Grace Among Us

021 - Healing with Grace through the Art of Kintsugi with Curtis Kotake

June 29, 2023 Carri Adcock and Ebony C. Gilbert Season 1 Episode 21
Grace Among Us
021 - Healing with Grace through the Art of Kintsugi with Curtis Kotake
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When we face life's trials and challenges, how can we find beauty in our brokenness? Curtis Kotake, an artist in the tradition of Kintsugi, joins us on Grace Among Us to share his insight and experience in embracing our scars and learning from them. With this unique craft, Curtis has not only found therapeutic benefits for himself, but also brought joy to others and gained recognition through the impact these bowls have made on many as they "ripple out". 

Diving into the world of Kintsugi, Curtis takes broken pieces and gracefully reassembles them into beautiful bowls, symbolizing our journey of growth and healing from life's struggles. We discuss the impact of COVID on his work and how he aspires to leave a lasting legacy through his art. Join us for this heartfelt conversation that will inspire you to discover the beauty in your own scars and experience the power of transformation.

If you'd like a bowl of your own...or one for a gift, please contact Curtis Kotake at 510-414-0800

We'd love to meet you in person! Come Join Us in Heaven's Net. A 3-day retreat March 13 - 15, 2024 - find out more by clicking HERE.

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Welcome to Grace Among Us, the podcast where we unearth the many faces and places of grace and share stories of the power of grace in our human lives. Our desire is that this will inspire you to see grace in your own life and share it with others.

Ebony Gilbert:

Good day, Carri Richard, I am Ebony Gilbert and we are here today to have an Guest podcast that we do bi-weekly. Today we are very fortunate to have a special guest, Curtis Kotake, who is joining us to tell us his story, and we think he is a super dope, super interesting guy. He's got a lot of experience with grace and we can't wait for you to hear from him. And this is somewhat of a continuation of our podcast. We did a couple of weeks ago, the earlier episode where we were talking about these bowls, these broken bowls put back together, and now we have the guy, the guy who's behind it - Mr. Curtis. Carri, I'll let you introduce yourself very briefly and then we'll move on and we'll get into our talk with Curtis.

Carri Richard:

Okay, awesome, awesome, thanks, Ebony. My name is Carri Richard. I am a mindset coach and I help people make space and enjoy the ride, and I get to spend a lot of great time with my dear friend Ebony talking about one of my favorite subjects, which is grace, and, as you said, we have hiding in the wings for those who watch the video. Actually, he's just on audio today, Mr. Curtis Kotake, and I'm holding Curtis, I'm sorry, I'm holding up your picture really quick, so those who are watching and yes, he makes these beautiful bowls in the method of and, Curtis, please tell me if I butcher this - in Kintsugi. And so I want to Curtis, I want to hand it over to you and I guess just begin if you can tell us how did this practice find you and maybe a little bit about the practice.

Curtis Kotake:

Okay, well, the way it found me is that I think I needed to be found. You know, like we all have, we've gone through some tough things in our life and when I found this craft, it resonated in me. And so I learned how to do it. It's not something new I created, it's something that has been around for centuries And but I really didn't know much about it. But then I learned, I saw something about it and I it resonated with me, it touched me and I thought you know, I can do this, and so I just learned how to do it. And I think you know, really it's just a craft, but I think what we've been through all these past years and what we've gone through in our lives, I just hit the perfect craft for this time and place and time, I think. And so you know my first bowls were failures, but you know it was a learning experience. I kept my first bowl, which ended up. I couldn't, it didn't come back together at all And I actually threw it in the garbage and I thought I don't know about this, and but then I ended up digging it out because I thought, "you know, I'll figure it out. And you know my technique has changed through the years. I've only been doing this a couple of years, but it's been per se a COVID project And I've given bowls out and I probably have made at least 500 bowls. Now I've kind of lost count, but you know there's not a shortage of people that benefit from it. So you know, that's pretty much it. Th e first bowl I gave was to a friend who had lost a brother, and it just kind of took off from there and they were really touched by it And I thought, you know, it's kind of nice to do something where it helps in the healing It doesn't heal, but it's nice to be part of it, and so anyway, that's pretty much how it began.

Carri Richard:

Awesome, awesome. I love, I love, Curtis, how you said that it really found you, and I guess my question - there was a piece where you said Kintsugi resonated with you And I'd love to hear a little bit about it for our listeners And what resonated for you , how did it catch you?

