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#066 urushikoubousettsu:Kawatsura lacquerware(Akita)2017/11/30

Their Original Lacquerware Made With Makie Technique Meets Customers’ Demands


Culture of Yuzawa city of Akita and its rich nature
made a durable and practical Kawatsura lacquerware

Made of wood, pottery, and metal - out of various types of tableware, lacquerware carry an image of brightly colored tableware used on celebrative occasions. Lacquerware(“shikki” in Japanese) are craft products decoratively covered with “urushi (lacquer)” which is derived from the sap of lacquer trees and used on celebrative occasions as well as on a daily basis and as ornaments. Lacquerware of Yuzawa city located at the southern end of Akita is called Kawatsura lacquerware. It is said Michinori Onodera, a brother of Onodera, Shigemichi who was the lord of a castle of this area in Kamakura period about 800 years ago, first ordered his retainers to lacquer armors utilizing the rich resources and lacquer of the area.

The curtain of the indigo dye welcomes you.

The room for makie. There are rooms for each production process.

Kawatsura lacquerware is characterized by its durability, practicality, and finishing method bringing out a great luster. Makieshi decorates this beautiful lacquerware with gold powder or colored lacquer. Hiroki Settsu, the third leader of the Lacquer Workshop Settsu, was born in the family of Makieshi. The workshop founded by his grandfather around 1940 or 1941 has a history of about 70 years and not a few clients rely on it. “I didn’t have no inclination to take over the business at first. Actually I was bad at drawing in the past. But when it was a time to think about my future, I decided to take the road of makie,” said Hiroki. He then studied about lacquer and makie at a laboratory in Ishikawa and under his master and learned a technique. “I’ll be back when I become 30.” As he told, he came back to Yuzawa city of Akita as the third leader when he became 30.

Hiroki Settsu, the third leader of the lacquer workshop Settsu, who was interviewd.

The gold power for pear skin finish. Various gold powders are used on various occasions. They always have at least 20 types of them.

This white powder is silver. It is inexpensive compared to gold powder so purchased and used for mass-produced items.

Handmade fundutsu (a paper parcel of powder) for makie. Powder is sprinkled with applying vibration of fingers.

He had some job requests, but they decreased as lifestyles changed. What was worse, he had no place to show his new products because he worked for agents, not directory for his clients. To improve the situation, he organized “Urushinin Goninshu (Five Lacquer Craftsmen)” of local members of his generation, trying to make opportunities to show their works. It has been about 15 years since they started their activities. This increased his opportunity to talk with customers directly and to listen to opinions of customers. And that changed his works gradually.

Makie technique is applied to the “natsume” (a lacquered wooden container with a lid used to hold matcha). The designs fit each other perfectly.

Designs and colors for women like cheryblossams are also decorated.

One of makie technique using schells called “raden” is applied and sparkles it.

Brushes for drawing. They have a historical air being used for many decades.

Brushes with various thickness and hardness. They all are well kept.

Lacquer for drawing is divided into dozens. They seem to be waiting for being used.


Something only I as a makieshi can do

Listening to customers voice directly, Hiroki began to think, “If only there was lacquerware like that. I would made...” He actually brought his own design to a woodturner, who is a craftsman of wooden containers before being lacquered, but found some problems such as cost of metal mold and the minimum number of lots. Outsourcing of lacquering made more difficult to realize it. He just wanted to deliver good products to customers and decided to create them by himself from scratch even though it would be a tough work. His experience of studying lacquer also encouraged him to do that.

He is now creating prototypes to show the process of complex lacquring.

This is raw lacquer used for materials of various lacquer. It has an unique smell and thick feeling.

Wooden containers lacquered twice. They will be “KOBACHI” through the various processes.

The 4 main processes of lacquerware production are as follows: making a plain wood (cutting wood into a shape of bowls), base coating (making a plain wood durable), lacquering, and decorating. One of the characteristics of Kawatsura lacquerware, durability, is also called “kataji finish” (hard-base finish). The Settsu has been trying to develop technologies and new products such as “ginji” series utilizing makie technique and “minori” series utilizing rice husks of the rice of Akita, Akitakomachi.

He lacquers in this room. Lacquering and waiting till it drys, and lacquering again and shining… The process takes long time.

Brushes for lacquering. Being used for many years, they have warmth of a hand labor.

It takes at least 3 months to make lacquerware from a plain wood. “When I finish eating and see a bowl I have in my hand, I think it would be beautiful with flower makie on it and I as a makieshi decorate it. But as I see the lacquerware base by taking much labor and time, I would rather think it is better without makie.” “The voice of customers widened the range of my works,” said Hiroki. He has been creating his original craftworks with and without makie utilizing makie technique.

“Ginsai guinomi” won the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Award at the National Lacquerware Exhibition in 2008. (Guinomi is a large-sized sake cup.)

“Minori” made of rice hull charcoal derived from Akitakomachi. It is finished harder and more durable to be used with metal spoons without scratches.


I Want More People to Know the Goodness
of Lacquerware and Makie

It has been 18 years since Hiroki came back to this city. The Lacquerware Workshop Settsu has started to work on developing new craftworks and customers. “We finally established our current work style in recent years,” said he. At the same time, they participated the Rin crossing. It was a half and a year ago. “We met many people by joining the Rin crossing. We still have connections to them. We were so happy to talk about partnerships of makie and lacquer technique co-operation,” said he.

Utilizing the most of makie technique for works used on celebrative occasions, special things, and accessories.

The cigar case “OIRAN” created through trial and error.

“We would be more than happy if you would take lacquerware as one of the choices when buying tableware." He is now receiving various orders for ready made and special craftworks,and repairing old lacquerware. They create craftworks one by one carefully, utilizing traditional technique and adopting goodness of both the present and the past. I feel the future of lacquerware used by many people regardless of age or gender.

The pattern of a family crest is a Settsu’s heirloom inherited from Hiroki’s grandfather.

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