Works of lacquer craft by variety of materials. ”Living National Treasure, Kiichiro Masumura”

Works of lacquer craft by variety of materials.
”Living National Treasure, Kiichiro Masumura”

All-rounder of ”urushi” lacquer.

Kiichiro Masumura was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure)for ”kyushitsu”. ”Kyushitsu” is the oldest technique of lacquer, and it can be applied to various base materials such as wood, bamboo, and cloth, and there are many varieties such as lustrous and matte finish. In one word, it is an all-rounder of ”urushi” lacquer.

Masumura’s works has a wide variety. Ones that are mellow and calm. Ones that have lustrous brilliance. Some works have dazzling bright red floating in black. On first look, one cannot tell what they are made of, but they are so beautiful and unique.

Painting ”urushi” lacquer on leather.

As explained earlier, ”kyushitsu” can be applied to any base material, so it is possible to make works utilizing the texture of materials.
For example, there is a technique called ”kanshitsu”, which is painting ”urushi” on hemp, and stacking them in layers to get unique texture. Another rare technique is called ”joutai” which a rope is wound in a shape of a vessel and painted with ”urushi” and left to harden. Masumura uses such various techniques to make pieces of work.

What surprised Nakata most was the technique called ”shippi”. That is painting lacquer on animal skin. A dried piece of leather is softened in water, and then attached to a wooden frame. Then it is dried and hardened and removed from the frame. Then lacquer is applied. Nakata took up one piece of work in his hand and asked, ”Is this really leather?”. It is so rigid that one can’t help doubting it.

Make the most of the material and make something ”interesting”.

The history of ”shippi” is very old, and according to Masumura, the method is described in ”Engishiki”, so it is a technique that existed in Nara period.
”Interesting,” said Nakata. ”It is such an old traditional technique, but this design is so modern. I’ve never heard of this technique before. It’s very interesting, and it’s cool, too. Wonderful.”

”You might find this interesting, too,” said Masumura, and showed him a bamboo basket that is painted with ”urushi” lacquer. ”I bought this basket somewhere, and I applied ”washi” (Japanese paper) and then ”urushi” lacquer. things like oranges and in it and put it on the dining table.”

Nakata nodded in agreement and said, ”The texture is nice. Very interesting. How about making a big bamboo …” He gave one idea after another. Masumura took great interest and listened to his suggestions, saying, ”That sounds good. But may be difficult……” The collaboration of users and makers may begin through ”this is interesting”.


Lacquer craft artist Kiichiro Masumura
Kasukabe, Saitama Prefecture