Curtis Kotake:

Well, I think the metaphor of being broken, and then, you know, embracing the scars of our life. And so when I put it back together, and then, you know, I put the gold on it, you know it makes the ball more beautiful, right, and so I think it's embracing our history, embracing the scars of our life and then actually becoming stronger because of it. I, you know, i had a couple good friends who passed away on some 10 years ago And it took me a long time. I don't know if I'm even over it now. You know, it's such a shock And you know it's just. It's just, it's nice for me to make something that brings actually joy to other people, and so it's therapeutic for me in the making. And so, you know, I think, like with you two, I mean that it's touched you. You know it's easy to understand the metaphor And so, and it's an easy thing to do really, but I just, like I said, I think I just hit something at the right time. You know, I've seen it on TV shows now, in fact, a customer today told me about there was a cartoon show for kids. It's called something Luna, and that was a little part in that. There was a part in Ted Lasso that I just saw a couple nights ago that referred to the Kintsugi Bowl, and it's like you know. I think I just hit something at the right time.

Carri Richard:

You're ahead of the curve, Curtis. I love that. Yeah. So I'm holding up the bowl, one of the bowls that you made. Ebony's got one too, and and this can you, can you talk about. You said it's, it's a couple thousand years old And like the concept. I'm going to keep it real simple, because the concept is like, not only the bowls get put back together, but where the break was, is actually decorated with gold. It's actually made more prominent than trying to be hidden, and so can you speak to that Like what the philosophy is behind this process.

Curtis Kotake:

Well, yes, yeah, that's. You know the scars of our life, how, how they shouldn't be hidden, and so my bowl it's in the tradition, traditional Kintsugi, you know, would be more flush to the bowl, where my beads, you can actually feel them. And I actually do that on purpose because I want, when you hold the bowl, you can feel where the breakage was, and you know that's. You know that's the whole thing as far as the brokenness in our life And then how we, it's part of our history and we go on, but we've become stronger because of it. And, I think, through all our trials and tribulations of our life, we've become stronger. If not, if anything, maybe through some of the things that we've gone through, we can actually help other people go through it as well. So you know, you know that's pretty much you know, part of the. you know the feelings of what I do. It's not a century old thing, it actually goes back to like the 15th century in. Japan. So it's really not that old, you know. But you know somebody had to start it and that's where it started.

Ebony Gilbert:

Curtis, can I ask you a question? When you decided to make the breaks, the flaws visible and not have it flush with the rest of the bowl, was that deliberate or did it accidentally occur? And you're like I like this, Let's make this a thing. Because I really that y ou can feel it in your hand.

Curtis Kotake:

When I, when I first started making them and stuff, um, um, the beads were even as prominent as they are now. I think you know I've changed through the years and I've actually, I've done it to where I you can feel the bead I, don't know, it's just, a way I do it. If you were to go online, you can look and, people do things differently. This is this is my method And it's just, like the bowls that you two have, maybe a couple years now, what I'll be doing is a little different. Maybe then, the technique that what you guys got, who's to say you know things change. You know, why I look at my bowls when I first started, like when I go visit my friends and stuff that I've given bowls to, and I look at them and it's amazing how much different it is now. So, but you know that's the metamorphosis of, of, you know, of change, right? I? mean we don't all do the same thing, for that's life, man, and so, but you know, it's been a project where, it's great, it makes me really, it makes me feel good, makes people that I give both to feel good and it makes people that I give both to who they give it to feel good. Like you know, ebony, you I'm sure you're happy to get your bowl from Carri, right, it's just, it's just an on it's, you know, because it's a way of telling people that I care. I think too, you know um you know, um, yeah, it's just. It's just a way of expression. I think that sometimes I think we're afraid to show And so, you know, you know I'm being older now. I'll be 65 this year, I feel a little more free to express myself to people.

Ebony Gilbert:

I love it And I'm part of that second category of someone buys your bowl and gives it to someone else. Carri gave me mine to your point and I was really touched And I received it at a time that I wasn't feeling very well, I felt a little broken, So it really really touched me in a deep way. And then I read the card that was in it and I'm not a very sentimental person when it comes to gifts, but I left it on my counter. It's on my counter and I wait for people to ask about it so I can tell them the story And then I watch how it changes them. So it's like this, it's like part of the dining room kitchen experience. Now I'm sitting at the counter. Pick up the Curtis bowl and let me talk to you about it. It's a talking point at this point. It's a whole conversation starter and I am so grateful to you and the evolution of how you make these bowls Because I think the way the bowl that I have was made I feel like it was specially designed to speak to what I was going through in life and the card I received it, Which sounds pretty ridiculously ridiculous.

