Urushi is not commonly heard of in these here parts. When I say that I mean the western world. It is part of an ancient craft from Japan (possibly 9,000 – 12,000 years old), and throughout Asia. The more common name is “lacquer ware.” Ah, now maybe some of you have heard of it?
No, not the cheap plastic rip-offs you find in your local Asian retail store It’s a craft that takes months to make one piece. That is, if done to true Urushi form.
This is perfection. Japanese respect the art of patience, and as my friend says when I get flustered, “You must have Urushi patience.” It’s true. Each piece is unique and each piece takes a really, really, really, long time to make. It can be very spiritual to work in a craft. Like when I play my guitar and how I am calmed by that period that I’m immersed in this form of art.
As I’ve written before, I love so much of Asian culture. So, I’ve decided to write a little on what my friend works with in her job. I respect how much she loves this craft. It is truly beautiful, and it’s amazing how many ways it can be used.
She represents a group of artisans and craftsmen in the Ishikawa Prefecture in Yamanaka, Japan. The family has been making Urushi for over 900 years. The craft is passed down from parent to child and onward. Feel free to visit their website, Okadaya Shikki Co., Ltd.
Also, there is the Facebook site that is maintained to discuss their products.
Let’s share a little of the history of Urushi. I’ll just link you to this Toki site if you want to read a more in-depth piece on the history of Urushi, or even this Japan Info site. They both cover the history and knowledge of making Urushi very well. I’ve read quite a few (maybe 10) sites on the history of Urushi and so these are truly the best ones I think are out there.
But, I’m not writing about the history or technique. I’m writing about how it makes me feel. Yes, how I feel about Urushi.
When I see Urushi it makes me stand in awe that someone actually formed such a beautiful and durable piece of art. I can use it for traditional reasons like I need a cup for my tea or sake, or a bowl for my rice or Miso soup. I can use it for a beautiful pen to write with, or the peripherals
on my office desk. It can wrap my phone in a lovely cover, or it can sit as a piece of art in my room. It’s gorgeous and lovely.
My own knowledge is that it is probably the most durable of resins made by squeezing the sap of trees that only grow in Asia, the Toxicodendron vernicifluum (rhus vernicifera).
What is produced from these trees will make your jaw drop because it’s amazing.
Don’t get me started on the Maki-e (the process of using real gold and silver flakes to decorate).
They have pens that sell in the hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the painstakingly precision based process and gold used to make them. It boggles my mind.
All are lovely pieces of art that you carry with you.
Overall, this is a respected art form from many major museums.
It’s part of the vast Japanese history from the Jomon period (@14,000 to 300 BCE) and then used by royalty and given great respect during the Edo period (@1603-1868) of Japan, traveling to the Netherlands with the Dutch East Indian Trading company. Many European royal families kept pieces of original Urushi that you can probably find today in their own respective museums.
To find real Urushi products is to hold history and art in your hand. And so, I do respect that my dear friend works in this world of Urushi… despite her talking to me about it non-stop and for very long periods of time. 😀 Haha
I do love the way it looks – vibrant and rich, beautiful and gorgeous.
I’ll leave you with probably the first YouTube video I watched while investigating the background of Urushi. It was made by the Getty Museum. It’s definitely an interesting little documentary that you might enjoy on this beautiful afternoon.
It’s pretty cool, right? Good day and good searching! 😉