"Urushi(Japanese wood lacquer)" is a natural paint material
which is gathered and refined from Urushi trees, which can mainly
be found in Asia. Since the dawn of history, we commonly used
wooden and earthen vessels coated with "Urushi" until
we began to import porcelain from China. The techniques to decorate
furniture and tableware, "MAKIE(Gold -lacquer work)"which
is stuck powdered gold/silver or gold/silver leaf and "RADEN(Mother-of-pearl
work)" , which is stuck sliced shells by using "Urushi",
are well known as traditional craft works of Japan.
Lacquered "Urushi" has a uniquely pure beautiful shine,
profoundly serene colors and gentle warmth of touch. Japanese
have a particular affection for them and hold them in high esteem
due to their unique ability to convey the richness of Japan's
cultural heritage. In Japan, recently many artists consider "Urushi"
an expressive medium of their own images other than that of more
traditional practical uses like clay works and fiber art. They
are discovering a new realm of "Urushi-work".
1) PROTECTIVE - Urushi is a liquid that can be applied to just
about any surface wood, metal, cloth, ceramics, etc. When it solidifies,
it becomes a very hard coating that waterproofs and protects the
coated object from the effects of mold, mildew, and other forms
of weathering. It also provides protection against caustic substances,
such as acids. Only direct and prolonged exposure to sunlight
will cause urushi to deteriorate. Urushi's hardness and durability
make it an excellent protective coating for any object required
to be preserved and used continually over a long period of time.
2) ADHESIVE - The first use of urushi was as an adhesive. Stone
age people first used it in the making of spears and arrows. They
discovered that pointed stone, or metal could be bound to wooden
shafts using urushi. Today, its adhesive property is used to connect
object pieces and to attach decorations using metal leaf, powder,
3) FORM AND SHAPE - By adding clay powder to thicken it, urushi
can be shaped into decorative objects.Cloth is also given form
and shape by coating it with rice glue-urushi mixture.
4) DECORATION - Urushi resin can be dyed black, red, brown, or
yellow. Gold leaf, or powder is used to decorate objects. In addition,
various types of shell inlay work is done to enhance the beauty
of objects. Especially in Japan, the decorative power of urushi
has become an important aspect of its artistic culture.
June 2003/Kenji Toki
For far more elaborate
description with its history, click here.
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