Chinese lacquerware is an ancient art form, dating back thousands of years. Studios specializing in the art have carried on this legacy, following time-consuming steps using traditional ingredients and techniques to achieve the desired textures and colors.
The lacquer is made using sap from the Chinese lacquer tree (Toxicodendron vernicifluum, also known as Japanese sumac and varnish tree). After filtering and heat treating, the sap is mixed with pigments and applied as layers of varnish to the outside of the cups. The video above shows each step in this process.
Making a Lacquerware Teacup
These porcelain cups are hand shaped, glazed on the inside, and fired in a kiln before the layers of lacquer are applied by the artist. The cup has a light green-tone glaze over white porcelain. This glaze applied inside the cup is known as miseyou 秘色釉 "mystery color glaze." After firing, layers of lacquer are applied to the outside of the cup. Each step is listed below.
1.粗化 Priming the base.
A rough undercoat is applied to the outside of the porcelain cup to make it easier to apply the coats of lacquer.
2.打底 Setting the base.
A thin layer of colored lacquer is applied to the surface of the cup.
3.补灰 Filling in the gaps.
A second layer is applied over the uneven surface of the outside of the cup.
4.粗磨 Sanding the surface.
The dried lacquer is then sanded over with a fine grain paper to give the surface an even but rough texture to allow more layers of lacquer to be applied.
5. 批灰 Applying the base color.
The base color lacquer is applied to the surface.
6. 下涂 Applying undercoat.
A black lacquer is applied to stabilize the base color lacquer.
7. 打埝 Applying texture.
Using tools, a colored lacquer is applied on the surface to create a bumpy colored texture.
8.髹涂 Applying layers of Lacquer.
Lacquer pigments are applied on the surface as multiple layers. Each layer has to be air dried in an environment with 75% humidity in the air and a temperature of 25°C, before the next layer is applied.
9. 贴金 Pasting Gold.
Apply gold powder or/and gold leaf on the surface when gold is used (a small amount of real gold is used for this gold lacquer).
10. 罩漆 Covering the lacquer.
Depending on the style of the teacup, top coats can be applied multiple times. Each layer needs to be dried before the next layer is applied.
11. 研磨与细磨 Sanding and polishing.
The top layer is sanded and polished.
12. 揩清 Clearing up and wiping.
The cup is wiped and dipped in water. The cup is then left to air dry.