Artisan 04


Sprinkling gold or silver dust onto the urushi painting

Makie is one of the techniques used to vividly decorate Kawatsura lacquerware. A pattern is drawn onto the surface of the piece using urushi, upon which gold or silver dust is sprinkled and then made to adhere. Several advanced methods of expression are possible, including giving the pattern a three-dimensional effect, or applying additional urushi onto the makie to achieve a burnished effect. However, even the simplest makie method available—namely, simply sprinkling gold or silver dust onto the urushi picture—enables a variety of expressions through slight adjustments to the way the dust is sprinkled, or through just one additional brushstroke, giving the makie artisan the chance to show off his or her individuality. Changes in expression can be rendered skillfully by altering the size or shape of the dust used, or by changing the color production and glossiness. With various urushi textures available, more and more artisans are challenging themselves to produce modern designs, expanding the possibilities of the makie universe.


Production Steps


Transferring the pattern

Pigments are applied to the back side of a pattern sheet, with the artisan tracing a draft sketch that has been pre-drawn on the front side. The sheet is then pressed onto the lacquerware, with the pigmented pattern being transferred by the artisan rubbing brush bristles over it. In the case of more complex patterns, fine lines drawn with urushi are also traced and transferred.

Urushi is first applied by tracing over the reverse side of a pattern sheet on which a complex draft sketch has already been drawn, then is transferred to the piece.


Drawing the urushi painting

The artisan draws the pattern using urushi, following the lines applied from the draft sketch. A special makie brush, equipped with a supple brush tip, is used to apply the urushi thinly and evenly.

The transferred pattern is used as a template to draw the design with urushi.

Extremely elaborate designs can be drawn with makie brushes, many of which are made from cat hair.



Sprinkling the gold dust

Immediately before the urushi dries, the artisan sprinkles gold dust onto the pattern. The simplest method of makie application is to press down on a cotton ball, into which so-called frosted gold leaf—that is, gold leaf cut into tiny dust-like pieces—has been applied, and move it along the pattern until the frosted gold leaf comes off over the desired area. If a glossy surface effect is desired, frosted gold leaf is not used. Instead, slightly coarse gold dust is inserted into a tube—across one end of which a gauze net has been stretched—which the artisan taps with his or her finger while gently shaking it, resulting in the dust scattering over the pattern.

Various types and shapes of gold dust are used depending on the way the makie is to be expressed.

The gold dust from inside the tube is tapped over the pattern that has been already drawn using urushi.



Making an urushi coating

Once the urushi has dried, the artisan removes the excess gold dust, after which additional urushi is applied with a brush in order to put a final coat over the pattern.

The completed piece, seen here, can use colored urushi along with the gold dust for expressive purposes.

Makie offers an infinite range of expression, in combination with, for example, mother-of-pearl inlays.




Once the urushi coating has dried, the artisan takes charcoal or sandpaper and burnishes and accentuates the pattern, using powder to polish the surface and give it an even more lustrous finish.