Lacquer is an uniquely Far Eastern product, being the sap from a tree indigenous to China and Janpan called rbus verniciflua. It was used as early as the Neolithic period in China, and was particularly useful as an impermeable coating for objects made of delicate materials such as bamboo, wood and silk. It was valued not only for its resistance to water but also for withstanding heat and insects, and for providing a surface that could be brilliantly coloured.
1, Carving on pure red lacquer
Lacquer carving technique was created during the Tang Dynasty. The technique is a build-up of hundreds of layers of the Chinese raw lacquer on an object and when it starts to harden it is then carved with a knife tool which is used to create various patterns and deeply beautiful decorative designs.
Each layer (or coating) takes weeks to dry and harden thoroughly. As temperature and humidity (essential to prevent lacquer drying out and cracking) are very critical to the harden procecure, therefore to build up hundreds layers of lacquer requires very long time and controled environment, which becomes one of the reasons that red lacquer products are valued more than others.
Hand-carved red lacquer ware is always collectable object because of its rich silky texture, very unique craftsmanship it requires and time and energy it takes during making process.
2, Application of mother-of-pearl
Polished mother-of-pearl lacquerware has a strong local style and is relished in China for its characteristic workmanship. The process of this decorative technique is choosing high-quality pearl, shells, mica, and abalone as raw material to form requested design. All these materials will be polished and sliced very finely before being used. Then they will be cut into pieces depending on how their colours and textures suit design purpose. Finally, small pieces will be inlaid onto lacquer base to form admired pattern.
Dotting technique is regarded as a high-grade technique in China. Dotting material can be acquired from green snails, pearl shells, abalone and other semi-precious materials. These are then cut into many pieces which the Chinese refer to as being 'as thin as cicada’s wings, as small as pinpoint and as dainty as autumn hair'.They are then, individually by hand, dotted onto the smooth surface of the lacquerware base with special tools.
By means of delicate lacquer-coating technique, mother-of-pearl product has artistic style with gorgeous colours which can change with light.The art of fine lacquer-coating technique creates beautiful artistic designs with each finish being as smooth as a mirror with the stark black and white offering sharp contrast and stunning effect between the black and white.
Over the years, many of these noble and graceful products have been selected as state gifts from China to overseas dignitaries or collected as national treasures.
The technique of engraving fine linear designs on lacquer and then filling them in with gold began in the Song dynasty, following the model of the chased silver vessels of the Tang and Song. Main artistic characteristics of this technique are smooth lines, vivid images, even and flat colours that culminate into an impressive piece of art work.
The process is engraving various patterns with different knives on the finished lacquer base, and then filling in with different colours, covering with gold leaves and scattering pearl scraps according to the design. This technique can be divided into six technological processes, namely engraving, shovelling, smoothing, colouring, covering and scattering.
4, Bone-and-stone inlaying
Bone-and-stone inlaying technique was created by a native of Yangzhou in Ming dynasty. This decorative technique uses ox bones, mica, pearl shells, abalone, jade or other precious stones (Shoushan stones or Qingtian stones), even fossils of bones to form design.
All mentioned materials enhance a lot the features of final products which boast rich colours, exquisite but detailed carving skill and cultural meaningful designs. Bone and stone inlaying technique is used often in making high-grade screens, furniture and other highly collectible products.
5, Coloured painting
To paint directly on products surface is popular because of the fact it is a combination of painting and functional household furniture. Smooth lacquer finished base keeps colour bright and for a long time. Most prospered in the Han dynasty, colour painted lacquerware requires highly skilled artist therefore offen manifests various motif and imaginery drawings.
Today,this process of painting is seldom fully used on one furniture piece. It is more usually combined with other craft techniques bringing harmonious colours, delicate staining and beautiful rhythmic drawn lines to any product. Hand-painted furniture is favored by ordinary people owing to its economical affordability and popular painting motif.
Yangzhou Lacquer originates during the Warring States (475-221BC), in the Qin and Han Dynasties and was flourishing in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It has been famous in China and overseas for thousands of years, it boasts elegant style and wonderful craftsmanship and has made the list of China’s National Intangible Cultural Heritage.