Beauty beyond repair: Bangkok artisan fixes broken mugs and more the ‘kintsugi’ way

Bangkok kintsugi artist Chayanan “Toon” Anantawatchakorn
Bangkok kintsugi artist Chayanan “Toon” Anantawatchakorn

Accidentally broke a fancy tea pot or beloved Linkin Park coffee mug? One could super glue them pieces together like ceramic Frankenstein or make them whole with a Japanese tradition that is art, craft and philosophy.

Kintsugi (golden repair) will fill in missing bits and bind cracked pieces with gold lacquer for a gorgeous result that elevates the imperfections rather than tries to hide them. In Bangkok, one need not fuss with shipping broken items to the Land of the Rising Sun but rather take them behind a popular downtown soapy massage parlor. 

By day, Chayanan “Toon” Anantawatchakorn manages an outcall, no-happy-endings massage service. After hours, he takes up the tools of Kintsugi, practicing them as a side hustle for the past four years in his townhouse located behind big box brothel Sor. Botan on Rama VI Road. 

He said his journey began a year earlier when he broke a beloved Japanese seiji (celadon) plate in his collection.

“I didn’t want to have a panic attack for the rest of my life whenever I wanted to use it,” he said. 

He couldn’t find anyone locally to fix it, and the dish wasn’t worth enough to send to Japan for repair.

So he rolled up his sleeves, fired up YouTube and set out to learn Kintsugi.

“My family is Chinese, so we drink tea ritually, and I personally love to collect plates and ceramic works. It made so much sense for me to learn how to repair them,” he said.

Despite never receiving any formal training, 30-year-old Chayanan’s trial and error approach learned online and in books led him to turn his talent into a business. He credits in part his longtime interest in painting and background as an architecture student at Chulalongkorn University.

The Japanese Seiji celadon plate he broke in 2016 that began his journey to Kintsugi. Chayanan first tried the method using Thai gold dust. Photo: Coconuts
The Japanese Seiji celadon plate he broke in 2016 that began his journey to Kintsugi. Chayanan first tried the method using Thai gold dust. Photo: Coconuts

On the fifth floor of his home, his Fix by Love studio has welcomed shattered crockery from around the kingdom. He’s fixed everything from expensive clay teapots and sculptures to, yes, someone’s cherished Linkin Park mug. Three year ago, however, Chayanan felt especially honored when he was hired to restore a 600-year-old heirloom celadon bowl that had been passed down through many generations since the Sukhothai era. It had just a little crack, but that spoke out the whole philosophy behind this Japanese technique.

“Japanese spirituality views imperfection as beauty, and used things should be respected because they give you joy. Kintsugi is all about fixing things that are valuable and meaningful to someone,” he said. “Chinese people love perfection based on their ancient history of making 100 of the same pots then picking out only a perfect few and destroying the rest. Thais got that influence and will mostly throw things out once they break.” 

As the process is time consuming (six weeks or more, in most cases) and the fine gold dust must be imported, the cost for repair starts at THB750 and can be as steep as THB10,000 depending on the size and extent of damage. Customers must contact Chayanan via Facebook or email for consultation before walking in or delivering packages to his place.

Some mugs, cups and teapots Chayanan was working on. Photo: Coconuts
Some mugs, cups and teapots Chayanan was working on. Photo: Coconuts
A 600 year-old heirloom bowl from the Sukhothai period that Chayanan repaired in 2018. Photo: Courtesy.
A 600 year-old heirloom bowl from the Sukhothai period that Chayanan repaired in 2018. Photo: Courtesy.

FIND IT:

FIX by LOVE Kintsugi Thai

Rama XI Road, Pathumwan

fixbylovebykintsugithai@gmail.com

Read more stories from Coconuts Bangkok here

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