My interest in lacquerware has hit quite a high, investigating the different methods is highly interesting as it’s something that’s totally new to me. Us folk in Europe haven’t really experienced this sort of craft before, it’s not something that’s readily available and easy to find. Although I’ve touched upon the general concept I’ve not really explained about the lacquer and its background. Real Japanese lacquer is actually an organic substance made from the sap of the urushi tree. Firstly the sap is collected by scratching the tree and then it is refined and aged, the origins of lacquer stem from its qualities when hardened, it’s highly protective and repels water, it also prevents the bowl or object from rotting. Although I’ve mainly seen wooden pieces I’ve heard that leather and paper are also traditionally used, even ceramics, glass, metal, and plastic can be coated with urushi.
To be honest there’s a wide array of methods when applying and decorating with lacquer, not to mention the different lacquers and their qualities. For example Hida Shunkei lacquer became famous for providing utensils of timeless beauty and simplicity for the tea ceremony, Odawara lacquer brings out the natural beauty of a wood’s grain. There are lots of others from different prefectures and areas as well. One place that I’ve been learning a lot is a youtube page run by Mr Maki Fushimi, a talented artist in Japan who documents all of his work on video, it’s very soothing and zen like watching him apply the lacquer and work on his objects, sometimes he even uploads up to 56 stages for one specific project. This relates to the amount of steps that it takes to create a piece, pretty crazy when you think about it. He makes a variety of things so I’d highly recommend heading that way to watch a few, you’ll be entranced for many hours.
Today I’m bringing across a selection of work by another talented lacquer artist that goes by the name of Noboru Akagi Akira, these are slightly different but just as intriguing. At the age of 18 Noboru started studying the Japanese tea ceremony and was interested by the different objects used throughout and their functionality, this led him into lacquerware in which he started making and experimenting. Unbelievably he was a magazine editor in Tokyo before becoming a craftsman of lacquer, but has now moved to Wajima, a 20 minute drive away, where he lives with his wife sustainably and happily. The pieces seen above and below are featured in an exhibition that recently took place at Gallery SU in Tokyo, named the “Lacquer Casket” exhibition. Although quite unusual these objects represent lonely stones sitting on the beach, something which Noboru seems to have been experimenting with for a while now. He’s created all sorts of small stone like objects that can be opened and closed to store things in, really quirky and creative.
Hopefully you enjoy this selection of imagery and if you’re looking to find out more then why not browse his website on the link below. Although it’s quite hard to find his work on there you can discover some hiding if you look hard enough, it gives you a little treasure hunt for the day. Enjoy.