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Goin’ Japanesque!

Maki-e: A Traditional Technique with Marvelous Freedom of Expression

What do you think of this knife? Doesn’t it have an alluring style all of its own? The sheath of the knife has been decorated with a technique called maki-e. So you’re probably asking yourself, “That’s nice, but what does it mean?” Or maybe you’re wondering what kind of products get the maki-e treatment. We’ll be answering those sorts of questions today, and by the end we’re sure you’ll be wanting a maki-e item yourself! Ref: Photo

 

What is Maki-e?

蒔絵

makie-lacquerware
The luxurious gloss and quality of a lacquered item

In essence, maki-e is a lacquering technique where lacquer is used to draw a picture (“e”) or pattern. Before it dries, fine gold or silver powder is dusted (“maki-”) on top of the damp lacquer. The powder is then fixed in place to create the design.

 

The Virtues of Urushi Lacquer

Indispensible as one of the painted coatings of Japan, lacquer (called “urushi” in Japanese) is a resin derived from plant sources, and there’s a good chance that if someone asked you to think of a typically Japanese item, you’d be imagining a piece of urushi lacquerware.

  1. Environmentally-friendly: As a naturally-derived product, urushi is both easy on the planet and on us humans, too.

  2. Distinctive elegance: Unadulterated by artificial chemicals, this lacquer has a uniquely pleasant texture and gloss. The gloss deepens with use, creating its characteristic aura of luxury.

  3. Excellent adhesion: The nature of the process prevents the metallic power used for the maki-e from coming off.

  4. Incredibly long-lasting: Once hardened, urushi lacquer is remarkably resistant to a variety of environmental factors, including heat, acids, and erosion from alkali substances and chemicals. It is also water- and rust-proof, making urushi lacquerware a purchase for a lifetime.

  5. Repairable and restorable: The lacquering process involves countless coatings, so even if the color fades or peels, the afflicting area can simply be recoated to restore the item to a brand-new state. Already durable by nature, this pushes urushi lacquerware into the realm of the truly long-lasting. Temples and shrines built hundreds of years in the past are quite often repaired and maintained using layers upon layers of lacquer coating.

  6. Depth of artistic expression: Urushi lacquer takes time to dry, and during this period the creator can add various designs and features to this flexible, moldable material. This allows an artisan to make a truly one-of-a-kind item unlike anything else in the world.

 

Japanese Goods Featuring Maki-e

Chopsticks

makie-chopsticks
http://www.ryuuha-wajima.net/

Related: 13 Need-to-know Basics of Chopstick Etiquette for Japanese Restaurants

Inro Cases

makie-inro

Related: Netsuke: Indispensable Item for Edo Kimono Fashion

Kanzashi

makie-kanzashi
http://kogaku-makie.sakura.ne.jp/

Related: Kanzashi: A Hair Ornament Vital to Kimono and Apprentice Geisha & Maiko

Fountain Pens

makie-fountain-pen
http://www.platinum-pen.co.jp/

Japanese Knives

makie-japanese-knives2
http://sabae.org/staff/

Related:
How Japanese Knives are Made and the Secret to Their Sharpness
Asakusa’s Kappabashi—Three Shops for the Best Japanese Kitchen Knives

Chests of Drawers

makie-tansu
http://www.its-iwayado.jp/

Related: Sendai Tansu: Must-see when Combined with Japanese Food!

Seals

makie-inkan

Related: Types of Japanese Hanko Stamp: Why You Should Guard Your Seal with Your Life!

There’s something undeniably Japanese about the aura of these items, isn’t there? Each one is an example of maki-e decoration. Currently, we’re in the process of preparing a delivery service that’ll bring the goods of Japan right to your home country, so if there’s something here that caught you eye, please be sure to message us!

Related: Decorative Patterning in Swords, Armor, and More: The Art of Japanese Inlay

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