Curtis Kotake:

No, no, no, no. Every bowl which I like is like raindrops. Every bowl is different, you know they may break similar, but I would say there's never been two bowls out of all the 500 I've done. Some break more, some break less, you know, but no two ever break the same. They may break similar the way I break them, but you know, part of the fun is when I break them, when I open up the towel. You know it's like what it looks like, because every time I break it, every time I break it and I hear it, i'm thinking, oh boy, this is going to be a lot. Sometimes it's not, sometimes it is, but then it's always a little challenge to put it back together. But you know, i'm pretty good at it now, but it does. It does spark conversation, which is good too. I have I golf and there's somebody in my club, the president of my club. He's a physician and he they go down to Southern California, him and the four or five other couples, and they were at a winery and they use the Kintsuki motif, I guess, on their label, and so that's our conversation within the group. So Randy, my golfing buddy, he ended up, I don't know, I think he got, you know, like to give to other people as well, like 10 bowls, you know, and because he wanted to give them away as Christmas gifts And it's like perfect, you know, you know, but you don't know. Remember that. But yeah, it's interesting how, where, the, where the bowls end up. I never thought I'm not an artist, i wouldn't say, but it's funny how I come across something, to where people will put it on their kitchen table. How many people can say that? And yeah, you know. You know, I look at my bowls. You know I have a workstation in my garage and then I have a workbench and I look at my bowls every single day, you know, just to see what I have the colors. I like variety. You know, I probably have as of now, you know, maybe 40, 45 bowls, and then I would say there might be six that are duplicates. Yeah, and so you know, the hunt is part of the fun of where I find, where I find them, and you know, you know so. I'm part of these I always feel like I'm part of the bowl history and it's like the ones that you have, it was part of my history now as part of your history, and then say in the future, you, you know, give to somebody else will be part of their history too, with you. And so I always tell people, if you do, you know, re-gift your bowl, you guys sign it, you sign the card, you know. So, yeah, I mean it's amazing how a bowl can have such meaning, but it's funny how it's kind of taken off as far you know what it's meant for me in the giving and stuff. And so I mean here I am talking you two, right, you know who would have thought?

Carri Richard:

Good, I'll go. It's so beautiful, Curtis. I love to hear the process and I love, like I can imagine you putting the bowl in the towel and like crushing it or dropping it or taking a hammer to it or whatever that process is, and it's like it's broken. It's broken, you have no idea what you're going to get, and it's then working and kind of like gracefully and gently putting it thoughtfully, putting it back together. Just like you know, grace thoughtfully puts us back together And it's such a connection point because I know my greatest connections, i know today I used to try to hide all the flaws, but the more I'm, I'm open to the flaws that I have. That's how I connect deeply with other people.

Curtis Kotake:

right

Carri Richard:

Yeah.

Curtis Kotake:

Right, you know I think, um, like I'm very in tune to when I hear the word broken. You know you hear things on the news and you know sometimes you'll hear where people say they're broken. I want to send them a bowl.

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Yeah.

Curtis Kotake:

When I hear of athletes going through, you know things and stuff I want to. You know I wish I knew how to send them a bowl. You know, anytime, you know I hear things or see things It's like and I wish I could gift them one. You know I, you know I've sent bowls to hospitals. I've heard there's one in particular and it was in Montana. It was during COVID at the beginning, and how stressed out nurses were And this one guy was male nurse and he was saying how broken he was. Well, I found out what, what hospital he worked at And so I sent him one. So, yeah, I mean you know. So when you hear the word broken, that may resonate in you. Now, when you hear people say that word, you know because of you know understanding the whole, you know embracing the brokenness and and you know brokenness isn't forever You know it becomes a scar and then and then you know we learn and grow from it and hopefully we become better because of it. So, yeah, it's amazing how philosophical I've become the older I've got. I know And one of the things too, i think with COVID you never knew if it was going to be when we got it I have comorbidity, high blood pressure and stuff. And I'm thinking I wanted something that was going to outlive me And I know, for some reason that touched me too, that it's like I have grandkids and stuff. But then I wanted something that when people see it, they'll think of me, so I'm not forgotten. And so, yeah, I mean it's just COVID, the isolation. I mean, shoot, all of that we've been through, to continue to go through with different things. And yeah, I mean I just wanted to be part of my legacy, i guess. And so, shoot, I just sent bowls to my friend's sister, to her cancer support group, and so, yeah, I think they're called bowls, and so for her to hand out and they were all. I didn't want to send two different bowls, but then I do have bowls that are similar in design, and so I thought I'm going to give her two of those. But the color inside the bowls are different, and so, even though the bowls inside were different, like they are, the exterior is what bonds them as far as, because it's all the same on the outside. And so I do a lot of thinking on what I do. Now. I know it's kind of weird. I mean, if you want to know me in my younger years, you'd be thinking, gosh, what happened to him?

Carri Richard:

Breaking all these bowls.

