21/06/2017

Exhibition Notice—Takashi Shinohara



Takashi Shinohara Exhibition—New pieces of Suzu Ware from the Noto Peninsular

5th Floor Gallery, Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Department Store, Tokyo
Open from 10:30-19:30 Wednesday 21st June to Tuesday 27th June

珠洲焼 篠原敬展
6/21(水)~27(火)
日本橋三越本店 本館5階 Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi 10301930
今年の新作をご覧いただけたら幸いです。
Photo Copyright © Takashi Shinohara


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11/06/2017

Exhibition Notice—Funa Asobi Gallery


Funa Asobi Gallery—Porcelain by Kenji Nishida


Friday 23rd June to Sunday 2nd July—Kenji will be at the venue on Friday 23rd June

Kenji gained vast experience at a wheel producing the body for pieces of porcelain while working at the Kutani kiln.  He has also produced slab built pieces, boxes and more delicate items as well.  HIs work is special in that it allows flowers in a vase or food on a dish to look their best, without stealing the showa harmonious ensemble.  The fine pieces on show are likely to take us on a new uncharted path of excellence.





Photo Copyright Funa Asobi Gallery

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04/06/2017

For a Monk




A Nest of Bowls


Sadly Japan’s resurrection from the ashes of war was in fact spurred on by further conflict beyond its shores.  First came the Korean War when Tokyo became a Rest and Recreation venue for troops.  The Ryukyu Islands as a whole remained under US occupation until 1972 while the rest of the country built for the future.

Vietnam was ravaged by war and Japan once again benefited indirectly from the fighting and made further strides along the path to total recover.

During these times industrial development in Japan gathered pace.  It was, however, a time when the quality of goods being turned out by some firms was poor.  ‘Made in Japan’ became a motto of distain.  But things changed.  Nowadays it is difficult to believe just how vehemently many Japanese products were scorned.  ‘Made in Japan’ is now a mark of quality recognised around the globe.

This transition, however, was more or less confined to industrially manufactured goods.  But what of the crafts?

It is easy to forget that Japan has such a long and strong heritage in the production of top quality craft items, which are either repeatables or one-off masterpieces.  In many cases they are household items in daily use.

This is true of this nest of bowls named Oryoki.  They have been produced in Wajima for many years, with the same attention to detail, precision and respect that we see abundantly evident in Japan’s industrially manufactured goods available today.

Forming part of the daily routine of a Zen monk, the shape and style of these bowls has changed little over the years.  Their use and the orderly life style of the monks can surely be attributed with having influenced the way that a large proportion of the Japanese now conduct theirs lives.  It is doubtlessly part of their national character— but difficult to deny or prove.

Zelkova is the wood of choice now as was likely in the past.  The turned and lacquered bowls are robust and treated with respect can be used without repair for many, many years.  In fact, being made to Wajima’s exacting standards, these bowls can be repaired if needs be and subsequently handed on from master to novice.

Although the demand for these bowls has now fallen, in the past considerable numbers were made and carried back home with monks who had completed their training at temples such as Sojiji Temple in Monzen.  In this way the robust nature of Wajima lacquerware became known, recognised and respected throughout the country.

The degree of design excellence, attention to detail and design solutions evident in many craft items, too, have certainly influenced industrial designers at work today.  The successes of the past have become part of their DNA, as much unconscious as conscious and something we could all perhaps learn from.


For more information on the Oryoki nest of bowls, please access https://terebess.hu/zen/szoto/oryoki.html.  Also, there are design parallels with the Box of Stacking Trays produced by Wajima Kirimoto Woodcraft featured in the post on A Box of Trays published on 05/05/2017.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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19/05/2017

Exhibition Notice—Funa Asobi Gallery



Funa Asobi Gallery—Cut Glass by Toshiyasu Nakamura

Friday 2nd June to Sunday 11th June 2017


After leaving the Toyama City Institute of Glass Art located on the northwestern coast of Japan, Toshiyasu further honed his skills in glass but now mainly works with cut glass.  The softness of the cut edges and surfaces draw us into a kaleidoscopic world.  In this exhibit, however, his work in clear glass creates a different see-through world to delight us.








