Chihiro Yamawaki

Chihiro Yamawaki
Japanese Lacquer Art (Urushi Art)
Chihiro Yamawaki is one of the new generation of young artists who use urushi, the natural resin, to make modern accessories for use in our daily lives. Her passion for clothes, fashion and accessories means she sees things from the consumer's point of view as she creates artworks which combine beauty and functionality. Her recent pieces of work depict themes of birth and fertility – such as seeds, buds, branches, or flowers. So her creations often seem to form a natural extension to the human body, giving her work a unique appeal.
Brief Personal History
2013-2016Kanazawa Utatsuyama Craft Workshop Studio
2011-2013Kanazawa College of Art, Urushi Dept., Masters Course
2008-2011Kanazawa College of Art, Craft, Urushi
1987Born in Aichi
2015Art Fair Tokyo 2015, Tokyo
2014The Ishikawa International Urushi Exhibition
“Agnes loves japon”(ISETAN Shinjuku, Agnes B Aoyama, Tokyo)
2013The 52ndJapan Crafts Exhibition


Urushi art has fascinated people all over the world, with its glossy surfaces and decorative beauty. Ms. Yamakawi is one of the key practitioners of this art. For this collection, we have selected some of her most fascinating pieces. Accessories made with inlaid mother-of-pearl called raden and the maki-e technique. Her unique appeal reflects the inspiration she draws from nature and the world of plants growing and blossoming. We hope you feel and appreciate the joy of nature through her unique products.

About Urushi

Urushi is one of the most durable natural lacquers available, made from the sap of the Urushi tree. It has been used for almost 9000 years, and popularly used for bowls, trays and boxes, amongst other things. The resin lacquer urushi adds durability and resilience to make these items last longer, as well as giving each item a beautiful glossy appearance. Its adhesive qualities are also used art for attaching decorations (e.g. gold powder, shell and eggshell). While a variety of decorative techniques have been developed throughout China, Korea, Myanmar and Japan, maki-e is a peculiarly Japanese technique which uses gold and silver powder to decorate the surface of the artwork.

Note: Urushi is usually mixed with other ingredients when used. For example, cloth, Japanese paper (washi) and also whetstone powders (jinoko and tonoko) add strength and smoothness. Contemporary urushi artisans are adding their own personal touch to their creations by drawing on techniques and knowledge from the past.

Production Process
Shaping the wood and painting urushi
Ms. Yamakawi’s work begins with the design. She combines her original decorative style with practicality, something which can sometimes be challenging. She shapes the wood to form the outline of her artwork. There are three stages to painting with urushi : the undercoat (shitaji-zukuri), the middle coat (nakanuri) and the final coat (uwanuri). Once the item is painted, it needs to be dried and polished with charcoal. Then it is painted again. By repeating this process over and over, urushi strengthens the artwork and adds an elegant gloss to it.
Taking full advantage of the beauty of inlaid mother-of-pearl
To finish her accessory artworks off, Ms. Yamawaki uses a maki-e technique, with inlaid mother-of-pearl or inlaid egg shells. With meother-of-pearl decoration called raden, shells are added to the surface of the urushi artwork. She also uses an urushi coloring technique irourushi, which uses shells to color the surface. This is how she expresses her own individual creativity.

Her delicate but bold decorations are a key attraction of her work. Her art is not only stunningly beautiful, it also has a sense of calmness and tranquility because of its urushi character. The balance she gives to such small artworks is what makes her accessories so special.
Note: The rings we introduce for this project have used silver as a body.
The bowl contains raw urushi. She adds earth powder to make the paste for undercoating (shitajizukuri) which will strengthen the artwork’s surface.
Platelike inlaid mother-of-pearl. She cuts patterns in various shapes and sizes for the accessories, and places these onto the surfaces of her artworks.
She uses skewers to stick each small piece of shell onto a small area. “This requires a lot of concentration. However, this is the most enjoyable part of the process!” she says.

All items are made-to-order.

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