manufacturing process begins with the making of a bamboo frame for the lacquer ware
item, a bowl for example. For objects of the highest quality, fine
horsehair, taken from the tail, is woven around the frame.
You can tell if
horsehair is used by pressing the sides of the bowl together — they should
Lower quality bowls are made completely of bamboo wicker woven around
the frame and are very stiff as a result.
Bamboo wicker or horsehair are traditional materials employed for
lacquer- ware products. Nowadays, cheaper and more durable wood ' mainly
teak or mango plywood ' is sometimes used to make bases for objects that are
not round in shape, trays, boxes, treasure chests, screens, tables and
chairs for example.
After the frame is made and bamboo wicker or
horsehair has been woven around it, the first coating of lacquer is
applied. The lacquer paint used is black and it comes from a resin of a
particular tree found around Inle Lake in eastern Myanmar.
The lacquer paint
is applied by hand which makes an even coating. The object is then left to
dry for a week in an underground cellar; drying in the sun in the early
stages causes pockmarks.
The object is then taken out for a second
coating of lacquer. It is left to dry for yet another week in the
cellar. The next stage involves covering the object with a paste made from a
mixture of pulverized buffalo bone, teak sawdust and lacquer to fill up any
nooks or crevices.
It is left to dry for a week. The object is then polished
with pumice stone to remove rough surfaces. Lacquer paint is again applied
and the object put aside to dry.
After another week, the object is polished
again, both on the inside and outside, using a mixture of clay and
stone. The polishing is done three times before the object is stored
underground for one month. Then a long process of painting and drying
First, the inside of the object is painted with lacquer
and left to
dry for a week; then the outside is painted and the object is again put
aside for drying.
At that stage the object is polished again with water and
stone, dried in the sun for two hours, another coat of lacquer is applied
and the object is dried underground for a week.
For the next seven weeks, a layer of
lacquer is applied at one-week intervals. The result is a shining lacquer
product made even glossier by careful polishing with a buffalo chamois
soaked in sesame oil. At this stage, the desired color or colors and
designs are worked onto the object. Usually traditional designs are etched
onto the surface by very fine instruments.
Then one color is applied, the Lacquer ware is left to dry for a week, it is polished with rice husks,
washed with water and painted with acacia glue to fix the color.
If another color is required,
details are etched and coated with the second color, left to dry for a
week, washed and then fixed with acacia glue again. More etchings are made
and a third color is added and this time, the object is left to dry for a
month. Later, it is polished first with teakwood
ash and water and then with a piece of cotton cloth. It is washed and dried again for ten minutes in the
sun and finally polished with a powder made from pulverized petrified wood.
That's not all. The object is painted once more on the