Elegance brought to life in lacquerware ”Fumio Mae, Chinkin Artist”

Elegance brought to life in lacquerware
”Fumio Mae, Chinkin Artist”

Where technique of ”chinkin” and ”makie” developed

”Chinkin” is one of the decorating techniques of ”Wajima nuri”. It is a technique of engraving designs and pictures using a chisel or a blade, then sticking or rubbing in gold powder and gold foil to add color on the lacquerware. The gold stands out in the lustrous black lacquerware, giving it a grand and gorgeous appearance. The climate of the Wajima region is humid, so the lacquer can be coated in thick layers. As Kanazawa has the number 1 production of gold foil, unique techniques such as ”chinkin” and ”makie” have developed. Fumio Mae was designated Important Intangible Cultural Asset holder (National Living Treasure) in 1999. He studied Japanese art while attending Kanazawa College of Art, and later studied the skills of ”chinkin” under his father, Ohmine Mae. His father is also designated National Living Treasure.

Inventing new skills

”My father focused mainly on his work, so I mainly studied by observing him at his work.” Mae looks back to his apprenticeship days. As he learned through trial and error, he realized the profundity of ”chinkin” art and became obsessed with creating pieces. He has continued to invent new ideas incorporating the foundations of Japanese art, such as inventing new knives for carving, etc. and became renowned for his works. There are four techniques to ”chinkin” engraving; lines, dots, rubbing, and ”katagiri” chisel engraving. Fumio Mae invented one more, using the ”kakunomi” corner chisel. He told us that he uses this technique for depicting a bamboo leaf for example.

Understanding the profundity

Nakata also had a try by first taking a draft drawn on Mino Japanese paper, copying it on the lacquer and carving over the traced lines.
He is told that there is no need for strength as long as you find the correct angle of the chisel when carving, but he found it difficult to make the adjustment. He was guided by advice from Fumio Mae and carved a picture of a pine leaf on the tray.
On the carving, transparent lacquer is coated acting as adhesive for the gold powder which is applied with cotton. After drying it for a while, excess powder is toweled off, and a picture of a golden leaf appears. We were told that sometimes a small amount of silver powder is added to create a shadow effect.
Fumio Mae and his pictures of bamboo.
He told us that his desire is to draw scenery depicting Japanese ambience, things that would have Japanese taste. This feeling has never changed from when he majored in Japanese art. ”I always aim to create lacquerware art that captures the attention of the observer.”
When you carefully observe his work, you can feel the bottomless depth of profundity.


Mae Fumio, Chinkin Artist
Wajima Ishikawa