Japanese Lacquer

An Overview
November 24, 2020
Japanese Lacquer

Lacquerware stands as being one of the most destinctive forms of Japanese beauty.


Lacquerware is usually made from Urushi, the sap of Urushi Trees, a close relative to poison oak. This tree is native to Japan, China, and Korea. A unique characteristic of this sap is that once it is exposed to moisture and air, the resin properties of the sap polymerize and harden, becoming a plastic-like substance. 



Tohru Matsuzaki, Tray, C16879


Colorants are added to this sap and objects, once coated with a thin layer of lacquer, is placed in a warm, humid, draft free cabinet to dry. Since high quality lacquer takes up to 30 coats, the production is time consuming and costly. 


Urushi lacquer technology was initially introduced from China to Korea where it made its way to Japan and the systematic process of lacquer application that we know today, is said to have been developed first in China. 


As Japanese culture developed, lacquer began to be used in bowls, plates, trays, sake cups, boxes, etc. 



Tohru Matsuzaki, Stackable Tray


Urushi is oftentimes used in Japanese Haute cuisines.


Shinya Yamamura, Circular Pattern Box, C14724


Lacquer techniques such as maki-e and mother of pearl inlay are commonly used to decorate furniture, makeup accessories, toys, and others. 


Tohru Matsuzaki, Lacquer Furniture


Today, lacquerware in Japan is not limited to only ornamental objects but also furniture, tableware, and functional ware.


East Asian Lacquerware Techniques 

Soyo and Shodo Yamagishi, Flower Lacquer Box


Carved Lacquer

This method involves carving the layers of lacquer into a 3D design.



Kodai Ujiie, Celadon and Lacquer Flower Vase, C20809


Filled in

Decoration in which lacquer is inlaid with lacquer of another color.




General term for japanese lacquer decoration in which gold or silver powder is sprinkled over still-damp lacquer. 


Jihei Murase, Negoro Incense Container, C17033



Thick lacquer is applied repeatedly in certain areas to build up a design, then additional colors are added and polished down for various color variations. 


Tohru Matsuzaki, Ellipsoidal Box, C12488


Tohru Matsuzaki Box, 


All these and more are available on Ippodo Gallery's website. For more information or suggestions, please email us! 

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