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Mediation and the Japanese Art of Kintsugi

Posted By Susan Ingram, Esq., Thursday, December 14, 2017

Kintsugi is a centuries-old Japanese master craft for repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold. If you’ve ever been to a museum exhibit of old Japanese ceramics, you may have noticed the patterns of gold veins that run through some of the pieces. These pieces had been broken at some point, and the gold clearly shows where the repairs had been made as the master craftsman put the piece back together again.

In our Western minds, this may seem like an unusual way to repair something that’s broken. We typically would look to make the piece “as good as new” and would expect it to be repaired so that the cracks could not be detected, and the piece would appear to be identical to what it was before.

Not so with Kintsugi, which repairs the piece in a way that makes it “better than new.” With the application of the lacquer, it is as strong or stronger than before. But most importantly, it has been transformed into a totally new piece – one whose beauty is further defined by the golden threads that run through it. And, of course, no two repaired pieces are ever alike, as each was originally damaged in its own unique way.

What an extraordinary image – and one that I find extremely relevant to the work I do as a divorce and family mediator. Couples going through separation and divorce experience many emotions (including sadness, anger, despair) during the process. They can feel that they will never be able to “repair” their lives and move on to happier times. But this does not have to be so.

The beauty of the Japanese Kintsugi pottery is derived from the broken pieces having been repaired so that the pottery is transformed into something different and “better than new.” Like the pottery, relationships often emerge from mediation looking different, but having a stronger foundation, so that the parties can positively move forward with their new lives.

Reprinted with permission.  Susan Ingram, Esq. is a private practitioner in New York, NY specializing in divorce and family mediation.  For more blog posts (including a second Kintsugi-related blog) and information about Susan Ingram, please visit

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