Adding Colors to Life
7 - 10 Weeks
- 10: Bespoke
- 30: Production
depends on design, tech pack, and difficulty
The craft of lacquer has been around for thousands of years and passed down for many generations. This technique is very involved and time consuming.
Raw lacquer is made from the sap of the anacardiaceae tree family; in Vietnam specifically, raw lacquer is acquired from the Rbus succedanea.
The sap is collected several times a year by carving deep slits into the trunk of the tree.
Once the sap is extracted, it is placed into a sealable container to prevent the raw lacquer from hardening. Lacquer in liquid state must be handled with care as it can cause skin irritations. However, after the lacquer is dry it is not toxic.
In addition to painting on this cured wood with the colored lacquer, artisans use eggshells and mother-of-pearl to add more detail (as white is not a natural pigment color). Duck eggshells are used in the process, as they are the toughest shells in comparison to other poultry eggs. The shells are cracked into square shapes and placed over tacky lacquer that has been previously applied in a desired design.
Very carefully the shells are cracked so they adhere to the wood canvas. A small hammer is then used to crack the shells into smaller portions. The artist can continue adding more colored lacquer and paint on the eggshells. When all the painted lacquer layers are dry, the eggshells and lacquered wood canvas are water sanded. The result is a glossy finished painting that looks and feels like porcelain.
To give the raw lacquer color, various pigments or powdered dyes, which are thoroughly ground into a powder, are slowly added and mixed into the sap. The artisans then have an array of colors at their disposal. Traditionally, lacquer is painted onto wood that has been seeped with lacquer and covered with a piece of gauze, which prevents any cracks or warping of the wood. Five more layers of lacquer are applied to hide the gauze and to reach the necessary thickness. Between adding the layers of lacquer, the artisan must wait for the lacquer to dry before he can water-sand each layer to achieve a smooth surface.