The term ‘urushi’ is used to refer both to the art of Japanese lacquerware, which has a lineage spanning thousands of years, and to the material of the lacquer itself. The urushi material is labor-intensive to produce, and is obtained form the sap of the lacquer tree, Toxicodendron Vernicifluum, which is native to Southeastern Asia. Slashes are made in the tree to draw out the sap, which is then caught in a container before being filtered multiple times through layers of special paper. Depending on the particular filtering process, the clear lacquer can range in color from light to dark amber, and any excess water evaporates. The production of urushi is delicate and complex, and under ideal conditions, the lacquer sets at a high humidity of 75-80 percent and a temperature of 24 degrees celsius.
These urushi are made by the craftsman Tazawa and are especially fine examples of the craft. Tazawa became involved with woods and forests through his college studies, and he later took a job researching the preservation of Japanese forests. As a result, he has the knowledge and skill to adeptly produce the lacquer, while ensuring that his craft is sustainable and eco-friendly. Each piece features a unique texture, produced by Tazawa’s special technique of combining the lacquer with small amounts of clay and powder.