Kintsugi is a centuries old Japanese artisanal tradition of fixing broken cups, plates, and other pottery and ceramics by putting the pieces back together with lacquered powdered gold. In not attempting to hide the process but by emphasizing the imperfections themselves, this ancient craft is fascinating not only aesthetically, but philosophically. You can be damaged, but also more experienced, weathered – beautiful – as a result.

Flawed perfume Kintsugi, by Italian niche house Masque Milano, a rich vanilla Siam Benzoin with patchouli, amber, and a magnetic heart of violet leaf and suede, is a melange of warm, aromatic melancholy – a little too heavy and tangy perhaps- a full dose or big bottle might prove a little wearing – but I enjoy the scent’s general atmosphere, and will use it. Binding, and surrounding, If Zoologist’s Nightingale is Plum, this is coffee: soothing and invigorating. (Unfortunately, ‘magnolia’ is the ‘gilded glint’ in the broken pottery here – one of my very least favourite notes in perfumery : I am not overly fond even of the scent of the unreplicable flowers to begin with: in Kintsugi, the floral note is a creamy citric ‘brightness’ that is mercifully shortlived, until the main, habit-formingly accord comes into fruition.)

Strangely, and completely coincidentally (I was going to write something about this perfume yesterday but got swept up in the significance of the day), a piece in this morning’s international edition of The New York Times also discusses kintsugi, its metaphor very relevant to the current time we are going through. Writer Emily Esfahani Smith has some very interesting points to make about how we can reshape ourselves following this last year, whether by falling into negativity and ‘contamination’ – a path I have been in danger of following myself – or a more positive one of redemption. She also discusses psychology studies on the value of writing, on self-expression, even of our darkest experiences, as a tool to ‘opening up’ ourselves – and moving forward.


Filed under Flowers

13 responses to “KINTSUGI by MASQUE MILANO (2019)

  1. Robin

    Just the right metaphor for all this. Life. I’m so glad you posted this, Neil. It’s the way I want to look at things now. To put the pieces back together careful, deliberately, with something precious to highlight exactly where the breaks were, honouring them, with more eventual beauty than the original, the whole.

    And the Leonard Cohen thing, too. You know, about cracks.

    Kintsugi’s atmosphere, generally, does sound good. It might be a bit much, but I like the idea of those components all together.

    • The ending is a little on the ‘general niche oud’ tip – even that ingredient isn’t listed – but I am in quite a patchouli-aromatic mood at present, and I LOVE the violet-patchouli combo in general. If you ever come across a sample somewhere, it might be worth ordering. There is a specific atmosphere to this that appeals right now.

      And yes. It is interesting the idea of ‘putting the pieces back carefully’ – I think the article expresses all of that very well. I am not personally in that shape right now though – I am more like an exhausted cloth that just needs to sit still and rehydrate. Did you read my thing the other day about the Madagascan jasmine on the balcony? I literally just sat for about 5 hours doing nothing. There is even a Japanese term for it – mushin, I think it is called – a kind of emptying out of the mind or just a pure state of being.

      • Robin

        Can’t access that memory of you on the balcony, but I know all about sitting somewhere for hours just being. I remember once being at our property on Saturna Island here on the west coast in the summertime, sitting on an old bench on a bluff above the ocean, nothing but sun-bleached wild grass and a single arbutus tree around me, watching its shadow move across the ground. I don’t know if I was there for five hours, but it must have been at least three. I was in some kind of state of rapture, still and yet with all my senses heightened. I remember the sensations, that time, vividly even though not a damn thing happened: in one way, there’s nothing at all to remember, but it is a rich memory. I wish I’d had some Madagascan jasmine with me.

      • Robin

        I did not see this?! How could I have missed it? Oh, Neil, I’m so glad I mentioned not remembering, so you could link your post and lead me to it.

        This was so beautiful at the end that I got a little choked up. I love your writing so much, and your perspective just as much. I feel like nephew and auntie, somehow, some positively genetic, cellular closeness in how we respond to things. Your balcony, staying there through the night after the incredible news, the sense of freedom and hope and release and oneness again, openness. Peace, for that time anyway. My god.

        I was with you all the way with your reactions to your colleagues’ reactions. I’m not into othering (I’m afraid of upsetting the easily offended), but man oh man, what a different culture, a different lens through which the world is seen. Here, we’re like you, just having ecstatic public meltdowns at the prospect of being fully vaccinated. It’s a shared euphoria, a sense of triumph: see, you goddam virus and your goddam variants, WE WIN. High fives all around. And gratitude for science and for our federal and provincial governments for ultra-fast-tracking the shots, getting the system up and running and the shots moving through at speed. Did I tell you I got my second shot exactly 8 weeks after the first? No time wasted. Ping, little email in my inbox, C’mon in to your friendly neighbourhood pharmacy tomorrow at your convenience and have a happy lil’ top up, Robin.

        High five to you, too, man.

      • Thanks babe.

        I am going to go to the vaccination site in tropical colours as well. Just about to wash my clothes in Robert Piguet Bandit silkening shower creme. x

  2. Tora

    I sometimes feel that I am broken pottery, wishing for the strength or desire to put things back together. I love the idea and art of Kintsugi. I love how lovingly and carefully the pieces are reformed most beautifully. As soon as I saw the first image of the gold mended pottery, it struck a chord of familiarity and need in my heart. So much has fallen apart this past year. It has been so easy to just lay broken. Thank you so much for this piece, Neil. This idea of fixing the broken with delicacy and beauty is an idea I need to hold on to.

    • That’s what I thought as well. It is simple, but actually very profound. I had heard of this before, in passing, but then when I received the perfume sample I looked into it a bit more, and then serendipitously there was an article on it the same day I put up the piece.

      I am glad it struck a chord with you, Tora. May we all start to mend from now. I personally have high hopes for Christmas and New Year – I think it is going to be a blast. At the same time, as Robin said, and as the article suggests, in a way we need to move slowly, because it has been genuinely traumatic for everyone in a variety of ways. It needs to be a cathartic rebuilding, while acknowledging the transforming aspects of the experience – which I think the powdered gold fault lines beautifully represent. x

  3. Nancysg

    I have been a fan of Masque Milano and when I saw the advertising campaign for Kintsugi I nearly bought it blind. The concept was so intriguing and I had no idea it existed.

    • The concept is great, but I wonder whether much of it is expressed in the perfume itself beyond a general vaguely doleful aspect – I like the mix of ingredients but it isn’t quite delicate enough.

      I am intrigued by the brand though so would like to know more about other scents you might recommend from them.

      • Nancysg

        I have several bottles. He,I gray is a perhaps harsh green vetiver, but I enjoy wearing it. Romanza is a bright narcissus L’attessa is a softer Iris that I liked but found too similar to others I own to buy. Russian Tea is a wonderful smoky tea. tango is liked by a lot of people also….a spicy amber. As you;can tell, I really enjoy the line.

  4. Nancysg

    Hemingway is the vetiver scent. For some reason I am unable to see my comments as I type them, due to some glitch in WordPress. Sorry about all the typos.

  5. I have always loved the process of kintsugi and have felt it on a personal level, so this artivle touched a chord. I have always taken the broken and shattered pieces of myself ans my memories and enrobed them in gold and repositioned them back in place. No throwing things away, no clearing out the past, just fixing things properly.
    The fragrance does sound interesting, but am unsure of the magnolia note. It is a not that tends to always smell artificial and a bit shrieky, so I am not fond of it in compositions. I would probably give it a sniff though, Masque Milano tends to do a nice job with their fragrances.

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