The Beauty of Use

For about fifteen years of my life, I bought and sold vintage furniture, mostly Modern and institutional pieces.  I took some of them to my refinishers in the Los Angeles area to have them completely restored but many were sold after only cleaning and minor repairs.  Occasionally clients would object to the scratches and wear from decades of use to which I would respond:  "Perhaps vintage furniture is not for you.  The wear is evidence of its service, merit and the longevity of its utility".  In most cases, the customer would acknowledge the charms of wear from this new perspective and take the piece home with them.  Of course, some remained skeptical.

George Nakashima affectionately called the accumulation of scratches and wear "Kevinizing" after his son Kevin saying:  "There is nothing quite so uninteresting as a shining unmarred surface that looks like it were never used." 

And of course the Japanese have taken it to the next level, cherishing that which is not only worn but broken and repaired.  Like many important concepts in craft and philosophy, they have a word for it..

Kintsugi (金継ぎ?, きんつぎ, "golden joinery"), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い?, きんつくろい, "golden repair"),[1] is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered goldsilver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique.[2][3][4] As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

 Ceramic piece repaired with Kintsugi technique

Ceramic piece repaired with Kintsugi technique

 

Utility stands squarely at the intersection of Craft and Modernism.  Many products are enthusiastically made with the most sincere of intentions only to end up in a landfill before they show even the slightest evidence of use.  So what is wear really but evidence of virtue and service?  I'll take the scratched one thank you very much.