Traditional Villages

Lacquer ware

Lacquer is traditionally created from the sap of a sumac which grows in the uplands. The transparent sap flows from an incision in the tree. It is then treated until it turns black or the brown color of “cockroach wings”. The background material for lacquer coating includes wood, baked earth, stone, copper, rattan, woven bamboo.
Archeological excavations have turned up coffins containing lacquered wood or leather objects, evidence that the making of lacquer date in the Red River delta from as early as the 4th century B.C. From the fifteen century, with the increase in Buddhism, it was mainly used to decorate panels and columns of religious architecture; as well to decorate statues and palanquins. Lacquer production flourished in the 17th-19th centuries as Vietnamese craftsman developed from the Chinese and finding their own ways to make lacquer products which can well endure the tropical climate of Vietnam. By the turn of the 20th century, villages of the northern delta were making objects such as vases, boxes, trays, bowls, plates and screen which were for everyday rather than religious use.  The art of lacquer work continued to transform in the 1920’s and 30’s with the influence of French artists who encourages the use of lacquer in fine art painting.
Lacquer ware found in Craft Link is produced by a family in Ha Tay province who employs artisans, many of whom are physically or economically disadvantaged.

The process of making lacquerware
Example: A lacquered bowl
The traditional lacquer process as practiced in Vietnam is quite complicated and can take up to 115 days to finish one piece. Even a simple bowl takes a minimum of 75 days. Our lacquer product has been through at least 13 stages in the lacquering process before packing!
1. The raw timber product is examined and any cracks and indentations are sealed with natural lacquer from the native lacquer tree in Phu Tho Province – Vietnam.
2. After checking that the natural lacquer has not affected the intended shape, the product is covered with fine cotton gauze to ensure there will be no cracking at a later stage.
3. The natural lacquer is then mixed with finely ground mountain rock, sawdust, and alluvial soil. The mixture has a dark brown color. By using a type of spatula, the product is covered with a thick coating.
4. When the coating has dried the product is placed under water and is polished using a sharpening stone.
5. Using a brush made from natural fibres, a mixture of alluvial soil and natural lacquer is painted onto the product.
6. When the coating has dried the product is placed under water and is polished using a sharpening stone.
7. Using a brush made from natural fibres, a mixture of alluvial soil and natural lacquer is painted onto the product.
8. When the coating has dried the product is placed under water and is polished using a sharpening stone.
9. The product is covered with pure natural lacquer.
10. Once again the product is polished under water with a sharpening stone
11. The product now has dark brown color. A very thin layer of real silver leaf is pasted onto the product. This silver leaf make the product look shiny.
12. If the products have any designs such as flower, fine art symbols,… ect, the designs will be stenciled onto the products and all the details are painted by hand. This is why every lacquer product is an original piece. No two pieces are quite alike.
15. The surface without design are painted with lacquer and the areas with design are painted with a special clear lacquer.
16. The whole product is given a second coat of clear lacquer.
17. A third coat of clear lacquer is applied.
18. The product is polished with wax.
19. The products have been finished and ready for packaging.
Your lacquer product has thirteen layers, please handle it with care. The thirteen layers make it very durable and you will have years of use if you look after it correctly. Most of all enjoy your lacquer product and remember that it has been totally made by hand in Vietnam. There is no other piece exactly the same as yours.

For more information about this project, please contact:

CRAFT  LINK

51 Van Mieu Str., Hanoi, Vietnam

Tel: (8424) 3733 6101

Email: craftlink@fpt.vn

Web: www.craftlink.com.vn

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