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Broken but still beautiful: the art of kintsugi – The Globe and Mail

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First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

Illustration by Mary Kirkpatrick

When I walked from our docked river cruise boat over to the central train station in Amsterdam, I was expecting to meet my smiling daughter. Years ago, she lived and worked in London and had flown in to Schiphol Airport to meet us as we finished up a river cruise. We would be able to spend a few days together before my husband and I had to fly back to Canada. Even better, this weekend was my birthday and I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to celebrate than a visit with our daughter, whom we hadn’t seen in almost six months.

But the girl who met us was tearful and distraught – obviously upset and unhappy.

Over coffee in a little café, she told us the story.

“I was in Paris for work a few weeks ago and a Parisienne colleague took me to this little shop in the Bastille District. They had the most beautiful things – and I found a brilliant red porcelain bottle that I thought would be a perfect birthday present for you, Mom.”

It was the venerable Porcelaine du Lot Virebent, a company with a long history and a lot of cachet whose creations have been exhibited at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

The saleslady had carefully packed the bottle in layers of tissue paper and double sealed it in a box for safe travel. Allie had brought it in her hand luggage when she flew to Amsterdam to meet us but the problems started at customs.

The customs official insisted that she open the box and show him the contents, even though it had just gone through the scanner.

I know my daughter – she doesn’t do well with bullies, especially men who are bullies (does anyone though?) – and this one was arrogant and rude. As passengers backed up waiting behind her, she had to cut the seals and open the box and take out the vase and unwrap it to show him. He barely looked at it, and then he just flicked his hand for her to move on. As she hurried to repack everything, the box fell to the floor and the bottle shattered.

“It was not a cheap thing, Mom! And now it is in pieces!”

A few warm stroopwafels, a cup of coffee and assurances that she was the only birthday present that mattered put her back in good spirits and we spent a happy weekend, visiting museums, dining well and enjoying being together for a while.

But I brought the box of ceramic fragments home with me, and they sat in their original box for years. Eight years, actually.

Enter the pandemic.

Scrolling through the internet, I came across an article about kintsugi – the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with gold. That, I thought, is the perfect solution to the red bottle and I read everything I could find on the art of kintsugi.

I discovered that it was more than an art – it was a philosophy, a belief that some things are worth saving, that broken things can be made more beautiful through a loving repair. It champions the idea of permanence as opposed to the more modern approach of discarding things that are no longer perfect. Kintsugi says that some things have a meaning and a history that transcend wear or damage. They have been loved and touched by many hands and retain some trace of all that use.

Legend says that kintsugi was born when an ancient Japanese emperor broke his favourite tea bowl and asked his craftsmen to repair it. The repair was ugly so the emperor ordered the bowl to be sent to gifted artisans who recognized that they could not remake the bowl exactly as it was. So they made it more beautiful, repairing the cracks with gold.

I needed to practise before attempting to repair the red bottle, so I found a small bowl that I had picked up at a sale at our local art school for $2. I put it in a paper bag and hit it with a hammer, breaking it into large pieces. It was painful to break something that was perfectly good and the bowl was actually quite lovely even though inexpensive, but I needed to practise. I had to find genuine urushi lacquer, read instruction articles and watch tutorials, but I learned the technique and finally repaired the bowl to a respectable state.

Then I tackled the bottle. It was slow work, requiring total concentration, the perfect task for pandemic times. Hours and days passed without me noticing.

I think it looks better now than before it was broken. The gold veins of repair stand out against the deep red, clearly showing where the breaks occurred. The bottle is, in my estimate, more beautiful because of its trauma. And it carries memories. I treasure it.

It strikes me that the kintsugi philosophy applies to people, too. We all suffer some damage as we age – from sadness, loss, even from use – how much wiser it is to celebrate the wear and tear of life, to turn the breakage and wear into ornament, to gild the scars. It is a sign that you have been useful and loved and that you have survived.

I find that very comforting.

Barbara Ramsay Orr lives in Burlington, Ont.

