Post 708 -by Gautam Shah


Building Systems have many elements, real and conceptual. Order, Core, Periphery, are the Real or physical elements, whereas Convergent zones, time-space relevance and Domain identities are the conceptual elements.

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ORDER: Order is an inherent characteristic of all building systems. Order begins to emerge as soon as parts and components are selected for inclusion in a building system. Initially, building systems have order that is alogical and loosely definable, and it may or may not be apparent. But it is noticeable when the system begins to perform. At this stage, in simple system the order is obvious, logical and definable. But in nonphysical systems the order can be elusive due to the scale and complexity. Yet recognition of order in a system helps in many ways:

  • It helps the definition of a system.
  • It endows self sufficiency, so that the system can become an ever replaceable component.
  • It provides nodes for dependency so that the system becomes integrated whole.

cour napoléon du musée du louvre avec pyramide 75001

In all building systems the primary orders are: selection (inclusion and exclusion) of parts, components, etc. and the process of assembly or manufacture. However, in complex systems there are many levels and categories of orders, chiefly selective time-space relevance of components. Some parts and components remain latent, but become relevant in specific conditions.

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Every human effort follows some intrinsic logic’. Parts of an entity, even before being manufactured and even before physically placed together, have some degree of coordination. The coordination begins within the thought processes of the Designer along with the formation of concept for the object.

3 geograph-6245178-by-Rob-Farrow

Another important characteristic of building systems is their domain or territory. This is very apparent in physical systems, but nonphysical systems seem infinite with no edges. However, metaphysical systems have a zone where they are adequately active in comparison to sections where such systems are diffused, i.e., partially effective.

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Recognition of order in building systems, are both subjective and objective. Subjective involvement allows the system author to see through the nascent logic, or prevent the recognizing the order. Objective evaluation of the system by an uninvolved person rides over personal biases. Objective evaluation by stakeholders can occur for substantially realized or an operational system.

6 Germany,_Berlin_-_Reichstag_-_panoramio

CORE OR NUCLEUS: Building systems have a strong focus or conceptual foundation from which other subsystems emanate or converge to. In building systems, a focus like core or nucleus is the zone where one establishes conceptual mooring or begin encounters with the system. The core distinguishes two directions: inward and outward.

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The conceptual systems have no edges or definitive extent. So encounters with the atmosphere as a system begins at the surface of the earth, i.e. technically at the optimum sea level. The core in such nonphysical or conceptual systems is a multi faceted and transient phenomena because some of the subsystems verge here for a while or seem to have a bearing here.

In buildings Core or Nucleus is an exclusive zone, less variable. A core zone is a singular entity and contrasted with peripheral areas, which are of many different types.

11 Burj_al_Arab_lobby_March_2008panob

PERIPHERY: In building systems the barricades (walls, roofs, doors, windows, etc.) the periphery zones are well defined. The strength of buildings barricades show the holistic character. Sub systems here have some semblances of independence but within the confines of peripheral barricades. The periphery zones or edges are recognized when a subsystem touches other subsystems of neighbouring domains. During rest of the conditions the periphery may not be perceptible. The periphery is well delineated in systems that exchange information or transfer energy at specific nodes and through some protocols.

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CONVERGENT ZONES: Convergent zones are more apparent in conceptual systems as the intervention areas formed by overlapping subsystems and also by gaps or interludes between the subsystems. The convergence and gaps-interludes occur, both in time and space. A loosely conglomerated system like the transit, courier, etc. consist of several modulated units, occurring across different regions, or across technologies. Here planned or recognized gaps and interludes give all subsystems a component like ‘replaceable’ identity. The gaps and interludes are not completely devoid, but are full of metaphysical things, as in case of solar system. Systems flourishing, at different periods or across geographical regions can have concepts, ideas, etc. that are common, making them universal.

1 fortpoint_fortpointsanfrancisco_brickforts_underthegoldengate_civilwarforts-443769

TIME-SPACE RELEVANCE: These are more apparent in very large systems, more so in conceptual systems. These systems have diffused edges and overlapping identities with other systems. It is a selective and subjective perception, because the large system reveals itself in parts. The perception is conditioned by the location and occasion.

