precious urushi lacquer objects from japan

Urushi Lacquer Ippodo Gallery

For Asia Week in New York, Ippodo Gallery is introducing Jihei Murase, a craftsman whose incredible urushi lacquer objects have my head spinning. I really never thought I would fall for lacquerware objects, but it just comes to show that if it’s exceptionally well made and finished to perfection, that even a traditional craft can sway this modern sybarite.


urushi lacquer objects

Mostly used in a Japanese tea ceremony (but we in the West can certainly use them as tiny, precious sculptures to adorn a credenza, bookshelf or side table), the superb urushi lacquer objects Murase creates are simply divine.


urushi lacquer boxes Japan

The artist starts by using a lathe to turn the wood and produce an almost paper thin body. He then uses urushi, the natural sap from the lacquer tree, to coat the vessels.  What makes it especially difficult to obtain (and therefore uber expensive!) is that only about 1 cup of sap can be extracted from a mature tree per year!  Urushi is also extremely durable so while we may see, for example, 17th century objects that are rightfully cracked given their age, it is completely normal to find urushi lacquer objects in mint condition after 500 years.


Urushi lacquer Jihei Murase

It is said that Marie-Antoinette’s most coveted and precious collection was of “Japaned” objets – now known to be pieces of Japanese urushi lacquer. And rightly so.  Holding one of these elegant vessels is like holding something as precious as a Faberge object.  You just want to protect it.


urushi lacquer Ippodo Gallery

I invite you to also take a look at the very different but equally masterful urushi lacquer pieces of Japanese artist Yamamura Shinya which I wrote about last summer.


urushi lacquer tea caddy

richard rabel
richard rabel: interiors + art
interior design and art advising
new york city

image credits: Ippodo Gallery, Tokyo and New York.  Ippodo Gallery New York is  open by appointment only.



  • Françoise Bergaglia

    beautiful as always !

  • Carol Keilman

    I love using this design concept in my designs. I am a kitchen and bath remodeling consultant. New colors come out seasonally so I keep most of my projects with new and exciting neutrals. Then when all the permanent applications are in place I love to throw the latest in dramatic color in the space with accessories. Asian is a popular look with clients but do not want the kitchen to be a permanent style. So keep it simple and add the Asian reds and tea greens and bamboo with fabulous accents pieces for the final touches. It is the last shopping trip with my clients and we usually do a nice lunch that day to finalize the relationship.
    Thank you Richard I will be shopping your Urushi Lacquer pieces by Jihei Murase.

  • Ellen Fisch

    Stunning is depth that belies the clean and understated design!