Today I had lacquer practise, my first time in around six months.

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Although I have been learning for over two years, I still feel like a virtual beginner.

My teacher, a Japanese septuagenarian, is quick-witted and sprightly. Her work is an inspiring blend of art and utility. She firmly believes that food tastes better eaten with wooden utensils rather than plastic or metallic.

Jun’ichiro Tanizaki described his love of lacquerware in “In Praise of Shadows” (陰影礼賛).

“I know few greater pleasures than holding a lacquer soup bowl in my hands, feeling upon my palms the weight of the liquid and its mild warmth.”

Ironically, lacquer soup bowls are typically lighter than plastic bowls. Furthermore, if they wear or are otherwise damaged, they can be readily repaired. Like fine china in Western cultures, lacquerware, or “japan,” is not throwaway.

The urushi or lacquer tree, Toxicodendron vernicifluum, as the Latin suggests, is toxic. Friends have expressed concern about my developing an allergic rash. Yet while I am allergic to a many things, and despite all my classmates suffering, for some reason I have not experienced any reaction. Touch wood.

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My first small collection of objects is now mostly complete. It has taken months. I have lost track of the number of coats of lacquer applied, but it has been over a dozen.

As the goal drew nearer, I began to notice dust and fluff, which can settle upon an object during the production process and become embedded in the lacquer. Tiny dust has become my biggest enemy.

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