05/05/2017

A Box of Trays



Pure Design—Wajima Kirimoto Woodcraft
The craft scene in Japan is multi-faceted.  There are heroic examples of studio craft.  There are folk crafts.  There are fine traditional crafts representing repeated and well tried formulas to create very beautiful pieces of tableware that not only grace people’s tables at home but also find their way into eateries both lowly and highly exclusive.  It is something special about Japan.

To have a venerable heritage of craftsmanship that is still thriving and accessible in the twenty-first century is exceptional. It is a valuable reference point for craft items made today.  It is the super-speed and interconnected electronic world we live in today that gives as access to all this.  A resource to be respected.

To have ancient skills available is certainly not to be scoffed at.  Add to this a design sense that has been years if not millennia in the making and what do we have?  A piece of modern design with a heritage.  A piece of design with an inherent sense of custom coupled with a ritual and ceremonial observance of practice.

An eminent example of such a piece of work is this box of stacking trays.  It was made in the workshop of Kirimoto Woodcraft.  The clarity of its lines and overall design has much to do with the fact that Taiichi Kirimoto is himself a grandee of this kind of craftwork—a trained designer with inherited woodworking skill.

Made of asunaro, a type of cypress native to Japan and adored on the Noto peninsula, the box houses trays of various depths on which to serve food.  Presented at a function in Paris earlier this year, the plain wood is finished with a material which enhances the qualities of the timber while preserving its natural aroma.  Just two of the trays are finished with vermillion true lacquer using the simplest of apply-and-wipe technique that has been handed down for centuries.

Taiichi Kirimoto second from the left.
This beautiful item is representative of what the Japanese do so well—a combination of the past with the present, while providing a highly functional solution of compact storage.  There is nothing self-conscious, nothing awkward.  It is just pure design.

Kirimoto Woodcraft Photo © Copyright

A video presentation in French and Japanese on the Kasane bako—A box of stacking trays:

Other posts on Taiichi Kirimoto can be found in from Noto at Wajima Kirimoto Woodcraft Workshop, posted 25/10/2016 and 2016 Snapshot 18 Learning from the Ancients, posted 13/10/2016.

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21/04/2017

A Japanese Garden?


Unintentional but beautiful
The western seaboard of the Noto Peninsula facing the Japan Sea is rugged.  The weather too can be rough and stormy.  In complete contrast, the eastern coastline of the peninsula faces water that resembles a lake.  This is especially true of those sections edging the rim of Nanao Bay.  But what of the interior of this long narrow peninsular.

Taking Route 37 from the east the road is flanked by deeply forested hills and mountains on either side and the only communities are rural hamlets.  Shallow stepped paddies and farmhouses fashion and accentuate the rural character of the route over which a pastoral calm has settled.

The road swings to the left and to the right like a flat rollercoaster but all is so tranquil the ride resembles a session of meditation more than any theme park thrill.  And then, completely unexpectedly, a quarry comes into view.  What’s this?  Of course it is not a “Japanese garden” but framed by the camera it could so easily be taken as one.

Small chipped stones form a perfect heap.  It is lower but easily as good as those at the Komowake Ikazuchi Shrine in Kyoto.  Are those misty profiles of mountains in the background?  A piece of borrowed landscape?  There was no intention for it to be so.  There was no will to create a “garden”.  Nevertheless, this dry stone landscape has the power to delight the eye and stimulate the mind.

Further along Route 37 a small hospitality station sports a shop and conveniences.  A cherished cat with a cute collar stands guard.  Welcome to Shunran no Sato, the Boat Orchid village.

All too soon the road is out of the forests.  Although having reached the western edge of the peninsula and the civilisation that is Wajima, remembered scenes of idilic beauty still float before the eyes with a dreamlike quality.  Was there really a Japanese garden in the mountains?  I must go back sometime just to make sure.  Fortunately such an excursion would never be the same.  It would be a new experience.




Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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14/04/2017

2017 Funa Asobi Spring Show

Funa Asobi Gallery Spring Show
Saturday 29th April to Sunday 7th May

Tastefully displayed in a traditional Japanese building, this show is a chance to experience craftwork so quintessentially Japanese in spirit and form.

