What kind of colour is “tame” ?


091006_1Urushi (Japanese Lacquer) is a kind of varnish made out of the sap extracted from the lacquer tree that has been used since ancient times in Japan. The application of urushi heightens the permanence of such materials as wood and paper as well as accentuating their beauty. It has long been used in the creation of Buddhist icons and architecture, allowing works from the past to survive into the present day without decaying. As it hardens while inhaling moisture from the air it is a material that responds very closely to the natural environment.

091006_2Urushi products differ from other lacquer products through the particular nature of their quality: the depth of colour is especially noteworthy. This depth comes about as a result of the many layers applied by hand to the body of the wood. Well-known colours are black and red, as well as the deep darkness of cinnabar, but the colour of lacquer shown in the photograph here is the Japanese “tame”. The uppermost layer is a translucent brown that is very close to the actual colour of tree sap. Beneath this are laid yellow and red, and the colours can be discerned softly glowing through, displaying tones that vary according to the angle from which the object is viewed. This expression of the beauty of the materials is truly magical. The colours of foods displayed on these works are sure to be highlighted by their gentle translucence. Although we would caution against using knives and forks with these pieces – as they scratch easily – we think they are ideal for menus that incorporate the use of chopsticks.


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