The Beauty of Imperfection

“Sometimes I think of this phenomenon, jokingly, as the “wabi-sabi industrial complex.” In 2015, Yoko Ono partnered with the Italian coffee company Illy to release a series of espresso cups with faux-kintsugi lines, each cup commemorating an event she found shattering. One carries the date of John Lennon’s murder in her handwriting, another recalls the bombing of Dresden during World War II. You can now buy kintsugi-style coffee mugs and water bottles, kintsugi diaries, throw pillows with a faux-ceramic-and-gold design, and cheap kintsugi kits that come with little cups you can break yourself. These industrially produced versions of an aesthetic founded in uniqueness seem good symbols for how the self-help industry works, especially in North America. Culturally specific ideas are commodified, reduced to a catchy name and a portable technique for self-improvement. Think Hygge, Lagom, Ikigai, and almost anything on how the French purportedly live their lives.”

The Los Angeles Review of Books, August 2021