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Summer Stations art installations are coming soon to Kew Gardens and Woodbine Park this August – Beach Metro Community News – Beach Metro News

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The ‘ARc de Blob,’ now up in front of Kew Gardens on Queen Street East, is one of three Summer Stations art installations set to be on display in August in the Beach. Inset photo shows an image of seashell-shaped The Epitonium, which will be displayed at the north end of Woodbine Park by Queen Street East. Photo by Susan Legge.

Winter Stations along Woodbine Beach has become Summer Stations in the Beach.

The transition began this week when the ‘ARc de Blob’ art installation made its appearance on Queen Street East at the entrance to the Beach’s Kew Gardens park.

The installation is a joint effort by an Austrian and British design team made up of Aleksandra Belitskaja, Ben James and Shaun McCallum. ARc de Blob’s designers describe it as “a colourful landmark, a point of orientation, interaction and refuge.”

The art installation was one of five originally selected to be part of this past February’s Winter Stations art installations along Woodbine Beach.

However, due to the increasing COVID-19 case numbers earlier this year, the event had to be altered to the point that no art works were installed along Woodbine Beach this year.

Instead, Winter Stations organizers made the best of the rapidly changing situation by displaying the winning art installations in other locations in Toronto, including the Distillery District, in the spring.

They also changed the name from Winter Stations to Spring Stations; and now finally to Summer Stations for the ARc de Blob, The Epitonium, and a third installation (to be determined) in the Beach.

The Beach BIA and Winter Stations are presenting the art installations in the Beach until Aug. 31.

The ARc de Blob is already in place, and thanks to a contribution from The Richards Group, two more stations are coming to Queen Street East — The Epitonium in Woodbine Park, and the third yet-to-be determined installation which is set to be completed by next week when Summer Stations officially launches.

The Epitonium is designed by the Iranian team of M. Yengiabad – Shahed M. Yengiabad, Elaheh M. Yengiabad, Alemeh M. Yengiabad and Mojtaba Anoosha.

It is described as a “giant seashell” in harmony with its location. “It’s a beautiful and functional landscape. The creation of this idea causes natural shelter to become a refuge. The design of this structure is inspired by epitonium, which is a type of seashell,” said its designers.

The Epitonium’s installation is pretty well complete as of this week and it is located at the north end of Woodbine Park near the Queen Street East entrance.

For more information on the art installations that were selected for this year’s Winter Stations, please see our earlier story at https://beachmetro.com/2021/01/22/winter-stations-2021-winners-named-but-exact-date-of-exhibition-on-woodbine-beach-yet-to-be-determined/

For more information on Summer Stations and The Beach BIA at Kew Gardens and Woodbine Park, please go to https://winterstations.com/ which will have full details up on the website next week.


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Art exhibit looks at a year from now – The Daily Courier

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What can happen in a year? Lake Country-based artist and curator Wanda Lock delves into the passage of time and the cycles in our lives with a new exhibition that opens Friday at the Kelowna Art Gallery.

Titled A Year From Now, it presents 63 works she selected from the gallery’s permanent art collection.

“Where do you even start?” said “There are over 900 artworks in the collection to choose from. I needed something to help centre my approach and create a narrative that visitors could bite into. So, I started with a pot of tea. Then, I spent many, many hours browsing the collection via the Gallery’s online database.”

Ultimately, Lock decided to divide this introspective exhibition into five thematic groupings.

The first section gallery-goers encounter is Love is Blind,. Around the corner is Home is Where the Heart is. Best Laid Plans considers the nature of disruption and unforeseen circumstances. When You Crop a Photo, You Tell a Lie visits transitional moments and change. Lastly, To Everything, There is a Season returns to summer time in the Okanagan.

“I wanted to include a few of my favourite pieces (which didn’t all make the cut), but more importantly, I wanted to create an exhibition that would explore themes that reflect on the year we just came through, while looking ahead to the future with hope and reassurance,” said Lock.

