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Kintsugi: The Restorative Art of Naoko Fukumaru 

“Timeless Magic,” 2023 Taisho era (1912 -1926). Black Raku ware, Urushi lacquer, 24K gold, and resin. Photo by Naoko Fukumaru.

Portland Japanese Garden is thrilled to feature Kintsugi: The Restorative Art of Naoko Fukumaru in our Pavilion and Calvin and Mayho Tanabe Galleries this fall. Kintsugi is an ancient method of mending damaged ceramics using urushi (natural lacquer) dusted with powdered gold. This type of mending highlights the beauty of imperfections, rather than trying to hide them. This timely exhibition will explore universally resonant themes of healing through the artwork of kintsugi artist and master conservator Naoko Fukumaru.

“Ocean Scars,” 2019 Sea Urchins, Urushi lacquer, calcium carbonate, resin, and 24K gold. 2019, Naoko Fukumaru.

From Naoko Fukumaru

“I visited Portland Japanese Garden in November 2022. I was drawn in by each element of the landscape, which brought up nostalgic childhood memories of my grandparents taking me to various Japanese gardens in Kyoto. Moss carpets created spaces of deep tranquility and transcendent beauty; water flowing through the rocks of the creek symbolized the flow of life; and skillfully pruned pine trees were stylized structures that lent each of the specimens its own personality. I was fascinated by the authenticity and magic of Portland Japanese Garden. At the end of my visit, I realized that care and love are the main ingredients of this place. It was unmistakable that staff, volunteers, visitors, and all who were involved in this Garden, were giving so much love, care, passion, and pride here. This truly resonates with my kintsugi artwork. Kintsugi is a 500-year-old art form of mending damaged ceramics with urushi, natural lacquer, dusted with powdered gold. This method of mending is seen as enhancing the beauty and value of objects by celebrating their imperfection and impermanence. This approach is the opposite of traditional Western ceramic restoration, in which the damage to the work is sought to be hidden, which I studied and practiced for 25 years.”

Artist Naoko Fukumaru applying a layer of urushi lacquer to achieve a smooth surface of the broken joins as part of the kintsugi method of mending. Photo by Naoko Fukumaru.
Naoko Fukumaru in the process of creating her artwork. Photo by Naoko Fukumaru.