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Lacquer Journey In China

I just returned! I was invited to exhibit and perform at the Asian Lacquer Craft Exchange Research program in Myanmar this September. When we arrived, we were immediately directed to see all the techniques of lacquer application at the Bagan Lacquerware College. The Lacquer research commenced in Bagan, Myanmar after arriving late at night after a 17-hour flight. Wet with sweat, I proudly dragged my suitcase along the dark roads to the hotel in the wee morning,

Later we went to the lacquer School to see the technique of string lacquer and gold leaf pen drawing. For objects and bowls, they applied bone ash to the surface of the bamboo substrate, then later mixed clay with lacquer, then painted many more layers of the pure stuff. Over spiraled bamboo vessels they place layers of ash and powdered roof tile into the lacquer. They apply with their hands and then sand down with an antique rotating rope device then the bowls were coated with clay, then they are Coated with a base coat lacquer, then carved repeatedly carved like reduction techniques of batik. First there is an application of color and another with an application of acacia resin as a barrier, then more carving, another color, another layer of acacia, then the whole thing is washed off and you can see all the multiple colors separated in the incisions. Also, gold techniques were demonstrated. We had a killer lunch of Myanmar food with yummy bean paste and traditional thick
sweet tea-. We experienced a throwing of paper offerings and a visit to Ananda temple.

If was dusk and I wanted to take a shortcut road between the temples. It ended up being magical and eerie. I had to run along the shortcut through roads of deep sand and palm. Inside the silhouette of the sunset. I was alone and wanted the sunset to hold, never to stop, so I would have time to run into another temple. We were there for Buddha day. Sometimes the revered temples for prayer did not have so much art in them as the as the ones for prayer. the road was deep in sand and palms I wasn't sure where I was going but never to return to this Same place again.

Dusty road at dusk alone
stretched through time,
markets full of bananas
tomatoes, Chinese cucumbers,
Cauliflower and mint leaves, muddy
wet fish markets,
eggplants and bamboo shoots in water,
potatoes in shades of orange and pink,
mountains of peanuts.
a woman stitches something by hand
in her door way
amongst Mounds of ceramic pots.
A boy 
sleeps on his mothers
Dawn on the mountain
I play with my puppet
along the edges of the shore,
temples rise on the dawn light.

We try to catch the sunset too. after a tasty noodle salad with satay, we are off to set up the exhibit of lacquer with the participants from Korea, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan Thailand, including myself from The United States. It seems. The Exhibition unfolds in a matter of minutes. Lectures are given on the harvesting of it, and craft, and art and state of lacquer throughout Asia, state of present and past state of lacquer. They can make gigantic vessels of out of the lacquer, they even gold leafed a Mini Cooper out of lacquer car.

While white cows
Cross the temple landscape in the early evening light.
I will never forget the white eyes of the Golden Buddha

It was 120 degrees and I gave performances during breaks. I donned black voile chiffon headdresses, with hoods and velveteen gloves making it so hot. I felt my body was dry and of the strength of earth. As we get older we become enduring. Dry and wizen, I walked home passing some temples, feeling the relief and calm of a dusty day A kind of Birch tree is growing here everywhere. I had been here before and could feel my shadow. An old man solicits
me to look at the Buddha foot, I realize how he is much younger than I, so his life has been harder. I don't remember the rest of the day as jetlag overcomes me. I have dinner with the professors at Tokyo university of Fine Arts.
Early the next morning I enjoy a ghostly sunrise. We listen to lectures on how the lacquer work is processed. I learn that Tsitsi lacquer hardens at 35 degree centigrade and 90 percent humidity rather than the 80 percent humidity and 20 degrees required for Japanese and Chinese lacquer. Also, there were many fossil stones found in the earth in Bagan that are ground into a dust for polishing the dried and finished lacquerware. You can see many fossilized wood pieces behind the owner of Everstand lacquerware in the photo.

We went to a place when they make dry lacquer in molds of plaster. I saw layers of cloth with Teak sawdust and lacquer concoction. The original sculpture Is clay and the mold is of out of plaster.
For dry lacquer, they make plaster casts of Buddha with layers of teak sawdust, and lacquer
and cloth. I saw molds of large hands, and I am supposing then was a preliminary layer of clay impregnated lacquer to capture the finer features. For a mold release for the first layer, they could have mixed clay with the water
soluble acacia resin.

Many Credits to Asian Lacquer Craft Exchange (Link) and hopefully we can have this project in USA
Awaken from a deep sleep and enjoy a private dawn on top of a small temple. It was Buddha day with a local festival in town with large paper made bodies and gongs and drums but so hot loved being thrown from side to side in the gentle crowd We visited numerous lacquer studios including a contemporary one called Black Elephant who works more with textile decorative floral designs rather the stylized temple designs. Those of which have a timeless deeper meaning. How to be innovative without losing an element!

Off for a cruise to watch the sunset up the Irrawaddy river with the lacquer artists from
China, Cambodia, Japan. Time to leave Bagan after seeing the different Workshops and styles.

Copyrite 2017 Sha Sha Higby all rights reserved. Some of the information may noyt be correct,but please contact me for any errors
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