Snapshot 3: What have I been doing?

What have I been doing?
Yesterday, I spent a day working in the Shioyasu workshop.  With a history of over 150 years, it is one of the largest workshops in Wajima and has an extensive showroom.  During the tourist season buses come loaded with tour groups who are anxious to learn about lacquerware.  In some cases the groups of Japanese who come actually have either very little or no real knowledge of where lacquer comes from or how it is used to make what are iconic pieces of tableware, which have been used by the lowly as well as the noble for centuries in Japan.

One of the main features of Wajima Lacquerware is just how robust it is.  Working with a wooden core, a ground is built up using a local backed earth mixed with lacquer on top of which several more layers of lacquer are applied.  This gives it its strength.

A fine but flexible cotton cloth is applied to the core using lacquer and the ground is built up on that initial application.  That’s what I was doing yesterday.  I sat on the floor at a low bench and applied the cotton cloth to the back of blanks of a small egg-shaped mirror.  I managed to complete 65.  My mentor—Mr. Sakamoto sitting in the back of the top picture—was delighted not only with the number that I was able to complete but also because I managed to do it like a “professional” using a wooden spatular.  I have a feeling it was beginners luck.  My achievement, however, was not the only result of my efforts.  Having sat on the floor all day I suffered with back pain today.  Nevertheless it was definitely worth it.

Shin’ichi Shioyasu, Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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