Have you ever noticed the mood of a high-quality Chinese, Japanese, or other Asian restaurant? How is that delicate, soothing feeling accomplished? It's not just the music that's playing and the hush that falls over the table when all conversation ceases because you're concentrating on trying to use chopsticks.
In Chinese and other Asian restaurants, the mood of calm is achieved in good part through the carefully wrought decor. Everything is spare and is placed deliberately; there is no clutter, and this allows for deeper relaxation. With fewer distractions around, you can concentrate on what's really important: your charming dining companion, or the food, or getting those chopsticks to convey that food to your watering mouth.One of the quintessentially Asian accents is lacquerware, and a few carefully chosen pieces in your home can lend this air of calm, even in the midst of a busy family dinner.
What is lacquerware, anyway? Where does it come from?
Lacquer is harvested from juices derived from the Rhus succedanea tree, a kind of sumac that grows in South East Asia. The oleoresins are then converted into a slow-drying natural lacquer, which is used to protect paintings and other works of art. It's an art form that's been practiced from Burma to Thailand for over 20 centuries, so no wonder it's popular now in decorating around the world.
Lacquerware comes in as many forms as you can imagine, from bowls you can use for small flower arrangements to figurines. Each country or region of South East Asia boasts its own specialty in lacquerware; for example, Thailand is known for its small elephants, and in Vietnam the lacquerware has a reddish-brown tint to it. While most people think of lacquerware as being limited to tiny boxes and little animals, you can also find larger pieces, even full-size room dividers from Vietnam.
Some pieces are simply painted repeatedly until the high glossy shine is achieved, while others are crafted with an intricate design, sometimes using thin gold leaf or mother-of-pearl. The design is etched into the gold leaf with a sharp needle-like instrument.So whether it's just a few small bowls for serving rice or a large elephant to guard your doorway, lacquerware can bring a soothing breeze of ancient Asia into your home.