Old Architecture Building Facade Window Hauswand

DOMAIN IDENTITY: Domains form a place, a physical or conceptual one. Real domain s have a territory, whereas conceptual ones have extent of effectuality. The conceptual domain is a belief or a conduct to sustain a myth. The acceptance or confirmation of it gives a sense of participation and control but without any distinctive ownership. Physical systems have a finite edge and so reflect an exclusive domain. All Domains are conferred with certain social, cultural and political ideologies. A domain identity marks what is internal and external to a system. It indicates how a system is part of the larger system. It identifies nodes for dependency or connectivity of the system.

This is the 30th article (in continuation of old series -new beginning) on ISSUES of DESIGN.


SPATIAL MEMORIES –Issues of Design 29

Post 707 -by Gautam Shah


10 Liberty Bell 462864892_f2f1d35e70_c

Spatial memories are about experiences, encounters and realizations for a place, location, extent and territorial approach. These, at a simpler level occur as sensorial reminiscences and at complex level are construed as constructions, arrangements, patterns, sequences or projections. In spite of being in a real space, often, many of the elements of memories remain unconnected as these are distanced in time and space. The reminiscences of space experiences are rarely comprehensive. To know and understand a space, some reminiscent cues are explored for reliving, reenacting, enlivening, and rearranging the experiences. Spatial memories help to complete the experience of the space.

1 Spooky Place 2871375188_4cdefc27fc_c(1)

Spatial memories are associated with sensorial experiences and environmental conditions. Both characterize a space as a place, location, the territorial approaches and define its extent or effectiveness. The spatial memories belie or seem intriguing when the sensorial stimuli or environmental conditions are not connected to any real elements. Memories, however, strange, need a trace to the reality. The association with real makes experiences contextual and re-collectible. Environmental conditions in spite of variations offer a base that is substantially consistent. But sensorial stimuli in various combinations, proportions and orientations alter the quality of space. So the sense of space emerges essentially from the sensorial manifestation.

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Spatial memories get formed on their own, through conditions of exposure such as the duration, intensity, frequency, elements of surprise, novelty, recurrence, familiarity and coincidental happenings. Classicism or styling, are the essential features, often abstracts, drawn form diverse sources, as singular or unified understandings. Styles are often perceived as new realizations and classicism offer deductive reconstructions. Both distinguish themselves on past reminisces, but are used for moving away from it.

16 man-architecture-people-road-street-desert-800956-pxhere.com

Spatial memories are intentionally induced to make spaces memorable. Such memories are induced by enhancing the experiences, replicating certain elements through exact copies or with minor succeeding variants, emphasizing identities of select components, building up extreme surprises, intentional mis-sequencing, contrasting the situations with things in time-space immediacy or with known past events.

2 The Rage of Achilles by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1757, Fresco,

Spatial memories persist through the folklore. The spatial narrative of the physical assets, such as built-forms, estates, lands, assets, products, possessions, etc. consist of measures, scale, description of the structure, functions, congregations, processions, orientation, directions, etc. Whereas the metaphysical things such as dance, drama, ceremonies, require metaphoric connections to subsist. Such symbolic endowments are made part of the physical assets. The connections work two-ways, to arouse spatial memories and to give validity to the symbolic content of metaphysical things.

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Memories remain latent, almost on the verge of being forgotten, till a trigger brings them back. The recall, cues are very thin and fleeting but have the potential of developing into a larger affair. The cues need support from the physical forms like art, architecture, performing arts, crafts, music, etc., and from narrations or abstractions that continue to be embedded in our life. The spatial memories have diminishing prospects. As one moves away in time and space, the prospective field diminishes and the chances for recall cues thin out.

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Spatial memories have no permanence, but only changing relevance. One may not derive anything from a fleeting recall but related physical forms and narratives help arrest with some derivative meaning. Spatial memories need confirmation of common experience and becomes a matter of faith. The common ancestral, social, cultural, or national experiences strengthen the bond between the physical forms and narratives.


