Japanese Maki-e Art dates back 1400 years and is a highly respected and rare form of art. There are but a few living Masters of this art form who continue to keep this tradition alive. A skilled Make-Shi (artist) has begun his learning at an early age and works as an apprentice to his master for many years before he may set out on his own.
Maki-e art features Urushi lacquer (sap from the Urushi tree native to Japan), along with gold powder and other precious metals and powders painted and inlaid into the most exquisite of designs that require great skill and precision. Some of the Maki-e Shi are considered ‘National Treasures’ in Japan.
Urushi sap is in itself a very special and natural source of lacquer that is unique to the Urushi tree found only in South East Asia, Japan and the Korean Peninsula. Urushi sap is much like blood is in the human body; it helps heal cracks on the trunk of the Urushi tree. There are over 600 different species of Urushi trees and the Urushi collected from these trees must be collected by hand and with great skill. The sap that is removed by hand from these trees is then processed meticulously to make several different kinds of Urushi that are used for Maki-e.
Maki-e is an art of precision and hard work, befitting the character of the people of Japan. It requires tremendous focus and attention to minute detail. The Maki-e Shi use very fine brushes made of the finest hair from various different animals. There are many different brushes and spatulas that are used in the process of Maki-e depending on the technique being applied. In the process of Maki-e there are several steps that are taken and patiently applied to the object over months before an object can be completed.
There are many different techniques of Maki-e requiring varied levels of expertise. The process is begun with ‘Shitaji-Nuri’ which is preparation of the ground of the object with Urushi. This process may sound simple since it involves the cleaning of the object but it is this Shitaji-Nuri that gives the finished Maki-e object its guaranteed lifetime of hundreds of years. Once this process is completed the Maki-e Shi must prepare the object for Naka Nuri or UwaNuri which is preparation for final painting on the object. Having prepared the object the Maki-e Shi must now apply the required artwork with the use of very fine brushes and knives and the sprinkling of gold powder followed by the several applications of lacquer and inlay of precious metals or pearl as required. The many levels of technique that are found on our pens to name a few are Hira Maki-e, Togidashi Maki-e, Taka Maki-e, Shishai Togidashi Maki-e and Bokashi Maki-e.
At AP Limited Editions, we pride ourselves for having created some of the most exquisite works in Maki-e ever found on writing instruments. We are also privileged to have some of the finest and most exceptional Maki-e Shi in Japan working with us to create these heirlooms that take several months from conception to creation.