How Urushi Lacquer is Collected
Urushi lacquer is most famously known for its ability to create a beautiful finish on any object that it is applied to. Starting from lacquerware thousands of years ago, urushi has stood the test of time both literally and figuratively -- its beauty and durability characteristics are still sought for today; it is also a known fact that coats of urushi lacquer can last decades, sometimes centuries. Urushi application has extended beyond lacquerware into small objects like the barrel of a fountain pen which has created a new level of challenge as nuri-shi (lacquerers) apply the intricate art on to a smaller surface area with greater curvature.
The lacquer itself is made up of the sap in Toxicodendron Vernicifluum tree; the "urushi" name is derived from the oily compound urushiol.
Tools used for Urushi Collection
These are the tools urushi gatherers use to collect urushi:
Takappo - Container to hold the collected sap
Kama - Tree bark removal tool
Urushi Kanna - Tool for cutting into tree
Hera - Tool to scrape sap into container
Eguri - Tool to scrape the last drop of sap at the end of the season
Gonguri - Tool to aid in transferring urushi lacquer from Takappo to large barrel
Caption: Tools of Urushi Gathering.
Urushi Collection Process Steps
Here are the steps in which urushi is collected:
- Kamazuri - The process of peeling the tree bark
- Henzuke - Create a "hen" (cut) to a tree
- Urushi Collection - Scraping sap into container
- Repeat steps 1-3
Caption: Step 1 - Gatherer peeling tree bark with a Kamazuri.
Caption: Step 2 - Cutting into the tree.
Caption: Step 3 - Scraping sap off of tree.
This process is repeated with other trees. For each set of cuts on a tree, a urushi gatherer must wait three days to allow the tree to rest. A urushi gatherer can collect sap from hundreds of trees per season.
Watch the video below to visualize the entire urushi collection process all the way to its final application to the lacquerware.
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