Developed a thousand years ago during the Heian period, makie is an exemplary lacquerware technique that involves using gold and silver dust with layers of varnish to produce an image. At NIWAKA, two makie ring designs were created with Japan’s national bird, the pheasant (kiji), as their motif. One design evokes the image of a pheasant silently concealing itself within grass swaying in the wind, while the other features delicately drawn contour feathers left behind once the pheasant has taken flight. Though makie designs are traditionally laid out flat on a single plane, our designer, makie artisan and jewelry craftsman spent three years experimenting on this project in order to express a more three-dimensional picture with makie in a never before seen way. To reproduce the texture of the pheasant motif and a sense of perspective, the only lacquering technique that can create a gradation effect, togidashi makie (burnished makie), is applied. Unlike other methods that dictate the image be drawn from the background up, burnished makie involves laying down the main image first and covering all of the layers with lacquer, which is then polished away to reveal the final design. This gorgeous makie work is born by designing backwards from the finished illustration and calculating down to the micron in order to make sure that when the lacquer is polished away it reveals precisely the beautiful image it was meant to be.

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