Many of us have favorite items around the house, be it a chair, old dresser, picture frame, something we infuse with meaning either because it was passed down to us through generations, or because through use and the natural passage of time it acquires its own air of sentimentality.
Priya Sarukkai Chabria (Pune, India) wrote about such an item in her contribution of a poem, which you can read in its entirety by navigating the interactive map (by name on the scrolling bar to the left, or by region by zooming in on the map itself). Priya’s poem “Blue Vase” tells the story of an heirloom that carries within it the complexities of family life, which often reveal themselves over the years as we look back – either with fondness or regret, or a bit of both – to times that otherwise passed by as nothing more than ordinary.
What is especially interesting about the blue vase is that the item itself has had multiple functions – first as a typical vase, always glimpsed around the house out of the corner of the eye, and second as a lamp stand featuring a hole in its base, changing its function permanently. The hole in this case was intentional, bored into the base by its owner, a way to change the purpose of the object and in this way to make it something other than its original design. Even so, its new life as a lamp stand was temporary, relegated eventually to a corner of the closet until recently when its owner “decided to retrieve and reuse it. Not as ruined lamp stand, but as vase again, as when we were a family.” The desire to repair the hole in the vase and literally to make “whole” again, reminds Priya of “kintsugi or golden joinery, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery that highlights breakage by filling in the cracks with gold or silver dust so that neither its past as shards nor its mending is disguised; rather fragility and resilience are simultaneously on display.” Kintsugi does not seek to erase or eliminate what is damaged or broken, to lay claim that it never existed. Instead it seeks to highlight and celebrate imperfection, certainly of itself, and in doing so serves as a mirror onto our own lives – difficult, far from perfect, infinitely complex and full of things beyond immediate control. Kintsugi offers old items new life, it gives the broken a chance to feel whole again – as it applies to life, it helps to heal past wounds, personal or familial, it restores and reinstates into consciousness the value of what we might otherwise take for granted.
Here we highlight featured stories from the archive, contributions by fellow writers and artists, as well as reflections and comments on the value and impact of discarded objects in our world.