Anne Robinson, Karen Saxby
Most countries make a dedicated effort to preserve their cultural legacies, but Japan is a leader in ensuring that traditional forms of art and craft remain not just honoured but widely practiced.
Our Japanese Lacquer Boxes designs feature art that was created centuries ago, as do many Paperblanks journals. What makes this series stand out is that while many techniques celebrated by our journals have been largely relegated to history, the “maki-e” lacquerware tradition adorning these covers still has its adepts.
Maki-e is just one of many Japanese decorative techniques involving the use of lacquer. The name of this method literally means “sprinkled” and refers to the process of applying metallic powders to wood coated with the sap of the lacquer tree. This sap is a highly toxic material requiring extremely careful handling and an inordinate amount of skill – nothing less than you would expect of these devoted Japanese artisans.
It is a marvel how the gloss of the polished lacquered surface and the brilliance of details in metallic colours together create an uncanny sense of depth characterizing each image.
The design that decorates our Karakusa cover comes from the paintwork on a Japanese lacquer box dating from the early 19th century and currently held in a private collection. A “karakusa” is an arabesque design of vines or branches that was a popular motif for creating lacquerware, making it the perfect choice for this cover design.
Today, even after more than a thousand years of being in use, the sublime maki-e tradition continues to inspire Japanese artisans to create exceptionally beautiful and desirable objects.