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Japanese lacquer, or Urushi, is an important material in Japanese craftsmanship culture. Its use dates back 2500 years to the Jōmon period. Nowadays, most Japanese people are very familiar with the material.

Derived from the Urushi tree, Urushi is a resinous varnish. Not only does it provide a rich color and a light coating effect, it also causes works to become more cohesive and durable.

Urushi plays an important role in the daily life of Japanese people. For example, it's commonly used to coat bento boxes, bowls, or plates. Even building construction materials will often use Urushi.

Urushi isn't just for daily life, though - it's also used in luxury goods. For example, makers often take advantage of its rich sheen when making decorative items. In years long past, even Japanese royalty used Urushi to coat their favorite items.

Urushi's specialty is that it's waterproof and durable. When it starts to fade after long periods of time, it's easy to re-paint and look good as new. In the Edo period (1603-1868), there were even craftspeople whose daily work was to circulate around society and re-paint Urushi where needed! In today's economy, Urushi is actually in quite high demand, so there's not enough of the material available for people to do this kind of work so casually.

Most Urushi works leverage either the black or red variety. These are considered the most elegant and luxurious shades of the material. In addition, as time goes on, the subtle changes in appearance delight the viewer and make the material become their own.

Kemonocomichi

Now that we've introduced Urushi, let's discuss Kemonocomichi's works that leverage this unique material to make daily life accessories.

Ms. Otsuka, founder of Kemonocomichi, lives in the mountains of Kochi, Japan. She layers together plant materials like raimi and Tosa Washi before painting them with Urushi to seal them. This is a meticulous process, often requiring three to six months. The work matures over time as the artisan develops and refines the concept.

Today, we have two works to show you.

1/ butterflies

Like a flock of butterflies gently landing on your shoulders, the artist uses layers of Tosa Washi painted with Urushi to give a natural light sheen. The wearer quietly becomes the spotlight and center of the room.

2/ flower

A little bit lower profile, the Flower Necklace looks striking in a simple t-shirt.

kemonocomichi's works available now on Norm!


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