Ceramics, glass, woodwork, textiles, small items of leatherwork, bentwood and basketry will be on show by a number of makers, some of whom are exhibiting at the gallery for the first time.


Spring is definitely in the air.


珠洲で今シーズン初企画になります。陶磁器・ガラス・木工・染織・革小物・まげわっぱ・籠etc 日本の美しいもの・こと・人に出会える場所となればと、日本家屋の中に作品をしつらえます。 今回は、新しい作家さんも加わり、春らしく作品を楽しめる空間をつくりたいと思います。






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07/04/2017

Back-story


A Kettle and a Teapot
I acquired this kettle when I was living in Japan and the teapot on a more recent visit.  Why did I want them?  I wanted them first and foremost for their appearance, workmanship and attention to detail.  I knew nothing of their back-stories and frankly that did not matter to me.  I was most interested in their forms, lines, high level of craftsmanship and materials—all aesthetic features.

I first saw one of the Nitto kettles sitting on top of a paraffin stove in a large canteen style restaurant.  This facility had very little “class” to report but was functional.  I don’t remember clearly now but I think it was either at a train station or a ferry port.  A bare freshly scrubbed and still moist concrete floor supported a collection of light weight metal chairs with either dull red or green plastic upholstery placed on either side of equally spartan tables with shinny metal bands around their tops.  Similarly, they were either covered with some kind of dull red manmade material that was heavily worn while others, equally shabby, were in the green—the signature colours of the establishment.

The large kettle on the stove was easily the best designed object in the whole place.  It was a beacon of quality.  The sight of it remained with me for some time until I spotted this 15 litre version in a builder’s merchant and was subsequently given it on my 50th birthday—my wife never understood why I wanted it.

Later I did see the same type of kettle in various sizes in a catalogue, ranging from the biggest down to one which almost looked like something from a doll’s tea set.  They were all exactly the same shape but lacked the spoon shaped lid to go over the spout and the bamboo whipping on the handle.  Actually I am not sure if it is bamboo.  It might be rattan.

It is made of aluminium, which is not the most exciting material.  Nevertheless, I found the kettle very appealing and have always seen it as a piece of design worthy of display, despite the fact that it has an obvious function and use.


An internet search has revealed very little except that Nitto, the maker, produces a number of kettles in various shapes and sizes.  Vintage examples of my 15 litre version are available on auction sites labelled “Showa vintage kettle” referring to the era of the previous Emperor, whose reign lasted from 1926 to 1989.

The teapot is newer.  It was purchased at the Ippodo tea store in Kyoto about six years ago.  Once again the urge to buy it was spontaneous.  It was love at first sight and that feeling was re-enforced the moment I picked it up.  Apart from its aesthetic features it seemed positively functional, too.

It was made in Tokoname, one of Japan’s six ancient kilns.  But is that important?  Does it really matter that it is a product with a very long heritage and was handmade by an extremely skill craftsperson?

Many Japanese have an accumulated knowledge of such things and some will purchase traditional items of repeatable craft in the same way they might buy branded goods like Burberry or Yves Saint Laurent.

It seems that the French and Germans place more value on knowing how something is made and its history.  The British on the whole are nonplussed.

I realise now that after I purchased the teapot my passively acquired knowledge of such unglazed pottery was enough to prompt me to wash it and to thoroughly dry it after use.  The teapot came with its own list of do’s and don’ts.  They actually specifically state meticulous care needs to be taken to dry every part of the teapot and especially the inside.  If not, mould may grow on the unglazed surfaces.  Great care was taken in the making of the strainer, a work of art in its own right.


I, however, was more than happy to buy the teapot while still being ignorant of the history of Tokoname ware and its delicate nature.  Yes, I may be an exception but I am ready to admit that knowing something of the background of this item adds colour and depth to its story.  It is an added value.

