Traditional Art Maki-e, Laquer Ware of Royalty

  • Japan is a country of many traditional arts and crafts. Even in this modern age, the traditions which have started from over a hundred years ago still remain. The crafts being made in Japan are quite beautiful due to their culture of work precision and the dedication of the craftsmen who create it.


    Over the centuries, Japanese lacquer workers developed lavish styles of decorations using powdered gold and silver to adorn their ware. Lacquer ware decorated with designs formed from this powder are widely used in Japan from everyday tableware to precious utensils reserved for the tea ceremony. This style of decorating lacquer is known as Makie.

    History of Makie


    The use of the Makie technique was first developed during the Heian Era in Japan and started to gain its popularity during the Edo Era. Makie were initially designed as household items for the court nobles but as it gained popularity, royal families and military leaders began to adopt it as a symbol of power.

    Makie Technique


    The technique known as Makie is quite unique to Japan. The name is a combination of two Japanese words 蒔(Maki) and 絵(E) which means sprinkled picture. Craftsmen first trace the design motifs with lacquer onto the surface of the lacquerware. After that, the gold powder is carefully sprinkled onto the design in order to stick to the lacquer ware, which explains the name of this craft.

    There are 3 main (6 in total) techniques in creating Makie. The Togidashi Makie, Hira Makie, and the Taka Makie.


    The Togidashi Makie creates a flat surfaced effect by applying a coat of lacquer over the design in gold powder and smoothed down with charcoal. The Hira Makie is made by scattering gold powder onto the traced lacquer to create gradations of density in shading the design. And lastly, Taka Makie describes the process of gold powder sprinkled onto a thick layer of resin, creating a raised pattern giving the lacquer ware a 3D effect.


    Author’s photo

    Makie has been a part of the Japanese household items for quite a long time. These lacquer ware can last for years and still retain its beauty just like the ones we have in the picture above. Nowadays, there are also Makie workshops which you can attend to learn how to create these beautiful items. These can also make as a magnificent souvenir item for those who are traveling to Japan.

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