What’s so special about urushi?
We’ve talked about how urushi is collected and why it is used. But what’s so special about it?
Why have generations of artisans devoted themselves to learning the mysteries of urushi? And why is it so highly prized?
Unlike paints and varnishes, urushi does not “dry”. It requires moisture in order to set properly, and must be cured at a specific temperature and humidity. Setting, or polymerization, occurs and forms a long-lasting surface.
The product of that polymerization is an exceptionally resilient, long-lasting coating. After setting, urushi forms a very hard, durable surface. And with care, it can last generations. According to urushi master Kazumi Murose, "Urushi won't decay for hundreds of years -- it's the law of nature…It is made and used on a timescale that is centuries beyond that of human lives.” Holding a piece of urushi art in your hands can feel like you’re holding onto time itself.
Partly because it is so long-lasting, urushi has become a part of Japanese and world culture. Its collection and use is one of Japan’s oldest traditions, going back thousands of years. If you go to an Asian art museum, you’re sure to find at least a few urushi pieces – some tea cups or maybe even an entire cabinet coated with urushi lacquer.
“A craft that rewards the patient”
Urushi artisans must be patient. The artisan must paint each layer and allow it to dry for three to five days before working on the piece again. Each layer must also be polished before painting again. It’s for these reasons and more that, “Urushi is a craft that rewards the patient.”
As Murose says: “In today's Japan, people seek things that are fast, light, short and compact. Urushi offers totally opposing values.” When you write with an urushi pen, you’re using an instrument that took weeks, perhaps even months to create. It is the opposite of our instantaneous, digital culture.
Urushi can help you find balance in your life. Of course, you need the speed of electronics to help you navigate everyday life. But you also need things that help you slow down and remember the finer things in life. A special pen can help you do that.
Urushi pens are works of art. They take dedication, skill, and artistry to complete. Urushi is an official handicraft of Japan, and as such, your pen is part of that culture.
When you hold an urushi pen in your hand, you hold a piece of timeless culture. Browse our beautiful collection today to find yours.
References:CNN, “The master craftsman protecting Japan's ancient lacquerware tradition.” October 14, 2018.
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