Such considerations are particularly important in the case of lacquerware.  Sadly, however, it often seems to me that the high price of a piece is being justified through the back-story—how many hours it took to make, the precious nature of true lacquer and other things besides.  Perhaps it is necessary.  Who knows.  I still maintain the notion that if a piece of craftwork is good enough and it appeals to the right buyer, it is the way it looks and functions that will sell it, not its back-story.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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31/03/2017

2017 April, Exhibition Notice—Haruko Yamashita

An Exhibition of Work by
Haruko Yamashita
“The Power of Sculpture— Artist’s Thoughts on Public Art”
Gallery A and B, Shiinoki Cultural Centre, Kanazawa


Friday 14th April to Sunday 23rd April 2017

Haruko Yamashita has worked on many pieces of public art for sites all over Ishikawa Prefecture as well as for locations overseas.  The exhibition includes information panels describing her thoughts and aspirations behind her work, some of which was made in Egypt for display at public facilities and elsewhere.  The show also provides and opportunity to see some of her work in metal—a new departure for Yamashita.

Some pieces related to her work in stone are available for purchase.
This exhibition was organised by the Funa Asobi Gallery.


山下晴子彫刻展 「彫刻の力」
金沢市のしいのき迎賓館ギャリーA・B


4月14日(金)― 4月23日(日)


舟あそびが企画し、彫刻展を金沢のしいのき迎賓館で開催いたします。 海外をはじめ、石川県に多くのパブリックアートの彫刻作品を手掛ける、山下晴子さんの展覧会です。 エジプトでの制作や公共施設などに設置された作品に、どんな思いを込めて取り組んだのか、作家の 思いをパネルでご紹介いたします。それと合わせて、これまでの石彫を関連作品ごとに分け展示、販売 いたします。また新たな試みとして制作された、鉄の彫刻作品もご覧頂けたらと思います。 

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2017 April, Exhibition Notice—Takashi Shinohara

Exhibition of Work by Noto Potter
Takashi Shinohara

Kintetsu Department Store, Abeno Harukas Tennoji, Osaka
11th Floor Art Gallery


Wednesday 12th April to Tuesday 18th April 2017
10 am to 8 pm.

This is a good opportunity to see examples of a pottery which originated in Oku Noto on the Noto Peninsula.  It was lost but its rediscovery was in no small part the result of work done by Takashi Shinohara and others dedicated to raising the profile of this distinctively black ware—elegant pieces of pottery with a dignity all their own displaying the “happy accidents” of a wood fired kiln.

珠洲焼 篠原敬 作陶展
4/12(水)4/18(火)
あべのハルカス近鉄本店タワー館 11階 アートギャラリー
午前10:002000

奥能登で生まれ現代によみがえった優美で気品あふれる自然釉・灰被り・火襷などの

焼しめ黒陶の数々をぜひこの機会にご覧くださいませ。





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20/03/2017

The Challenge

The shore near Wajima is rugged and the sea looks clean.  But is it?
The Challenge—Ocean Rescue
Mankind's current ignoble attitude toward the oceans, our scandalous waste of resources and poor efforts to recycle materials properly may well be our downfall.

Far too many product wrappers, for example, bear the tag “Not currently recyclable.”  So why is their use allowed?  

Coupled with such concerns, the horrifying increase in poaching and the rise in the number of animals and other creatures as well as plants on the endangered list is also very worrying.  The abuse of our plant and all that abide on it should not and cannot be tolerated any longer.

It is difficult not to get angry about such subjects.  What is really needed is a clear, focused holistic approach that is coordinated on a global scale.

What does this have to do with the Noto Peninsula?

During the day the fishing harbour is crowded with boats.
As the peninsula’s main city, Wajima is one of the many communities along the Japan Sea coast with a thriving fishing harbour.

There is no denying that the seas around Japan are bountiful.  And there can be few countries as dependant as Japan is on the harvesting of the riches of the oceans both deep and distant as well as shallow and near.  But the situation is probably changing much faster than we are aware.

No doubt very tasty but how much plastic have these beautiful fish inadvertently consumed?
Plastic is everywhere.  But one place it should not be is in the oceans and seas of the world.  Microbeads of plastic are finding their way into the marine life we eat and there are now a considerable number of beaches around the world that only consist of large and small pieces of plastic.  Even plastic fibres from clothing are now being cited as polluting the sea.

Expanded polystyrene trays—light and good for keeping a catch cool.  But it is difficult to recycle.  I wonder if the blue wrapper is recycled?
Plastic of course is not the only material endangering our oceans.  Chemicals and so much more is finding its way into the oceans of our Blue Planet.