Curtis Kotake:

Yeah, i know, when I first told people that I break Bolz, it's like you do what? And then I explain it to them And then I think they first thought I was nuts. So I go, yeah, I've been breaking Bolz and stuff, and even that, even to this day I have a little ritual where I wash the Bolz, i actually talk into a and you are to become more beautiful, thank you for your sacrifice. And then after I wash it, I'll wrap it up in a towel and then I'll lay it on the floor and the garage in the towel And then I have a little hammer like a little sledgehammer, and then I'll whack it. And it's always weird to break something that's not broken. Even to this day, it's still hard to break something that's not broken. And but then once I put it together, and then it's like, well, you've got new life. Now you're going to be on a kitchen table, you're going to be on a bookshelf, first in a cabinet or something, maybe a candy dish, for all I know. And so if you look on the bottom of the card, it says for decorative use only, not for food. It's only because I gave this guy a bowl and the next thing, you know, he's telling me he's going to have his chow mein in it and fried rice And I go if I have to call him up immediately and say don't eat out of it, Howard, it's purely decorative. So that's why I put that little note. Yeah, yeah, my friend Howard, And so that's why I put that little thing. I don't want people thinking that you're going to have it for your soup Plus. I don't know if it's leak proof.

Carri Richard:

Well, hey, hey, Curtis, I know, just like you said, these are, these are a process that you do, you know over time, And so these are not mass produced. And I'm saying that because if there's somebody who's interested in getting a bowl, or maybe purchasing a couple for friends or gifts, how can they reach you?

Curtis Kotake:

Um, they can text me. You can give them my number. I'm not, i'm not that worried about that Okay.

Carri Richard:

We will you know, we'll post it in the notes, So okay for anybody listening or watching. We will give you all the information to get in touch with Curtis, and Ebony, how about you have any any more questions or?

Ebony Gilbert:

Well, first thing, I need like 20 of them.

Carri Richard:

Why don't you take that offline with Mr..

Ebony Gilbert:

Maybe 21 somewhere in the neighborhood. Secondly, this has been such a pleasure and you are so much cooler And I had you on pretty high pedestal Curtis but you're so much cooler than I could have ever imagined. You mentioned that you're not an artist and I would just argue against that. I collect, I collect art. Every wall in my house is covered in art. I see your bowl on the counter and nobody looks at my art. It comes straight to your bowl. So you are the biggest, greatest artist in my home and I am so grateful for it. I'm so thankful for being here today and explaining your process, and now I'm going to brag to all my friends that I've met you and you really are as cool as I say you are. Yeah, absolutely.

Curtis Kotake:

You're welcome. Thank you so much for the compliment. Like I said, I mean, you know, maybe it's a sparkling, shiny object, you know when you see the gold. But I think when you learn about it, then it's that whole, you know, because you know they're pretty good to look at. But then I think, like when I give the bowl away, of course I have the card. It explained it better than I could, I took that from the internet And but it's it's. I think once you read the card and I tell a lot of people, you know, i give them, you know to it as you give them a gift, and then it's like, well, read the card at your convenience. Don't read it like right now, because I think sometimes I think you need to sit down and then absorb it And, and that's a lot of then I don't hear for them from them later, you know, and what it means to them. And so I just, i just love that it touches people. I've always been kind of a sentimental guy And I love how it touches people And so you know, yeah, i might be doing this for the rest of my life.

Ebony Gilbert:

I love it.

Carri Richard:

Yeah, I do too. I got an order and putting in also, but we'll talk about it But, Curtis, I just want to thank you so much. I just want to celebrate how that you let it catch you, you let Kintsugi catch you and you followed your heart And, like you said, some of your bowls were failures and you just kept doing it And it is just. It's just such a gorgeous representation of, how beautiful we all are, flaws and all. So, we so appreciate you and thank you so much for coming on this show.

Curtis Kotake:

Well, thank you so much for having me And it's nice that I can, you know, spread the word on what I do. And then and now, you know, i'm sure that have you, i'm sure you've probably heard references to it, maybe in different media sources, i don't know But you become a lot more aware of when you see it and when you hear it. Now, absolutely Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, thank you, you're welcome. Okay, thank you.

Carri Richard:

All right.

Curtis Kotake:

I'm glad to put one. I'm glad I finally was able to get on.

Carri Richard:

Well, thank you for your patience.

Curtis Kotake:

Absolutely.

Carri Richard:

Great Ebony. Anything, any follow, any wrap up.

Ebony Gilbert:

There's beauty in the brokenness. There you go.

Carri Richard:

Yes, the glue of grace. All right, thank you everybody. See you next time. Okay, great job.

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Thank you so much for joining us. If you enjoyed this episode, please let us know. We love to hear from you and share it with a friend. Also, please be sure to subscribe so you're notified when a new episode is posted. We hope you're leaving with another pointer to grace, a new perspective that will light it up in your own life. Until next time, be well, be bold, be kind to yourself and be on the lookout.

Embracing the Scars
Kintsugi