When one establishes greater details about a thing or happening, it is to broaden the scenario. A broad scenario allows assessment of distances and directions of a thing or happening from other ones. For both the measures are time and space. Spatial memories are affected by the 1 distances, 2 directions, 3 contextual variability. These help, respectively in I orienting own-self intuitively, II way-finding around complex settings, III concentrating on the essentials among chaos. Such abilities are claimed to be automatic recognition of geometrical order between different elements in space. This is pattern forming and recognition.

3 Plague

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Spatial memories have helped us to map our stellar universe, territorial explorations and sensorial escapades. There are many things that change little over millenniums or change too much to keep a match with biorhythms. We memorize the changes in perceptions of size, colour, shape, movement, direction, growth pattern, etc., The capacity to perceive and means of mapping are two important factors for forming the reminiscences. For these known shapes, patterns, motifs and abstractions are morphed over for image building and memorize the changes.

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Spatial memories allow one to navigate through hyper and real spatial complex compositions like neighbourhoods, cities, deserts and forests. It is easy to recollect the environment conditions affecting objects. With drugs and hypnosis a person can indicate the location and positions of long forgotten objects or happenings. The space users remember most are the meaning, sense and emotion that an environment helped provide. Built forms, performances or narratives force us to do certain things in some explicable (predestined?) manner, but some of the reminiscences initiate a process of learning.

4 Wayang_Pandawa

There was a time when few things were recorded but many things were remembered. Yet, there is a natural limit to remember. Even with information recording tools, the quantum of things to self-remember have not changed but capacity to remind own-self and others have increased. Libraries, few centuries back were operating more as means of reminders. Similarly many built-forms are now more reminders of spatial experiences, due to the loss of associated meanings of those times.

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Humans have been remembering things that really mattered to them and forgot the rest. But writing and documenting made things difficult to forget. The collections in no time became so vast that a new branch of reminding was born. Early museums, post archeological discoveries and colonial expropriation of Art pieces, were accused of uprooting history from their natural surroundings. Here the relics were placed without the natural context but often compounded with new interpretations. All studies are manufactured interpretations and have a tendency to go for extremes. These commentaries have a tendency to make past as rosier or worse than it was. Such colourations are circumstantial. Someone has truly said historical interpretation is always contingent upon the audience’.

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Now the internet is making forgetting a lot harder. The internet and related information technologies of searches are taking the business of reminding to new scales. Forgetting is impossible with consistent reminders. More information is auto connected with links and tags. Spatial memories were enshrined in accessible (stored) knowledge bases, identified relics, manuscript, records, artefacts, arts, fables, folklore, fashions or styles.

17 Remembarances

22 ART by Pieter Brueghel the Elder - The Dutch Proverbs

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Modern public spaces now have face recognition systems that also trace out the movement in space and nature of engagements with spatial objects. The same systems will perhaps record what we cognize and do so if repeatedly exposed These are also means remembering and learning the spatial behaviour of individual as well as groups.

Houses Street Buildings Old Strait City

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Questions that emerge are, if memories reflect the past, are there any equivalent phenomena that connect the future. Future is inevitably bonded to the reality as much as memories are materialities of the past. One can never remember, imagine or construct a thing that is beyond the reality. There is a fear that unless things of the past are preserved, the present will lose the bearing.

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Woman Dresses People Agra Morning Kau Ban Mosque

Physical entities like architecture have the advantage of persistence, in spite of neglect and decadence. Architectural elements are defaced, disfigured or robbed but the space continues. Architecture rarely gets forgotten, but its memories subsist through many means.

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This is the 29th article (in continuation of old series -new beginning) on ISSUES of DESIGN.



Post -by Gautam Shah



Interior spaces result as an organization of spatial configurations for specific conditions of environment, beliefs and group behaviour dynamics. However, for circumstantial reasons, it is not always feasible to achieve a perfect set in a given space, for the available technology and in required time. To overcome such deficiencies Interior spaces are endowed with make-believe inputs or effects.


The ‘make-believe’ is an economical substitute for the original or hypothetical entity (time, extent, money, effort). The ‘make-believe’ also offers an exciting tool for creation of new experiences.


