Traditional Culture of Japan - Portal site of traditional crafts and culture

Lacquerware decorations with the “urushie” technique


Most of lacquerware are colored in vermillion or black. But, some lacquerware are beautifully adorned with decorations.


Among the decorating techniques, “makie”, which uses powdered gold or silver, and “raden”, which uses rainbow colored shells, are both well known. It might not be as gorgeous as these techniques, but there is also another decorating technique called “urushie”, which attracts us with its use of vivid colors. Urushie is also the oldest decorating technique.



The urushie technique
Other than black and vermillion, lacquer has other colors such as yellow and blue. Colored lacquer is created by mixing pigments (colored minerals) with lacquer, and a desired color is prepared for each purpose.


Contrary to paint, lacquer has to be prepared for each use. If lacquer is stored by itself, it will not have any problems even if it is left for hundreds of years. However, if stored for long periods of time after coloring ingredients are added to lacquer, the quality will become poor. Thus, you cannot obtain colored lacquer just like paint.


Also, lacquer has its unique drying method, so it cannot be dried at once. In order to create vivid colored lacquer, each coating has to be applied in phases.


After drawing a picture with the colored lacquer, translucent lacquer is coated and then polished before urushie is completed.


Urushie might look plain compared to “makie”, which uses powdered gold, or “raden”, which has the luster of rainbow color. Because of this, urushie was less likely to be considered as a work of art that people of rank in the upper social classes especially appreciated.


Instead, urushie was much popular than luxurious makie or raden among ordinary people. Because urushie is not too fancy, people started using urushie lacquerware as dinnerware. But, there are also some fine urushie items out there. In the same way that beautiful paintings attract people, urushie with its full colors is very interesting to see.


There are also a number of items that combine urushie with other techniques such as makie or raden. Adding a few different decorating techniques can express the work of art in a more colorful way.


The differences between urushie and mitsudae
Contrary to drawing a picture with lacquer, the technique to draw a picture on lacquerware with a mixture of oil and pigments is called “mitsudae”. There are a few differences between urushie and mitsudae.


First of all, the color white cannot be produced through lacquer. Natural lacquer is brownish, so it turns out to be a cream color even when a completely white pigment is mixed. Thus, white lacquer made from natural lacquer cannot express a sparkling white color. This is where mitsudae, which uses oil instead of lacquer, is used. The color of white is clearly expressed in mitsudae.


So, urushie and mitsudae use different materials, lacquer or oil respectively. Also, these techniques are different in a way that one can express the color white and the other cannot. Urushie and mitsudae are slightly different although they appear to be alike.

 Sponsored Link

  Site Map