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Some fabulous examples of Japanning and Asian lacquering techniques

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

Here are some beautiful furniture designs and techniques that I just fell in love with from the V&A Museum.

Lacquer comes from the sap of the Toxicodendron vernicifluum tree. In Japan lacquer is called urushi, in China, qi .

Used to make both furniture and vessels, lacquer is built up meticulously in many thin layers. It cures in a warm, humid atmosphere and the final finish is hard, waterproof and usually lustrous. The surfaces may be left plain or decorated, either by carving or the application of further materials.

Japanning refers to European techniques that imitate East Asian lacquer, to create decorative surfaces on furniture and other objects. Black and red were the most popular colours for furniture but other colours were also used. Various recipes mix plant resins or shellac (an insect secretion) in alcohol or oil. These are applied on a smooth ground in pigmented layers, allowing a broad range of colours. As with true lacquer, the quality depends on careful drying and polishing of the individual layers. To build up the surface of an object, there might be as many as 24 layers of pigment and varnish.

Stoved Japanning is a completely different technique. Layers of thick tar-varnish are applied to metal or papier mache. The object is then stove dried and polished to give a smooth surface for painted decoration.

[Text credited to V&A Museum]

Do you have a love for this style too? Make sure to check out 'Alouette' our antique chinoiserie cabinet

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