We strongly associate specific experiences with entities like materials, technologies, spatial scaling such as size, proportions, texture, colour, illumination, frequency and schedules of occurrence etc. or temporal skewing like enhancing or delaying the event. However, for make-believe, such experiences are created by substituting the nominal entities with different materials and technologies, spatial scaling or time skewing. When the predictable effects fail to arrive in the nominal context, or arrive in spite of a different situation a delusion occurs. Make-believe effects are almost magical or ethereal, and defy logic or reason.


For example, our nominal experience tells us that dark spaces are cooler and quieter, and conversely bright spaces are noisier and warmer, but such expectations are sought to be replaced in maze and adventure tunnels of children parks. Night clubs are darker but noisier and prayer areas are brighter and yet quieter.


We are generally conditioned by predictable effects of the traditional or known materials. However, when we discover that any peculiar configuration or additional input creates an experience that is different from the one that is predictable, and we get a tool for a make-believe effect.


Mirrors play a very important role in creation of duplicate spaces. We are conditioned by the fact that load-bearing walls are opaque, so a glass wall seems different. Till recently transparent material like glass was flat and stiff plate, but plastics now allow two way curvatures, and can also be flexible. Rooms other than the nominal square or rectangular shape provide an unusual experience. Echoes and reverberation of sound provide predictable space dimensions, but different perception gives unusual experience of the space. Lights and shadows mould the visible space. Ionized air endows a garden like freshness in an otherwise stifled space. Indian epic Maha-Bharat mentions of a Laksha Griha (literally a house of Lac or wax), a place where solid looking floors were water surfaces, and water surfaces were real floors.


A society by a tacit understanding accepts certain words, signs metaphors, and indications as allowable and non allowable actions (warnings, danger, caution, etc.). When such commonly acceptable norms are displayed, they function almost like a real barricade. Signs like Caution, Danger, ‘Do not trespass’, ‘keep off the grass’, etc. operate as barriers. Metaphysical barricades are indicative and unreal, or make-believe. Make-believe barriers exploit the instinctive associations and conditioning of physiological and mental faculties.


In real life we do use the stage like make-believe and indicative effects. We use these to create situations that are called ‘dramatic or melodramatic’. Discotheques, Night Clubs, Amusement Parks, etc., are places where such make-believe effects are extensively exploited.




Post 706 -by Gautam Shah

Part -II will deal with ADDITIVES for CLAYS



Surface finishes and Products composed with CLAY as the prime raw material have been used, for every conceivable purpose and in all parts of the world. Clay is preferred for : Abundant supply, cheapness, universal availability, insulation qualities, ecological value and simplicity of application. Clay finishes and products have some drawbacks like: shrinkage on drying, i.e., cracking, poor weathering qualities, lack of homogeneity in dry state, high water permeability -hygroscopic, poor bonding to a substrate peel-off, vulnerability to white ants and insects.


The quality of the clay-based surface finishes and products depend on:

  1. Quality of soil
  2. Fillers
  3. Additives
  4. Manufacturing processes


Quality of Soil

Soil is a product, formed mainly from the decomposition of a rock and ashes of lava origin. The decomposed product may remain at its place of origin or get transported to other places by natural forces like water, wind etc. The product, which remains at the place of origin the Residual clays, are comparatively pure, but have less uniform particle size distribution. Materials that after being transported get deposited somewhere else are the Sedimentary or secondary clays. These are generally contaminated by other materials and have smaller but uniform particle size distribution.

Red Iron rich Earth

Principal constituents of clays are Alumina and Silica. Alumina provides the plasticity, and Silica, if free, reduces the shrinkage and warping. Composite silica, though increases the warping on baking. Other elements of clays are Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Manganese, Potassium and Sodium. Various compositions of these elements and their crystalline structure affect the quality, colour and texture of the soil. Kaolin is the chief constituent of clays used for Ceramics production.


Clays used for products making and surface finishing, are either Top-organic soils or Virgin-non organic soils.


Top-organic soils have substantial amounts of organic matters from the decomposition of vegetation and human, and animals excrete. The presence of organic matters makes a soil light in weight and dark in colour. Organic soils usually show high workability and low shrinkage characteristics. When organic soils are found below an existing layer and are old, contain gallic acid and tannin in small proportions but sufficient to act as fungicide and mild insecticide.


