• Gaby Doman

New Generation Lacquerware

Meet the Artisans Making Urushi Cutting-Edge

Photo credit: Rethink Urushi


Japanese lacquer (urushi) is a 10,000-year-old art that, for many, conjures up images of black, red and gold rice bowls, chopsticks and ornate boxes. However, there are a growing number of artisans that are broadening the appeal of this versatile material, from traditional tea ceremonies right through to modern art and jewellery.


Takuya Tsutsumi, managing director of Tsutsumi Asakichi Urushi in Kyoto has taken almost 115 years of his family’s experience with lacquerware to find a new use and audience for it.


In an interview with MTRL, Tsutsumi admits he has no interest in traditional crafts and says that to prevent a craft from dying out, it’s necessary to innovate.


Photo credit: Rethink Urushi


When surfing and skateboarding were adopted as new Olympic sports for Tokyo 2020, it reignited public interest in them. This was a catalyst for Tsutsumi to introduce urushi to a new generation, crafting stunning lacquered wood skateboards and surfboards.


Photo credit: Rethink Urushi


The rich colours of the lacquered wood have an obvious aesthetic appeal which, like denim and leather, only improves with age. But there’s also an appealing sustainability angle, too. Urushi is made from the sap of lacquer trees and, while it's a painstakingly slow process, it's a sustainable one. In contrast, most modern surfboards are made of resin and polystyrene foam that can’t be recycled. Tsutsumi Asakichi Urushi collaborated with Tom Wegener to produce lacquered wooden alaia surfboards as a stylish and environmentally friendly alternative that, in turn, supports Japanese artisans and traditional local crafts.


Tsutsumi is optimistic lacquerware has limitless potential, to keep him innovating for many years to come and to give urushi a new lease of life.


Visit Tsutsumi Asakichi Urushi for more information.