Saturday, January 22, 2011

Various Techniques of Maki-e

Maki-e is a unique art form of sowing gold and silver powder on contour lines drawn with sticky Urushi lacquer to form elaborate designs. Numerous techniques are employed in the process. The depth of color improves with each additional layer of lacquer.  It takes several months to produce just one Maki-e pen.

The rich reflected glow of gold and silver powders imparts a powerful impression, and a world of exquisite beauty leaps forth from the powerful design portrayal. This level of art requires a long tradition of inherited master skills.

Hira Maki-e (Flat Maki-e)
This is the simplest method of all. The artist starts with drawing lines of the design and then painting with colored Urushi between the lines. When the design is half dried, gold or silver powder is sprinkled onto the surface. It is then painted over with Urushi. After the lacquer is hardened, the pen is burnished to give a deep lustrous gloss.
The lacquer design maybe flat but not entirely smooth. It is slightly raised above the background. This is different from the raised 3D design of Taka Maki-e (see below).

Togidashi Maki-e (Burnished Maki-e)
This is the technique of burnishing. When the design is dried, it is covered in transparent or black lacquer, then polished down with charcoal until the design is flush with the new ground.

Togidashi Hira Maki-e (Burnishd-Flat Maki-e)
The basic steps involved are similar to Hira Maki-e. The design is created by sprinkling of powder and the surface is covered with clear Urushi and burnished until it is flat and smooth.

Taka Maki-e (Raised Maki-e)
Elements of the design are raised artificially by materials such as clay or charcoal mixed with lacquer before being covered with the uppermost layers of lacquer and sprinkled powder. The result created a three-diamentional design with living depth.

Togidashi-Taka Maki-e (Burnished-Raised Maki-e)
This is also known as "Shishiai Togidashi Maki-e", and it is the highest level of Maki-e combining Hira maki-e, Togidashi and Taka maki-e techniques. Taka maki-e are used on some foreground items like rocks, fish, birds and flowers. Togidashi Hira maki-e are used on background picture like pond, river, clouds and plants.

Inlay Technique
Using the strong adhesive natural of urushi lacquer, some material are used to fixed or inlayed on the surface of lacquer. Not only light material but also thicker and heavier material. Togidashi maki-e technique are then applied to create a smooth surface.

Raden (Mother-of-Pearl)
The inside surface stratum of various shells such as turban, trumpet and ear shaped shells etc. are peeled off in a thin layer. They are then cut into small pieces and these are placed onto the surface to form the design and coated with urushi lacquer to secure them in place.

Hyoumon (Foil)
Various metal sheets such as gold, silver and tin are cut out into the desired design and boneded to the Urushi lacquer. These metal figures are then secured in place with further layers of lacquer.

Rankaku (Egg Shell)
The design is created using small pieces or powder of quail shells. It is used for representing pure white color which cannot be achieved using lacquer. Because white lacquer will aged into creamy white.


When collecting information for this post. I was confused by the decription of Togidashi on several blogs. Most explanation of Togidashi technique seems quite similar to Hira maki-e. This is because Togidashi is mostly used on Hira maki-e and Togidahi is just the final touch.

Below is an example of Hira maki-e

You see the design is slightly raised above the background. Clouds and river are all raised on the same level as the tortoise and crane. This is Hira maki-e.

Togidashi can be applied so that the design flush with the background. And when you run your finger on the finished work, it should be completely smooth.

Togidashi technique can also be applied on inlaid material like raden and rankaku.


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