Virgin or non organic soils have negligible amounts of organic matters, and so reflect the basic characteristic of the predominant constituent element, i.e., lime, silica, or alumina. Non-organic soils, however, do take-on the personality of the other minor minerals present in it. Iron oxide as ferric and ferrous is the most important colourant. Other important colourants are quartz, kaolin, mica etc. Soils show a wide range of colours from off-white to yellow, light brown and chocolate to reddish tones. Non-organic soils unless constituted by colloidal particles show very little plasticity. Some mineral constituents of such soils are reactive to water resulting in swelling and leaching.


Residual or sedimentary materials available at the top of the surface, or below a certain depth, can be classified as: Clays, Sands, Silt, Shale, Colloids, Hard pan, Hoggin, Loam, Peat-Muc, Humus.


Clays are fine albuminous products formed by decomposition of igneous rocks (lava activity). Clays are tenacious and plastic when wet. Clays are highly cohesive, have high capillaries and no internal friction. Clays are smooth to touch, sticky and plastic. Clays can also be classified according to their plasticity, or silt content. Hard clays or stiff clays have low sand content, and are difficult to excavate. Fine clays have medium sand content, and can be excavated with slight effort. Soft clays have coarse texture and are easy to excavate. Pure clays are mostly useless because of the high plasticity and excessive shrinkage on drying. Plastic clays are called fat clays, and less plastic clays and are also called lean clays.

Ball ClaysClays are black, white, red, brown and yellow in colour. China Clay is a residual material, contaminated with silica, mica, feldspar and decomposed feldspar. Ball clay is a sedimentary material of fine grain size and some organic contents. It is finer than china clay. Fire clays are formed from feldspar as residual and sedimentary deposit. Brick clays are high in iron content, and impurities of calcium compounds and organic matter.


Sands are of small granular particles, usually of stones. Sands are gritty to touch, with little cohesion. It has high internal friction and very little capillarity. Silts are soils that are somewhere between a clay and sand. Silts are slightly gritty to touch and are darker in colour than clays. Colloids are gluey matter found with clays but of ultra fine particles. The colloids absorb moisture and remain suspended, rather than settle down in water. Shale is a compressed and laminated clay with or without organic matter. Shale is plastic when wet but disintegrates when dry.

Volcanic ash deposition

Hard pan is a very dense accumulated mass of soil, consisting of clay, sand, gravel, etc. held together in a rock like but layered formation. Hard pan does not soften when wetting. Hoggin is a natural deposit of a mixture of clay with small stones, grit and sand. Loam is a soft mixed deposit of silty clay and sand in different proportions. Peat-muc and Humus, have fibrous or spongy organic matters formed by the decay of plants. These deposits are black or dark brown in colour, varying compressible in presence-absence of water and so unsuitable for heavy loads. The decomposition of organic material is more advanced in muc than in peat.



LINKS to My BLOGS on Sound, Hearing and Acoustics

Post 705 -by Gautam Shah

BLOGS on Sound, Hearing and Acoustics


SOUND and SPACE -issues of design -19








SOUND -as we listen


SOME SOUND BITES -Space Perception -I






















SPACE PERCEPTION -through seeing, hearing and touching


NON VISUAL LANGUAGE -Issues for Design -6




HEARING and interior spaces










SPACE PERCEPTION – Issues for Design -4





Post 704  –by Gautam Shah


This article is compiled from several Internet resources and my own lecture notes on Surface Finishes.

1 Footed Tray with Figures in a Landscape and Symbols of Seven Immortals LACMA

2 Footed Tray

Ryukyuan lacquerware (Ryukyu no Shikki) is the chief craft product of the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa Prefecture of Japan). Shikki incidentally, stands for lacquerware. Ryukyuan lacquerware represents a unique form and style distinct from the neighbouring places. These have three distinguishing features: the brilliant red colour of the background, gold patterns and use of inlay of mother of pearl. Many items and techniques of making the lacquerware of Ryukyuan, elsewhere in Japan and China are common. ‘Ryukyuan lacquers, yet, are neither purely Chinese nor purely Japanese’. The craft of making or decorating with lacquer is common in many Asian countries.

