Kintsugi and La Leche League


Ellen Mateer, Calderdale, La Leche League Great Britain

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with a special lacquer mixed with powdered gold or silver.  In Japanese “Kin” means gold and “tsugi” means “put together” or “mend.”  Japanese aesthetics embrace flaws and imperfections in objects. The technique of kintsugi renders the history of an object visible—cracks and repairs are highlighted in gold or silver, and the process usually results in something even more beautiful than the original.

I was recently reminded of the art of kintsugi when I broke my favourite cup. While I was wondering whether I could get the arrangement of pieces right, I began to think that the idea and practice of kintsugi could be relevant to La Leche League (LLL).

Every day Leaders across the world give support and information, offer new possibilities and, in many cases, literally change lives. Our organisation is functional and wonderful. As with any large organisation, the families we help know nothing of how our organisation works behind the scenes. However, as Leaders, we may be aware of imperfections. An international charity made up of 6000 volunteers living in different time zones, speaking different languages, practising different cultural traditions, is bound to have disagreements or rifts. We need to find ways to bring any fractured parts together, recognising changes to be made while honouring our history, enabling us all to support even more mothers, parents and babies into the future. We don’t need our cracks and blemishes to be disguised or hidden. Like the golden lacquer in kintsugi, let them be tended to and become part of LLL’s story. When broken parts are fixed with care, the resulting object may be more beautiful than it was originally. I think LLL is beautiful and can be more so as we continue our work towards a united organisation.

Ellen Mateer lives with her partner and three children (16,14 and 10) in West Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. She is La Leche League Great Britain’s Administrative Director and Website Coordinator, and when she is not working for LLL, she works with an intergenerational community theatre group and enjoys any time she can manage in her garden.