We cannot and must not shrink from the challenge.

An attractive assemblage but what damage is it doing?
For more information on plastic in the oceans go to Sky Ocean Rescue:

And Greenpeace:

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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03/03/2017

A Play of Light and Shade


The start of this play of light and shadow…….
CameraObscura
On the morning of 16th February this year,  the sun rose from its usual winter hiding place quite a few degrees to the south of its mean position in the eastern sky.  



Sometime after rising, the sun emerged above a nearby hill and its rays found a way through various pieces of foliage and squeezed through the narrowest of gaps between the frame of the living room’s French window and the door into the hall.

….and the end as the last vestige of light faded.
Essentially speaking the house became a camera obscura although not in the purist sense.  A true camera obscura would project an inverted image of the outside into a dark room, in exactly the way that a camera and the eye works.

It was by chance that I took notice of the shadows that were being projected onto a bare wall of the hall.  Standing in the way of the morning light were the newel post and banister of the stairs.  As the sun rose and moved westward, the shadows changed and developed across the wall—light and shadow, both intense and vague, sharp and soft for the best part of twenty-five minutes.

At Fukushoji temple the floor was spotlit….
Since observing this pageant, I was reminded of the patterns of light I had the pleasure of seeing when I visited Fukushoji temple on the Noto peninsula.

That day the shadows lit up the floor.  This was inevitable as the elevation of the sun in June in Japan is of course very high.  Even in the middle of February in the UK, however, the sun traces a very shallow path across the sky and hence the way my hall wall was lit up.

….and the screen work described.
It is only really when something interrupts light that we notice what is happening.  Without light there are no shadows.  Without shadows we are not really aware of light.  We must be thankful for both.

Check this site to know more about a camera obscura:


Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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20/02/2017

Utility Art

This fire hydrant cover in Wajima displays a characteristic brevity that is common in Japanese design.
 A Very Japanese Art and Attitude
It was not long after arriving in Japan in 1976 that I began to notice various manhole covers and other utility service hatches.  They were not simply patterned nor did they have any simple wording claiming their purpose.  Gradually more and more were to appear wherever I went in Japan and the Noto peninsula is no exception.  In fact, the few that I came across while I was there in 2015 are relatively simple and a good deal more utilitarian that those that can be found on the Net.  Enjoy!

No colour but still a masterly rendering of cherry for a water supply hatch in Monzen in the southern part of the Noto peninsula.
In Kanazawa even a lowly drain hatch is beautifully adorned.
A plane and simple cast metal hatch sports a rendering of waves in Togi-machi.
To see more of this utilitarian art go to:


Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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11/02/2017

Lacquerware—Commentary and Impressions Eight

The tumbler is turned zelkova wood and the three small saké cup are made of a type of oak called nara.  In both cases the apply-and-wipe lacquer finish has enhanced the grain to great advantage.
Lacquerware All-sorts Eight—Apply and Wipe
This series of posts continues with a brief look at lacquerware, which has been very simply finished.

The aim of this series of posts on lacquering techniques in Japan, has firstly been to showcase some of the diversities which exist and then to comment on their appearance and special features.

As we have seen, for example, Wajima lacquerware begins with a primer and ground followed by a number of applications of lacquer, culminating in decorative effects to complete what is both a robust and eminently good looking piece of decorated tableware.

Without a doubt, however, the simplest and therefore perhaps one of the most ancient ways of using true lacquer is simply to apply it directly to a lightly primed wooden carcass.  Essentially speaking, this apply-and-wipe technique makes the wood more durable and resistant to most liquids, while still allowing the grain to remain visible and enhanced in appearance.

In Japanese this technique is called either suri-urushi or fuki-urushi.  Respectively the first refers to the application of lacquer with a spatula or stiffish brush, to force the lacquer into the pores of the wood.  And then the latter expression refers to wiping up remaining surface lacquer with an absorbent paper or a cloth, preferably one which is lint-free.  The lacquer is then cured in controlled conditions of humidity—about 80%—and temperature—25˚C.  Usually after at least 24 hours the hard surface can be rubbed down either with an appropriate grit of sandpaper or a scouring pad to provide a key for another application of lacquer.

