After spending time in the Asia galleries at the V&A, I found myself being drawn back again to the Japanese lacquerware. The formal qualities in the designs and high craftsmanship of these objects were inspirational. Hanami is a traditional custom in Japan where people gather under cherry trees to celebrate the blossoms in spring. Hanami scenes and blossom motifs are seen frequently in Japanese art including lacquerware and I wanted to make a piece to celebrate this occasion.
I was particularly taken with the shallow carved blossom relief and intense red of the lacquer in 'box with bird design', the combination of geometric pattern and floral motifs in 'box with peach design' and the contrast of surfaces seen in the woven layered mesh and highly polished lacquer of the 'set of food dishes'. My necklace seeks to echo these qualities. The textures of the braided cord and brass mesh layered between pierced metal discs contrasts with the smooth lacquered surface of the carved forms. I have used the iconic red of the lacquerware and finished the metal in a way that references traditional Japanese aesthetics: by leaving the silver unpolished and patinating the copper, allowing the metal to take on its own lustre over time rather than maintaining a high polish as if it were new.
Influenced by the combination of geometric patterns alongside flower motifs, I pierced the metal with the 'Shippo' pattern (meaning seven jewels), originating from the Buddhist meaning of precious stones and carved blossom motifs in lacquered wood. The production of this necklace inspired me to learn new skills of hand carving and sprayed lacquer. It was important for me to make a piece that was completely handcrafted, thus showing the skill and personality of the artist, a quality I admire in traditional Japanese lacquer work.
Carved lacquer box and cover
V&A collection reference number(s):
Circ.19-1912, FE.50-1974, FE.44-1983