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Kintsugi Tea Set

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Watch the making of the Kintsugi Tea Set

“As a word-smith, I’m gratified (and relieved) that the people I worked with felt able to turn to words at times of great stress and pain. As a human being, I’m delighted that some were able to turn to their own words. I’m so proud of all their contributions to Ursula’s beautiful piece. More importantly, I hope they are proud of themselves.” Damian Gorman

In late 2021, the MAC hosted a series of creative writing workshops facilitated by acclaimed writer, Damian Gorman.

Workshop participants were people with a passion for writing but no formal training. Some of the MAC’s partner organisations – Action Mental Health, Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR), and The Rainbow Project, as well as the charity Quaker Cottage, recruited the writers to the project.

The group explored the concept of Kintsugi (golden repair) – the Japanese art of joining broken pottery into something new and beautiful. As a philosophy, it treats brokenness and repair as part of the authentic history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

The group as individuals were asked to write down one phrase or sentence which had actually helped them in a time of struggle. That could be a line from a song; from scripture; a bit of advice from a friend, or some words which they’d generated within themselves. The important thing was that the phrase had been useful - and that a gathering of such phrases might be of use to other people.

The sentences have been incorporated into a sculptural piece created by artist Ursula Burke who used the concept and technique of Kintsugi in her piece.

Ursula said of the piece, “The Kintsugi Tea Set was made in response to the thought-provoking and sensitive text work led by Damian Gorman. These groups used the written word to explore writing as a form of expression or a vehicle to explore thoughts around mental health.

The tea set is made from porcelain and is created using a slip cast process. On the surface of the tea set the lines of text from the group participants is handwritten. Over the text a golden lustre is painted recreating the Japanese art of Kintsugi which is the practice of putting broken pieces of pottery back together with gold – highlighting and embracing the flaws and imperfections, creating an even stronger more beautiful piece. On the teapot lid two birds are perched, in conversation. In gold, each is wearing a cape and mask; a metaphor for the superhuman task it can take to be engaging in the world with mental health issues. On each saucer a Hokusai wave is hand-drawn, amplifying the tumult of the storm which finds grace and hope at the end of the teacup where the aperture to an ocean view opens up.”

Ursula’s piece is currently on display in the Display Cabinet by the MAC’s Saint Anne’s Square Entrance. The video accompanying the piece is comprised of timelapse footage of the creation of the tea set by Ursula, with additional imagery from Ciaran Bagnall, who edited the video, and a soundscape composed by Katie Richardson. Click above to watch the video.

Meet the Creative Team

Damian Gorman

Damian Gorman is a writer and encourager of writing in other people. He is a poet, playwright, and a Fellow of the Oxford Initiative for Global Ethics and Human Rights. He is currently working on two productions for Derry’s Playhouse Theatre.

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