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I'm standing here in the galleries the Japanese galleries at the Portland Art Museum and we are looking at a recent acquisition it is a uirr which is a particular kind of pitcher that comes to us from late 16th century Japan the first thing that comes to mind is its material because when I first walked up to this I imagined in some way probably because of the the sides that it was that it was metal and and when I came close to it I realized that it wasn't it's wood is that right yes it's wood and what's interesting is that the body and we often talk about putts in this anthropomorphic way the body has a very slight I mean it's almost a cylinder but it tapers a little bit at the foot so the body is sort of in the shape of a bucket this isn't carved from a single block of wood but it's rather a strip of wood that was steamed and wrapped then we see these things that these ridges on it those are actually strips of bamboo that are sort of like little reinforcing girders that help hold that steamed wood in that wrapped cylindrical shape so it's really a process of construction that's that's made in a way that is not dissimilar to the way that we might treat metal if you think of a sheet of metal hammered and and then bent that's like that and and what is so interesting if we think ok what are the normal ways that you handle wood what we think of carving yes exactly that idea of making a vessel by wrapping a slab of wood into a cylinder and then putting a bottom on it that is a technique in which Japanese wood makers Excel there's a kind of delicacy and a kind of I think that I get the sense of the thinness of that of the wall that seems to me only possible in metal and I think that's why I jump there but but I think that really speaks to the extraordinary sort of tradition out of which this is coming and I see it as incredibly impressive and can we talk a little bit about the way that wood is treated in the color which I find beautiful it's got this almost gorgeous almost patina yes this where it's an example of Japanese lacquer ware so the wood turning the wood bending the wood shaping happens and then it goes through a number of stages of being coated with lacquer and and lacquer is found really in much of Southeast Asia and East Asia but in Japan Japanese lacquer was so treasured by the Europeans when trade began that analogous to the way that we used the word China to associate ceramics with China Europeans used to call works that were lacquered Japan oh is that we were so associated with Japan and lacquer is the sap of a Lac tree it's it's a naturally occurring SAP so think of maple syrup and think of it as something that you know trees booze out at a particular season of the year you have to go and tap it and it's thick and viscous like maple syrup interestingly it's also toxic oh really it has the same chemicals in it that poison ivy does so lacquer workers have to spend a lifetime building up resistance to this so you have this marker and then you can that they're sort of traditional colors to diet and in Japan those two traditional colors were black which you did essentially by mixing lampblack I kind of stood ok with it and the other was what you see here this fantastic cinnabar red by mixing in cinnabar which is a powdered mercury it so this was toxic and I suppose one was safe drinking water out of this but it does sort of bring that to mind well by the time it dries it's all that toxicity so what happens is lacquer has to be painted on in many many coats but what lacquer does and lacquer is used in East Asia from the fourth century BC onwards lacquer can make a wooden object like a high fired porcelain it can make it perfectly impervious leeks so and it can hold hot water it can hold cold water so it's it can handle variety of temperatures it's perfect for containers for like this it's also gorgeous I mean the surface has a kind of almost a kind of translucent that's this kind of well both because because it's black and the layered lacquer layers are very very thin and then they have to dry and then it's polished and then other layers put on and it's polished and the secret of this particular where this comes from a monastic workshop in Japan and it's called nabiru that's the name of the monastery so we call this Negril where first several layers are black and then the last layers are red and you can if you look at the handle you can see where it has touched the most often the lacquer has worn a little bit yes a little bit of the black is coming through and that is the secret of never water where it's seeing that suggestion of black underneath the red it gives incredible dimension it's looking to this pool of red and it's seeing the black underneath but I think it really gives this depth this is an object that comes from the 16th century yes and yet it is so pristine it is in such incredible condition I mean it looks as if it was made just a few years ago and it speaks I think to the resilience as you were saying of the lacquer but is it also that these were because they were in a monastic environment that these were kept sort of out of out of everyday use is this why would this piece in such good condition do we have any idea although nagura wear is very very highly treasured today and this particular shape and in this condition is extremely rare we know of two similar pieces in American collections but that's all that I know of right now of this particular shape this shape belongs to a particular moment in history but it's not it would not have to its original uses or its original makers been a particularly a precious object okay so we wouldn't think of it the way that Chinese would think of something of jade so this is this was not safeguarded as particulars have been hidden away and in fact that's great because look at the wonderful black that we can see in the handle so it's not something that was brought out at Christmas you know it was something that would have been used but you're quite right that because it was in a monastery and monasteries are likely to have the resources to have a big huge storehouse with you know foot thick or two-foot thick clay walls that it would not be subject to the kind of frequent fires that would happen to that say an urban emergence collection that's one and the other thing that's very important key objects were treated with a special River that's different from being precious right if you know what I mean I mean I'm not talking about the rigidness of the material but they were revered and taken care of very well so the Japanese would make Polonia boxes and they would keep it in the Polonia box which keeps it from expanding and contracting in different weather nuts so they they take exceptionally good care of things it is absolutely gorgeous and I have an in totally new appreciation for it thank you so much I'm glad you like it