3 Red lacquer tray with gold engraving Song Dynasty

The art of Lacquerware came to Japan with Buddhism in mid 6th C from China through Korea. When Okinawa was the Ryukyu Kingdom, the lacquer items also came through trade with China during 14th and 15th C. Ryukyuan artisans over the years while exploiting, both the local and imported materials, matured the lacquerware into an ethnic craft by using Ryukyuan motifs.

21 Bowl with cover from Okinawa, 18th C Mother of Pearl Inlay work Wikipedia Image by Hiart Honolulu u_Museum_of_Art

20 Mother of Pearl

4 Lacquer case

Ryukyu, lacquerware have over the years seen several political upheavals, forcing imposition of new styles, but yet the most popular red lacquerware has survived such vagaries. During the 17th and 18th C, following the invasion of Okinawa by Satsuma the Chinese style black lacquerware production was made mandatory. It resulted in mixing up of Ryukyuan and Chinese styles lacquerware in single pieces.

5 Red Lacquer Cabinet with Butterflies

In Ryukyu, lacquerware like cups and bowls were used for offerings in religion rituals, whereas items such as necklaces and decorative utilitarian articles were offered for political gratification. The descendants of Ryukyu samurai and royalty used the lacquerware in formal places in order to forge a connection between people and the Gods. The royal Sho family of the former Ryukyu Kingdom have a set of lacquerware luncheon-basket, leg bowl and wine cups, cherished as the national cultural asset.

6 Chest with Peonies motifs LACMA

Ryukyu lacquerware, over the ages, have seen several modifications. These were, in earlier periods due to the change in patronage by the rulers and also inclusion of new patterns, materials and techniques in the repertoire. In modern times these have been mainly markets driven changes. ‘Chinkin’, the gold inlayed items had traditional vermilion and additional green lacquer. ‘Raden’ the flaked seashells inlayed articles were produced in red lacquer. In later periods Raden pieces were produced with green turban or marine snail shell over black lacquer. From 18th C other techniques were used, such as Hakue (foil lacquering) and Tsuikin (red lacquerware with raised designs). After the annexation of the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1879, Ryukyu lacquerware began to be produced by private workshops and companies.

7 Cosmetic box Kamakura period 13th C plover design in Maki-e Lacquer Tokyo National Museum

4x5 original

Hakue consists of painting a design in lacquer with a makizutsu or a kebo brush and then applying gold leaf or gold-silver powder while the lacquer is half dry. Modern method uses gold, silver, copper, brass, lead, aluminum, platinum, and pewter, as well as their alloys. The Maki-e method was initially used to decorate arms like swords, but adopted over lacquered surfaces.

8 Sutra Box Buddhist with Gold Ming Dynasty

Chinkin (Qiangjin in Chinese) technique is submerging or sinking gold as leaf or powder into carved cinnabar red-lacquered surfaces. This required very fine knife engraving work onto a polished surface. Ryukyu craft-persons preferred a variation of relief building the designs with lacquer putty, called Tsuikin, over the original Chinese method of lacquer (tsuishu) carving. Tsuikin, post 18th C is more common method. Thin sheets of Lacquer mixed with pigments are rolled out. From these various motifs are cut and applied to the craft-item. Due to its easy process, the Tsuikin is very popular process. Hananuri uses the contrast between vermilion and black lacquer. Raden uses seashell flake for inlay work. Mitsudae is a method oil painting (with lead-based pigments) motifs like flowers, birds and skies with white, pink and other bright pastel colours or coloured lacquers (iro-urushie).

10 Modern Vietnam Banana leaf motif in Gold leaf on a red background 1953

In the Heian period (794-1185), when in Japanese history Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their peak, sacred vessels and other articles used by temples of various faiths were of Maki-e style lacquerware. Similarly aristocrats, samurai families, merchants and artisan classes were using Maki-e style items as status symbol and proud possessions.

11 Dish (Pan)With Dragon amid Clouds LACMA

The lacquerware have evolved with many decorating techniques.

Lacquer as a raw material (resinous exudate or secretion of insects flourishing on certain trees), is not local. The material was brought to Okinawa through trade. Exclusive officers were appointed to supervise the production of lacquerware in the Ryukyu Kingdom.

