Let's delve into the beautiful,
intricate work of Lacquerware
The term lacquer originates from the Portuguese word "lac", which is a resin that certain insects expel (more about this below)
|In China, |
lacquer mixed with powdered cinnabar is used to create
traditional red lacquerware.
a varnish that dried by solvent evaporation and often a curing process and the end result is a hard, durable finish, in any sheen level from ultra matte to high gloss. When you hear the word "lacquer paint", it usually means a paint that dries to a more than usually hard and smooth surface".
Lacquerware refers to the application to wood, metal and other surfaces, some involving carving into deep coatings of layers of lacquer. It is quick-drying The lacquer formulas vary and have changed over time, but generally are durable and glossy. Some believe it was invented in both India and China, yet there are debates it's roots are in Iran and even Japan. There are two distinct types of creating lacquer: one taken from the sap of a Rhus tree and other from an excretion from an insect - a red dye extracted from the insect, and later what was left of the insect was used for lacquering objects. In the tree version it's important to note the tree must be 10 years old at least before using to bleed the resin.In terms of modern products, lac-based varnishes are referred to as shellac, while lacquer refers to other polymers dissolved in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as nitrocellulose, and later acrylic compounds dissolved in lacquer thinner, a mixture of several solvents typically containing butyl acetate and xylene or toluene. While both lacquer and shellac are traditional finishes, lacquer is more durable than shellac".
Important to note when looking at lacquer finishes:
Urushiol-based lacquers differ from most other lacquers in that they are slow-drying, water based, and dry by oxidation, rather than by evaporation. To set properly it requires humidity and warm temperature.
|a modern lacquer finish - nods to the antique varieties|
As I look at these exquisite designs, I giggle to myself and cannot help but think of the rough children's school projects of my youth of decoupaging art and photography to preserve it under a thick shiny glue substance. But, this ancient technique was much more of a high art form and it was time-consuming and expensive, therefore lacquerware was highly coveted and pricey and often only seen in the most refined homes.
photograph from Wikipedia - Ming era lacquerware from 16th Century China
After the 10th century, various techniques developed such as the inlaying of different materials like mother-of-pearl in the Song Dynasty. The Chinese also worked with inlaid ivory, jade, coral and abalone. The Chinese methods spread to Korea, Japan, and Southeast and each country put their own spin on this beautiful art form. The Japanese made popular the gold and silver foil inlays of the Nara period. The lacquer substance is often colored by adding iron oxide and will turn either red or black, explaining the popularity of both of these colors in many historic lacquer pieces of furniture and objects in Asia.
As you can see this labor intensive treatment has morphed and adapted to modern furnishings. The lacquer we often see on furniture today in the United States is a mere painted lacquer finish that is applied many times in layers, sometimes honed and sanded in between layers. However, depending upon the Provence of the piece it can have a variety of coats and layers and techniques, so it is always a good idea to ask many questions from the manufacturer.
I like the use of a shiny, sleek item in a room,
such as this coffee table added to the other textures
in the colorful space by
These modern nods to an ancient art form brings beauty, yet culture to our homes
thorough art exhibits showcasing lacquerware at the