KINTSUGI ART STUDIO
FEATURE IN THE STRAITS TIMES
Feb 11, 2023
SINGAPORE – There is a growing demand for arts and crafts workshops in Singapore, with booking platforms such as Eventbrite.sg crammed with more than 300 classes for everything from family art-jamming to soap-making workshops for children.
For those who want something different, there are also meaningfully curated sessions for Valentine’s Day by independent craft studios.
At Kintsugi Art Studio in Upper East Coast, which is the home studio of kintsugi instructor Nilofar Iyer, couples not only work on the ancient Japanese art of pottery-mending, but are also treated to a bottle of champagne and fresh blooms which they can take home.
Healthcare counsellor Jessica Wong, 40, recently signed up for a workshop as a birthday gift for her best friend, Ms Margaret Duangpanya, 32, at Ms Iyer’s studio. She paid $170 for a two-hour session on how to mend the broken pieces of a ceramic bowl using gold dust and glue. The two friends were encouraged to be “healed through art” and to take their time to mend the cracks in their ceramic bowls.
“Through kintsugi, we both learnt to embrace changes that may also include failures and trying times that may ‘break’ us deep inside,” says Ms Wong. “Through the process of difficult changes in our lives, we can mend and we can grow. It’s not a race. Brokenness can also be beautiful.”
KINTSUGI ART STUDIO
Kintsugi Art Studio founder Nilofar Iyer recently organised a Valentine’s Day workshop for couples, friends and family members who want to learn more about the concept of “brokenness”.
Instead of hewing to the traditional method of lacquer and real gold powder, Ms Iyer uses glue and synthetic gold powder, which she describes as modern kintsugi. Lacquer from trees takes a long time to cure and to seal pottery cracks, while real gold powder is not only costly, but also difficult to obtain in large quantities.
“Kintsugi represents our lives as we all get ‘broken’ at times and we want to mend the different pieces of our lives to become whole again,” says the 50-year-old Singaporean, who has been conducting pottery-mending workshops in her home studio since mid-2022. These workshops, she adds, are designed to heal by encouraging participants to also think about the related Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi”.
Wabi-sabi is a spiritual approach to life which is anchored in three realities: nothing lasts, nothing is truly finished and nothing is perfect.
“It is a reflection of what it means to be simply human. Through the kintsugi sessions, I teach participants not to hide the cracks in a piece of ceramic or clay pottery but to illuminate them with gold,” she adds.
“This implies that we don’t have to hide our flaws and imperfections. Instead, we celebrate them. These ‘cracks’ not only teach us about resilience and bouncing back from difficulties, but also help the world to understand who we are.”
One of her students, Ms Margaret Duangpanya, was treated to a kintsugi workshop recently as a birthday present from her best friend, Ms Jessica Wong, who also participated in the course. Ms Duangpanya says that the workshop helped her gain insights into the notion of “brokenness”, and how the simple act of mending pottery has changed the way she approaches challenges in real life.
“Jessica and I were able to create something beautiful despite not always having clarity on how things will turn out through the process of mending,” says the 32-year-old manager in the technology industry.
“As an art form, brokenness does feel beautiful. It highlights what makes something unique and precious.”
Some years back, Ms Iyer learnt the finer points of kintsugi through a course by Domestika, a global online creative community of experts who conduct certified lessons on a wide range of subjects through video tutorials.
Married and a mother of two daughters, she is also a local museum docent and the founder of a charity organisation that helps low-income families in Singapore. She runs kintsugi workshops in her home studio on some weekdays when she is free, as well as on weekends.
The studio accommodates about five students each session – which lasts between two and three hours – and caters mostly to teenagers and adults. There is a separate kintsugi art class for children up to the age of 12 which does not involve handling broken pottery, as the sharp edges can nick young, inexperienced hands.
“While parents glean the finer points of restoring ceramics, their children will be engaged in an art class,” says Ms Iyer, who also restores broken ceramics for a fee.
“When adults mend and repurpose things, it inculcates values in the younger generation about sustainable living and reducing waste.”
Info: Valentine’s Day kintsugi workshops cost $290 a couple, which includes champagne and fresh flowers. To register, go to https://str.sg/wv4h