Not so long ago I swept my favorite tea bottle off the table with my elbow. The tea bottle and I were both shattered. My impulse is always to save the shards, and I discovered the interior compartment was unbroken. I put all the bits I could find into a bag and waited for inspiration to strike.
Time passed. I considered putting the pieces together as well as I could, then covering the outside with papier mache, creating a sort of egg shell. But I saw no solution for washing the bottle. I couldn’t imagine a way to make the papier mache waterproof — and I’d have covered up the blue and white ceramic, the reason I chose this bottle.
A solution occurred to me when I found a roll of clear, broad packing tape on the shelf near the epoxy I would use for the first step in reassembly. The gluing was difficult — as much on me as the fragments, and yes, there were gaps.
Next I wrapped the scarred surface in the transparent tape. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. It could be rinsed out and the bottle insulated the tea better than it had undamaged. It occurred to me later that I was, in a clumsy way, practicing kintsugi, the art of mending or making do.
In the Japanese tradition, valuable ceramics were repaired in a manner that did not attempt to hide the repair but to dramatize it with a sprinkling of powdered gold along the seams. I had no gold powder, but I may have been practicing a more immediate tradition. My mother too saved the shards. Her attitude always was, “If nothing else, I can put dried flowers in it!” And blue and white objects were always salvaged.
A week with a huge dumpster at my disposal has me asking many questions. What is worth saving? How do I decide? Is it a question of repairing or finding a new purpose? When do I let go?
Clearly these questions apply to more than ancient blue and white tea pots. But the urgent matter at hand is a blue plant pot that cracked when it was left out in last winter’s extreme cold. Time to get the epoxy.