Kanshitsu box with design in mother-of-pearl inlay and makie. “Morning dew”
A form is made with clay, and then plaster is used to make a mold in that shape. Linen is affixed to the mold with Urushi, layered to the required thickness, and then the mold is removed. Further coats of Urushi are applied after that. The linen fibers are strengthened when the Urushi soaks into them, and the end result is sturdy, although the linen can be shaped with a great degree of freedom.
Maki-e is a distinctively Japanese Urushi work technique that is said to have developed around 1,200 years ago. It involves using a fine brush to paint a picture with lacquer on the surface of a vessel, and then sprinkling gold powder on the surface before the Urushi dries to create a design. The word maki means “to sprinkle” and e means “picture.” There are various styles including togidashi maki-e, hira maki-e, and taka maki-e.
Raden is a decorative craft that uses the iridescent parts of seashells such as abalone, turban shells, and pearl oysters, which are shaved down very thin. Ra means “a spiral shell” and den means “to decorate.” The technique was conveyed to Japan from China about 1,300 years ago, and marvelous examples can be seen in the treasures at Shoso-in Temple in Nara.