This collection of coasters and small dishes were turned and lacquered by Yasuhiro Satake.  Several coats of lacquer have served to protect the wood and to enhance the grain.   Combined with the way each one has been turned, the number of coasts and the resulting depth of colour of the lacquer has helped to give each one character.
In some cases this whole process is repeated as many as twenty times, in order to achieve a desired effect and depth of colour.  Generally speaking, the more applications there are darkens the finish but this can also depend on the artificial or natural curing conditions when lacquering.  Old lacquer may also produce a darker finish.

Given that raw lacquer is coloured and not particularly transparent, it might seem as though this technique is somewhat limited.  Nevertheless the colour and grain of the wood and the way it has been tooled can also influence the final appearance of a piece.

This is part of the complex grain of a piece of zelkova wood, a member of the elm family.  The colour is natural.
The finer idiosyncrasies of the way in which true lacquer curers need not scare off anyone from using this simple apply-and-wipe method.  It is more a case of dedication and perseverance to see what can be achieved.  But remember, some people are allergic to true lacquer and it should not be ingested.

I maintain that true lacquer can be used to great effect even on particle board, which is sometimes called chip board.  True lacquer has the power to greatly improve the appearance of what is a very ordinary material.  You cannot hide mistakes however.  Mind you, the colour of lacquer is a little restrictive but there is no reason why pigments should not be added to the true lacquer out of a tube and used in this simplest of all lacquering techniques.  Apply and wipe—try and see!

The wood of this chest drawer front is zelkova finished using an apply-and- wipe technique.  The mythical animal is made of copper which has been coated with true lacquer and warmed, allowed to harden and then buffed.  This was made by Fujisato Woodcraft in the north of Japan.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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03/02/2017

Lacquerware—Commentary and Impressions Seven

The lid of this box looks like a forest floor littered with pine needles.
 Lacquerware All-sorts Seven—Sparkling, Alluring, Strong—Wakasa Lacquerware
So many pieces of Wakasa lacquerware are breathtaking.

While not being in the slightest bit gaudy, the surface decorations are complex, tasteful and alluring as well as intriguing and timeless.

While many of the items used in a tea ceremony do not demand attention, the natsume—tea caddy for the bright green powdered tea—strikes an air of magical splendour.  Just imagine how much it would glitter in the subdued light of a tearoom.
Just as in the way that a camera can capture in closeup the glittering drops of dew clinging to blades of grass on a misty morning, the overall effect of this ware is often one of natural beauty.

Sadly I do not own any Wakasa lacquerware—very expensive.  Photographing pieces is the closest I have come to the ware.

Although the finished effect is stunning, the techniques are relatively simple while still requiring great skill and more that a little patience.

Such materials as small chips of eggshell, mother-of-pearl, pine needles, rapeseeds and small leaf sprigs of Japanese cypress are used to produce multilayered decorative effects, which rely heavily on the properties of natural lacquer.

Is this lid a reflection of a starlit sky or a beach exposed by a receding wave?
Archeological evidence tells us that in ancient times lacquer was used as an adhesive and later became a coating.  It also has distinctive physical properties—a viscosity unlike that of paint and hardens under controlled levels of humidity and temperature.  It can also be polished and buffed to produce a glass-like quality and brilliance.

Explanation of the decorative techniques used are far more complicated than space allows or warrants here.  So, simply speaking, the adhesive properties of lacquer are utilised to stick pieces of eggshell or mother-of-pearl to a prepared surface before more lacquer, polishing and even more lacquer is applied.


Placing “foreign bodies” such as pine needles or rapeseed on wet lacquer inhibits the hardening of the lacquer under them.  While the blank areas of a design harden, the lacquer under such foreign bodies remains tacky.  The lacquer around the negative spaces appears to cling to the areas from which pine needles or rapeseeds have been removed.  Ultimately this produces an effect of shallow relief that is sometimes expressed by the use of gold powder colour.

Given that some pieces may take a year to produce, the high price of Wakasa lacquerware is inevitable.  Having an enduring beauty and toughness, however, makes it something to be treasured as it was, is now and hopefully will be in the future.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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