Sustainable Urushi Restoration: In Conversation with ‘Living National Treasure’ Murose Kazumi

Watch a recording of the event in the player above.

Certified as a Bearer of Important Intangible Cultural Property (‘Living National Treasure’) by the Japanese government in 2008, urushi master craftsman Murose Kazumi is renowned, not only for his outstanding creative works, but also for his commitment to the preservation and restoration of urushi cultural assets.

A natural lacquer made from tree sap, urushi has been used in Japan for its functional and decorative properties since the Jōmon period (approx. 14,000—300 BCE); the earliest lacquerware excavated in Japan dated at around 9,000 years old.

Objects coated with urushi are extraordinarily long-lasting, however over time they will slowly deteriorate due to ultraviolet rays and other factors. The restoration and repair of urushi works is highly complicated and specialist work, requiring full mastery of the craft in addition to detailed knowledge of the background of the piece acquired by intensive research. If carefully maintained, urushi objects can last for thousands of years.

During his presentation Murose Kazumi introduces urushi’s long history and eco-friendly properties and discusses his work on the conservation of important historical urushi artefacts, safeguarding their beauty, and the knowledge of the specialist techniques that underpin them, for future generations.

Following the presentation, he is joined in conversation by Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere (Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures).

This talk is part of a series of events featuring Murose Kazumi held in collaboration with the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC) and Royal Collection Trust. 

About the speakers

Murose Kazumi

Murose Kazumi was designated a Bearer of Important Intangible Cultural Property (‘Living National Treasure’) for the maki-e (lit. ‘sprinkled picture’) technique by the Japanese Government in 2008. He spends considerable time restoring ancient urushi works and helping to survey urushi collections from all periods. He cares passionately about fostering the next generation of urushi artists as well as promoting Japanese craft (kōgei) and its preservation. In the UK his work is represented in the British Museum and the V&A.

Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere

Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, PhD, is the founding Director and currently the Research Director of the Sainsbury Institute and Professor of Japanese Art and Culture at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. She wrote Vessels of Influence: China and the Birth of Porcelain in Medieval and Modern Japan with Bloomsbury Academic in 2012 and translated Professor Tsuji Nobuo’s A History of Art in Japan with Tokyo University Press in 2018, among her other publications. She was lead curator for the Crafting Beauty in Modern Japan exhibition in 2007 and the Citi Exhibition Manga 2019, both held at the British Museum. 

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