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Creating color lacquer by refining through the “Kurome” and “Nayashi” processes


The liquid that is tapped from cutting a lacquer tree to bleed is the source of lacquer. But, this lacquer in liquid state will not be used in this condition. There are many steps to go through before it can be used in practice. Among these steps, the “kurome” process, which removes the excess moisture content out of lacquer, and the “nayashi” process, which is performed to bring out a luster, are particularly important.


Also, after this refining work, sometimes a process to add colors to the lacquer is performed. In order to bring out the black or vermillion sheen in lacquerware, extra time and effort will be required so that appropriate colors are brought out properly.


Tasks in the “kurome” and “nayashi” processes
The sap of lacquer that is just collected is called “arami”. At this stage, the lacquer is gray-brown in color and includes some impurities. These impurities need to be removed.


So, the sap will be filtered to remove the impurities. The lacquer, free from impurities after this process, is called “ki-urushi”.


Subsequently, excess moisture content in ki-urushi will be removed. By removing the moisture content, it adds the thickness to lacquer. In earlier times, they used to expose lacquer to direct sunlight to remove the moisture content, but it was an inefficient method. Today, the moisture content is extracted by using heating wires.


This process is called “kurome”. When “kurome” is performed, lacquer turns its color from gray-brown to semi-translucent brownish-red.


Also, when extracting the moisture content, the lacquer will be stirred at the same time so that a luster will appear in the lacquer. This agitation work is called “nayashi”.


In other words, the moisture extracting work, “kurome”, and the agitation work, “nayashi”, are performed simultaneously. By taking sufficient time to perform this work, it turns into a high-quality lacquer.


Adding colors to lacquer
There are many lacquerware with a vermillion or black luster. Lacquer turns to brownish-red after refining. Then, minerals are added to give vermillion or black color to the lacquer.


Black substances are mixed in order to create black lacquer. For example, when you burn pine trees, you will get black soot. Mixing this soot into lacquer produces black lacquer. However, today, fine iron is added to create black lacquer.


Similarly, when making vermillion lacquer, as the source of vermillion, dye is added to lacquer. Mercury sulfate or iron oxide is used for the dye.


Lacquerware in traditional crafts is mainly black lacquer and vermillion lacquer. However, other than these two colors, there are other colors available including yellow, indigo, green, a total of seven colors. These types of colors are created by adding pigment to the lacquer.



Note that the step to give color to lacquer needs to be done when you actually apply the lacquer. Colored lacquer cannot be stored in a tube like paint.


If lacquer is stored by itself, the same condition will be preserved for thousands of years. However, if stored for long periods of time after color ingredients are added, the characteristics of lacquer will alter and have problems such as not being able to dry. Therefore, when adding color to lacquer, it has to be mixed for each use.


By the way, the characteristics of lacquer varies according to the country. The lacquer collected in Japan is brownish-red, but the one collected in Thailand is a black rubber-like substance. Because of this, if the lacquer of Thailand is used, you can use it as black lacquer without adding any special pigment.

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