Saturday, January 5, 2013

Asian Lacquer Ware

The design is scratched onto the surface
We did get to make one more visit to a family run lacquer ware business. The Jasmine family creates fabulous pieces, all by hand. Now, my experience is mostly Japanese lacquer ware and, sadly, mostly the lower quality stuff...Daiso is cheap..for a reason.

Lacquer ware is popular here because bamboo is grown everywhere and that is the main base for the various items they make. The bamboo strips are not very strong, but with repeated layers of lacquer, the sap from a particular tree, and various additions including powder from bones (was it oxen?) it becomes fairly thick and strong. Each layer, once put on, requires three or four days of drying before the next layer can be added. Then they polish the piece, again using layers of the sap that again needs to dry.
Etching pattern for the next color

Once it's ready the piece is handed to the next young man who scratches the design onto the item. The talent he has to free hand scratch the intricate design into the piece! We watched as he worked on an elephant scene with men, plants and stylized designs. The next person scratches in detail, adding the shirt design, plant veins, blankets, flower petals, whatever they want to have put in the first color. Once they're done, they paint the first color on it. The black, uncut section will not absorb the paint, only the sections that have been scratched into. Others layers are added using a glue that masks the areas and again scratching the areas that you want the second color to adhere to. The colors take about a week to dry. These things do not get made quickly! Come over to the house for tea sometime. I picked up one tray with the elephants in battle...stylized, of course.

After a quasi leisurely breakfast, we headed for the river to take a cruise up the Ayeyarwady River to Pakokku. The boat was a typical south-east asian boat running up and down the river with the lawn mower type motor and an elongated drive shaft to the propeller – as well as leaks that needed a bit of bailing.

Rising from the mist
We were greeted with a view of the hot air balloons rising through the misty morning air, purple mountains in the distance. Seven balloons traversed the Bagan valley, giving a bird's eye view of the temples and ruins we had been driving through the last few days. Wish we could have been up there!

We did pass numerous homes along the river; some looking to be permanent, others the fishermen's temporary
Stupa on the banks
 huts created out of palm fronds and grasses. In the jungle areas it made sense, using the local vegetation but when we got further up river, the jungle cleared away and it was obvious that they went through a lot of trouble to build...they would have had to fetch the materials elsewhere, far-away elsewhere! There were also a number of barges making their way up and down the river. The strangest load we saw was rocks...not fancy boulders but just rocks...guess they don't have many in parts of the country.

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