About Urushi

Urushi is, to many, a miraculous substance. It comes from the sap of the lacquer tree, Toxicodendron vernicifluum. A plant closely related to poison ivy, and as such, in its raw form pre filtering, homogenization and dehydration, it is considerably toxic, however once cured it's completely safe. Despite the dangers when harvesting the sap, somehow, in some ancient time thought to be over 9000 years ago in Asia, someone realised that this sap, the life-blood of this wondrous tree, holds a hidden potential. 

Urushi, as it has come to be known by its Japanese name, naturally cures layer by layer (and my pieces have up to 20) under very precise temperature and humidity conditions. In a specially made wooden box, an Urushi-Furo through a process of oxidation and polymerization into a material with remarkable properties for a completely natural substance.

Once hardened, urushi forms a tough and scratch resistant surface impervious to water, alcohol, minor heat, acids and bases. Because of these properties, as well as its characteristics in application, urushi has an incredible versatility, from architectural elements and utilitarian wares to fine arts renowned for their beauty and intricacy. 

With the proper care and skill that I employ when making my pieces, urushi creates a wonderful luster that, when combined with countless different decorative techniques, can create jewellery and objects that are as durable as they are beautiful.

Metal powders, natural pigments, nacre, and eggshells, or even substances such as egg, tofu and flour can all be used in conjunction with various different types of urushi lacquers to create exquisite patterns and designs. These are derived from years of honing my skills, lots of research and sometimes simply the whim of chance and serendipity.

Regardless of the technique, the end results are nothing short of miraculous. Yet in this modern time and age, where meticulous hand crafted pieces are being threatened by industrialised mass production, the use of urushi has slowly been at a decline, something I hope to combat. And so, hopefully, the beauty of this wonderful craft will be passed on through many more generations to come.

 

Image shows three images showing the harvesting of sap. The first shows the V shaped slashes in the lacquer tree. The second a man harvestong the sap in the traditional manner. The third of a vessal containing the sap and the tools used for harvesting.