‘chinkin sketchbook’ by julia lohmann, gero grundmann, and yoshinori shibayama

german-born, london-based designers julia lohmann and gero grundmann have developed a series of urushi projects for ‘collacqueration: designed in the UK – lacquered in japan.’ organized by emiko oki, the initiative brings together innovative UK-based designers, including max lamb, yuri suzuki, and the yamaha company, with traditional lacquer craftsmen of wajima, japan.

wajima, in ishikawa prefecture, lies at the tip of the noto peninsula, which juts into the sea of japan. lacquer ware from this region is renowned throughout japan from its high quality.

the japanese tradition of lacquering dates back over 10,000 years. prepared from the toxic sap of the urushi tree, lacquers can be applied to wood, bamboo, textiles, and paper both to increase their utility and for decorative purposes. numerous re-applications of lacquer can produce a surface thick enough to be carved.

in the wajima region, two methods of lacquer decoration are common: maki-e (literally ‘sprinkled picture’), which involves the application of colourful metal powders to damp lacquer, using traditional brushes; and chinkin, in which lacquer is embellished by carving designs directly into the surface using a chisel, and inlaying gold leaf or powder.

julia lohmann + gero grundmann for collacqueration another plate from the ‘chinkin sketchbook’ series

in ‘chinkin sketchbook,’ a collaboration with yoshinori shibayama, gero grundmann set aside his sketchbook in favour of lacquered plates into which he inscribed designs and words using japanese chinkin chisels and other printmaking and engraving tools. the multi-layered narrative that results was then set in gold leaf by wajima artisans.

julia lohmann + gero grundmann for collacqueration ‘united in urushi’ by julia lohmann, gero grundmann, and yoshinori shibayama

‘united in urushi,’ a second collaboration with yoshinori shibayama, re-imagines meoto-jawan, the set of food bowls or teacups traditionally given as a gift to japanese newlyweds. the project involved bonding together various urushi bowls in a dense, nested assemblage, using laquer as both cement and veneer. the entire object is then cut in half, resulting in two identical multi-chambered vessels that can be used and adapted to the changing needs of the couple.

julia lohmann + gero grundmann for collacqueration ‘urushi cross-sections’ by julia lohmann and gero grundmann

in an effort to showcase the skilled craftsmanship that goes into each urushi object, lohmann and grundmann dissected wajima bowls for their ‘urushi cross-sections’ project, making visible the even grain of their wood and the many layers of lacquer required for their creation. the pieces are then reconfigured into entirely new kinds of vessels.

julia lohmann + gero grundmann for collacqueration ‘kombu-dwellings’ by julia lohmann, gero grundmann, and kazutaka furukomi

‘kombu-dwellings’ were created in collaboration with kazutaka furukomi. the small tabletop containers are modeled after the nested roofs of japanese architecture, and their creation adapts traditional urushi techniques to seaweed (kombu), a staple of japanese food.

julia lohmann + gero grundmann for collacqueration detail on ‘kombu-dwellings’

for more from the ‘collaqueration’ exhibit, see yuri suzuki’s urushi musical interface.