photo Carved lacquer


Carved lacquer (choshitsu) is made by first coating a piece in dozens of layers of colored lacquer. Then, a carving blade is used to cut into the lacquer and produce three-dimensional relief carvings.
The technique was conveyed from China some 800 years ago. The process for lacquer carving begins by applying layers of colored lacquer with the design of the finished piece in mind. For black lacquer, nearly one hundred coats are necessary to produce a layer 3 millimeters thick. Pieces of carved red lacquer are known as tsuishu (“layered cinnabar”), while pieces of carved black lacquer are known as tsuikoku (“layered black”).


  • 1.A thick layer of lacquer is created by applying repeated coats of colored lacquer.
  • 2.A design is carved into the lacquer to reveal the colored layers.
  • 3.The surface is polished smooth with a fine polishing stone.
  • 4.The piece is burnished and completed.
  • Reference: Nihon Kōgeikai Higashi Nihon Shibu (Japan Kōgei Association Eastern Branch), ed., Dentō kōgei-tte nani? – miru, shiru, tanoshimu gaido bukku (What Are Traditional Crafts? –A Guidebook to Seeing, Learning, and Enjoying). Unsodo, 2013.