What Makes Japanese Lacquerware So Special?
Japanese lacquerware is a broad term for a range of products made from Japanese lacquer or urushi. This comes from the sap of the urushi tree, poisonous in its liquid form, combined with bits of metal and shell. Lacquer is used in a huge variety of art forms and objects, including paintings, prints, statues, pottery and crockery. Given its dangerous production process, Japanese lacquerware must be produced by skilled and dedicated experts with a steady hand and many years of experience.
Techniques in the Production of Japanese Lacquerware
Japanese lacquer comes in a range of forms. There are various special techniques for producing different pieces and creating different effects, including:
Ikkanbari or haruniki – this process involves the application of layers of lacquer onto paper moulds. Invented in the 17th century, the technique is used in the production of various teawares.
Iro-urushi – literally translated as colour lacquer, this process involves adding pigment into clear lacquer. Originally, only a few colours were available (red, black, brown green and yellow). During the 19th century, innovations in the production process and the introduction of artificial pigments from the West allowed for a more extensive choice of colours.
Shunkei-nuri – believed to be developed by a 14th century monk, this style involved using clear lacquer, allowing the natural appearance of the wood underneath to show through.
Alongside these different techniques, there are also regional variations in the ways in which Japanese lacquerware is produced. Some of these include:
- Etching various designs or images onto the lacquerware and then filling in the spaces with gold or other materials.
- Using multiple coatings (in some cases up to eight) in order to make the products more durable, then adding stylish coloured and metallic decorations.
- Using cores of bamboo and then adding various pigments to the lacquer, occasionally accentuating this with gold and other precious materials.
- Using wood that is stained in one or two colours, then coated with transparent lacquer. This method is one of the simpler ones, and gives an affordable but attractive finish.
Japanese Lacquerware Products in Modern Society
Because Japanese lacquerware is so unique, it can impart a striking and eye-catching dimension to any room. For example, displaying a lacquerware jewellery box will give a touch of eastern charm and style, as well as being a great way to show off your jewellery.
Japanese bowls are another great example of decorative but functional lacquerware. They are perfect for serving food at a dinner party and provide a great talking point. Ideal for use as part of a traditional tableware set or to stand out as a focus piece, a Japanese bowl will add an element of eastern style to any table. Even if you don’t want to use it to serve food, it will look equally at home on your mantelpiece filled with pot pourri, or simply placed in your display cabinet for decorative effect.
The Japanese Shop has a gorgeous selection of Japanese lacquerware for sale, including lacquer boxes, bowls and much more. Visit our website to view the full range and order online for fast delivery and great prices.