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.
Facts about raden
Seashell used for raden is classified as either thin or thick. Thin shell pieces are also known as blue shell, and are obtained by rubbing with a whetstone or simmering and peeling off the surface. They are no more than 0.1 millimeter in thickness. In one variation, gold or silver is applied to the reverse side of the shell so that it seems to glow from within. Thick shell is made by rubbing seashells flat with a whetstone, and is approximately one millimeter thick.
Did you know?
The special beauty of raden comes from the contrast between the jewel-like luster of seashells and the deep tones of the Urushi. In the piece shown above, the flower petals are made of pearl oyster shell with color applied on the reverse side.
How to do raden -Using thick shell
How to do raden -Using thin shell
"What Are Traditional Crafts? -A Guidebook to Seeing, Learning, and Enjoying-" Edited by the Japan Kogei Association Eastern Branch. Published by Unsodo ／ List of works English translation: Kazuko Todate (Art critic / Art historian)