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Maki-e is the Japanese art of decorating an object with gold or silver powder. Literally it means 'sprinkled picture' and it is done using a makizutsu or kebo brush. The technique was thought to have been developed around 790 to 1185 and became very popular in the Edo period (1603 - 1868). Maki-e was originally made for court nobles but the popularity spreads and soon royal families, military leaders and the wealthy were demanding Maki-e pieces.

Not just gold is used in Maki-e. Various other metals such as silver, copper, brass, lead, aluminium, platinum and others are used. Traditionally tubes made from bamboo and various fine brushes are used for drawing the fine lines and laying powders. A Maki-e artist must be highly skilled and it requires several years of training to master the art. One of the first lacquer master was Koami Docho (1410-1478) who used designs created by Japanese painters. Koami and Igarashi Shinsai originated the two principal schools of lacquer-making in Japanese history.

Raised Maki-e or Takamakie, as it is called, is one of the principle methods of Maki-e. In consists of building up layers of design patterns with a mixture of metal powder, such ass gold, lacquer and charcoal or clay dust.

Another style is Togidashi maki-e where a black lacquer without any oil is applied as an additional top coat. This 'fixes' the powder. After it has dried, it is briefly burnished with charcoal or clay dust, carefully applying a little water until the gold powder is faintly revealed. Then a raw lacquer is applied with cotton and wiped with crumpled rice paper; a finishing burnish is then done with charcoal. then granular charcoal is applied with water, using a soft cloth, and gently polished. After which the piece is polishing is repeated three times.

"The earliest extant example of togidashi maki-e is found on the scabbard of a Chinese T'ang-style sword of the Nara period (645-794), owned by the Shôsô in Nara. In the Heian period (794-1185), togidashi maki-e lacquer ware flourished. From the Muromachi period (1338-1573), the technique was combined with high relief (takamaki-e), and the ware was called shishiai togidashi maki-e."
Encyclopaedia Britannica


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