A Year From Now features an eclectic presentation of work by Okanagan-based artists including Briar Craig, Fern Helfand, Jane Everett, and Jim Kalnin, along with Landon Mackenzie, Gathie Falk, Norval Morisseau, Carl Beam, and Wanda Koop, among others. Visitors will see art in a variety of mediums, including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography and more.

The exhibition also showcases five written works that were commissioned from local poets Carin Covin, Asheigh Giffen, Shimshon Obadia, Laisha Rosnau, and Michael Turner.

“We are always delighted to share artworks from our collection with regional audiences and the visitors who might be in the city. After all this art is yours,” said Nataley Nagy, eecutive director at the Kelowna Art Gallery.

“We hold these important pieces of art in trust for the City of Kelowna, on behalf of all of its citizens.”

A Year From Now: Works from the Permanent Collection can be seen until Nov. 21. The Kelowna Art Gallery is located at 1315 Water St.

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Inaugural art festival to showcase the work of artists in southwest Saskatchewan – moosejawtoday.com

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Since some tourists like to travel in September when crowds are smaller, an organization in southwest Saskatchewan wants to attract those people for an inaugural arts festival occurring in several area communities.

The Cypress Hills Grasslands Destination Area (CHGDA) organization has organized the first Southwest Art Fest, which encompasses multiple art genres such as painting, drawing, pottery, quilting, photography, film, music and other visual arts. 

The event runs from Sept. 1 to 30 and gives artists throughout that area the chance to showcase their artwork. Artists are encouraged to find a venue in which to feature their material and vice versa.

The CHGDA has 36 partners in dozens of communities throughout the province’s southwest corner and southeast Alberta.        

Blaine Filthaut, owner and artist with the Broken Spoke Fine Art Gallery and Gift Store in Maple Creek, explained that September is the best month for his business since “a different type of tourist travels at that time.” Furthermore, since there are few scheduled activities across the area, the CHGDA wanted to fill that month in an organized way. 

“The concept comes from almost like a city art walk, where you go on a third Thursday of the month are walks at this location, and you go,” he said. “And on those concepts, usually what happens is an artist finds a venue or a venue finds an artist that wants to participate.” 

However, an art walk is impossible for small towns, especially when they are scattered across more than 42,000 square kilometres of southwest Saskatchewan, Filthaut continued. This is unfortunate since there are “a huge amount of great artists” in the area. 

“Like the whole area, I’m saying there are many artists not well known, and art as a culture in Saskatchewan isn’t the highest thing on the list, either, so this is also a nice way to be promoting the arts,” he added.

This festival also helps address the issue of towns holding activities and their neighbours not knowing about them. This event ensures all municipalities are aware of what’s happening.

The CHGDA has a map on its website listing all 36 partners and the communities where they’re located. This is important, said Filthaut, since some tourists like to engage in “map quests” where they use Google maps to find lodgings and restaurants in communities and then visit those places. 

The organization’s area stretches from Leader in the northwest to Val Marie in the southeast. Although Swift Current is not included as a partner but is on Highway 1, the CHGDA approached art galleries in that community and convinced a few to participate in the festival. 

The festival provides a safe venue to tour, meet and discover art in southwest Saskatchewan in a COVID-19-safe environment, said Filthaut. That area of the province is also vast and diverse and features many kilometres of highway that pass through the sandhills, the grasslands, Cypress Hills and communities with great sights to discover.

The Cypress Hills Grasslands Destination Area spoke with Tourism Saskatchewan about this event, he continued, and while the government-run organization loved the idea, it was too late to support it due to uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. Yet, Tourism Saskatchewan said it might jump on board in 2022.

Even though the CHGDA could not obtain a provincial endorsement, the organization is still excited to host the month-long festival.

“We’re looking forward to it. Everybody I’ve talked with, including from the artistic side, they think it could be here for a long time. It’ll just grow … ,” added Filthaut. “Once you get on the map and do a show, it just builds. But somebody’s got to start it, and this is the start.”  

For more information, visit https://visitcypresshills.ca or the CHGDA Facebook page

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