindered by shaking hands and cloudy eyes, to take something broken and (re)make it 'like new' makes him happy. And if a mend is not invisible he will apologise for his 'failure'. Visible mending, mending that honours the damage and the repair as part of the history of the object, puzzles him. That the now less than perfect might be better than new is incomprehensible to him. But it's not incomprehensible to me or to those who practice kintsugi*.

Translated from the Japanese as golden (kin) joinery (tsugi), kintsugi is the art of mending cups, bowls and plates with lacquer (urushi*) mixed with powdered gold (or sometimes silver or platinum). Chips are filled and fragments reconstructed and the mended bowls remind us that loss is part of life and change inevitable, that ill fortune can be overcome but should not be forgotten, and that imperfections may be celebrated as the marks of resilience. The precious metals ennoble the humble clay but only after it has been broken, there is no vanity in kintsugi just scars of gold.

This short blog post is also an imperfect thing (not least because it's late) but it's one I shall cherish. In writing it I tumbled down a serendipitous rabbit hole and got a taste of kenshō. Sometimes I bloomin' love blogging!

* Kintsugi is synonymous with kintsukuroi, or golden repair. Urushi, the plant resin lacquer traditionally used to effect the repairs, contains urushiol, a skin irritant akin to that in poison ivy. It's not uncommon for kintsugi practitioners to experience an allergic reaction to the urushiol to which they only become immune over time. ... for many the work is truly a labour of love.

You'll find more examples of kintsugi on my Pinterest board and in the Smithsonian's Freer Sackler collections, the source of this image.

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below ...

CJ at Above the River

Sandra at Cherry Heart

Sarah at Mitenska

Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

Jennifer at Thistlebear

What is The Colour Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.


65 A summer bucket list

... because they're not just for kids!

Pick hydrangea flowers for drying

Forage for bilberries

Look for noctilucent clouds come nightfall

Visit a standing stone

Watch a sheepdog trial

Go on a moth hunt

Be a tourist in my own town for a day

Dance in the rain

Make blackberry and chia seed jam

Crab off a pier

Start an indigo dye vat

Collect feathers to cut for quill pens

What will you be doing this summer? And can anyone please tell me what variety that hydrangea is?

(Summer in the northern hemisphere ends on September 21st, that's my understanding.)


73 Writing in bed and shed

Interior of the shed where Dylan Thomas wrote, at his home in Laugharne, 1955, via The National Library of Wales.
Interior shot of the Writing Shed at the Boathouse, Laugharne, where Dylan Thomas worked during the last few years of his too short life. Image c.1955, via The National Library of Wales.

I proceed as Dylan Thomas once told me he proceeded — it is a matter of going to one's study, or to the chair in the sun, and starting a new sheet of paper. On it you put what you've already got of a poem you are trying to write. Then you sit and stare at it, hoping that the impetus of writing out the lines that you already have will get you a few lines farther before the day is done.
Richard Wilbur, poet, The Paris Review, Winter 1977*

Writing a blog post can feel a little as Wilbur describes ... this one's taken me three days, on and off. And although allowing myself to explore every tangential thought has played its part in that - I'm beginning to map out where me and this blog, with it's consistently ruralist outlook, are headed next - there was plenty of sitting and staring too. Cogitating, my grandfather would have called it, and I figured out the following ...

... how to better manage my reading and writing time ... currently life's continuing distractions are dragging me from my books and my laptop far too often. It's looking like I'm going to miss an already extended print deadline and I am most spectacularly miffed about it. I didn't, but it went to the line!

... how to reorganise my blog to accommodate more front page links for you to follow. One con of the uncluttered look is that much of what's most worthy of your attention is hidden away. It could get a bit like a shop mid refurbishment in here for a while ... think dust sheets on the counters and lots of hammering while business continues as usual amid the chaos.

... how to reconfigure my studio to take account of my (re)upping the ante with regard to my writing. I need a comfier chair in there, of the kind you can curl up in with a book. Pre studio my equivalent of Dylan Thomas's writing shed was the study, which contains a squashy tub chair that I adore and would have appropriated already if it wasn't rather too broad in the beam to fit the allocated corner. A cheeky friend suggested I need a chaise longue to recline on - like Truman Capote, who once revealed "I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy." - but I think she's forgotten that my studio was once essentially a walk-in closet.

Writing in bed. Marcel Proust famously wrote while supine in his, only his head propped on pillows ... apparently wrist cramp was a daily hazard. And W.G. Sebald, plagued by back problems, lay prone across his, his forehead propped on an adjacent chair, the manuscript on the floor between the chair and the bed. Patricia Highsmith sat up in hers, all the better to reach the "cigarettes, ashtray, matches, mug of coffee, doughnut and accompanying saucer of sugar" she'd scatter around her**, and she'd stay there all day if sufficiently engrossed. And Edith Wharton retreated to hers in order to work minus her corset.

I wonder, where do you like to read and/or write and why? Me? Almost anywhere that doesn't make my bones ache, which of course includes my bed.

Now, the giveaways. The mister did his thing with his bush hat and (wherever they choose to read them) Landmarks and Forgotten Ways for Modern Days will shortly be posted off to Chickpea and Suzy Mae respectively, if you could email me your postal addresses please ladies.

* Back in 2010 The Paris Review - I imagine no introduction's necessary here but just in case it is that's a link to its Wikipedia entry - opened up its archive of 100s of author interviews, dating from the 1950s to the present day, all of which can now be freely browsed online. If you've never checked them out you're missing something.

** Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson.

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