12 Chest with Cartouche Figures on Donkeys in a Landscape Magnolias Plum Blossoms Peonies Birds and Butterflies LACMA

Local woods of Okinawa, such as Deigo coral tree, Sendan or bead tree, Egokoki, Gajumaru, with uniform grains are used.

13 Seal Box with Lotus scrolls & Eight buddhist symbols Red lacquerincised with Gold Qiangjin style

■ Okinawa islands are part of the northern limit of Black sea current which offers the hardest turban shells. Use of wafer-shin shell, prepared by boiling the shell in water for about a week and then pulverizing it (mijingai-nuri) is a local technique. The mix of pulverized shell and lacquer, after applications are rubbed to make a smooth surface (roiro-togidashi).

19 Korean Box, Lacquer inlaid with mother-of-pearl and tortoise shell

15 Gold Lacquer work Tray Japan 19 C

Ryukyu, lacquerware motifs include papaya, plantain, palm trees, hibiscus chrysanthemums, peonies, and other representations of islands’ coastal zone flora. Similarly local and exotic birds and animals, such as long-tailed hens, wagtails (genus Motacilla), chicken, swallows, wagtails, sparrows, mandarin ducks, peacocks and peonies, and a fictional phoenix is found here. Designs that combine and depict flowers and birds are called kachō-zu. Many non local motifs were included to serve the export markets.

Digital Capture

17 Channapatna India Lacquer coated toys

Lacquer coating is common in many parts of the world. Thin lacquer coatings or as applied in multiple layers, nominally do not crack or peel off the surface. Lacquers with additives like wax or oil as plasticizing agents can be applied on many surfaces.

16 Sake Bowls with Lacquer motifs

Shellacs finishes, were the first true clear coatings. Sankheda (Gujarat India) furniture and Chinese lacquer items are examples of shellac coatings. Shellac is a very effective coating material even in very thin viscosity, as a result its penetration and filling capacity is excellent. It is eminently recoatable so a very level and glossy surface is possible. Modern synthetic version NC (nitro-cellulose) lacquer provides a very clear and superior film compared to a shellac and maleic modified resins. Lacquers are modified with alkyds, other synthetic resins and plasticizer so as to control adhesion, softness, toughness and malleability. At fixed levels of viscosities it is possible to formulate lacquers with variable solid contents by varying the degree of molecular linkages. This property renders lacquer as the most versatile coating material for wood, metal, metal foil, leather, fabrics, fibers, plastics, stones, metals, glass, masonry, paper, ceramics, grasses (cane, bamboo), human hair and skin.

Lacquerware from across the world

Links to My other articles















Post 703 –by Gautam Shah


8 BMW Welt, Munich, Germany Wikipedia Image by Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa)

In art and design, we deal with forms, as holistic or composed entities. The holistic entities also turn compositions, when these are expressed through contexts like media (frame or the extent), setting (site, environment, landscape, illumination), or referenced (orientation, location, sensorial exposition). The pursuit of creativity is at several stages, in realizing the holistic form or graduating to a state of holism after the composition. The assimilation of several elements into a ‘formal’ composition creates a ‘striking’ arrangement, ‘balanced’ placements and an ‘organization’ with synergy and potency of new possibilities.

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For holistic forms, the creator, if the scale permits, can roll the entity to have an all-around experience, but the moment it is rested or delivered it gains a setting. For holistic forms that are too large, the roll around occurs over a ground, and that becomes its defacto rest. Holistic forms like sculptures or art installations have no functional livability, but as a static structure must rest and get set. Dynamic entities like balloons, space capsules or stations are rotated axially and sometimes three dimensionally to create a ‘dynamic equilibrium’.

9 Experience Music Project, Seattle,WA,USA Gehry Wikipedia Image by EMP-SFM

For composed entities it is necessary to have a bearing. Primarily it is the ‘ground’ where these sit, tie up or rest. And where such provisions do not exist, the bottom of the composition (closer to the omnipresent gravity) becomes one. Elements of the composition at the lower half of the field are closer to the ground and so perceived to be more static. The stability is also enhanced by elements of composition with mass wider in the lower parts. Inclusion of lighter elements such as air, water, sky, flowers, develops a sense of ethereal floatation. Surreal art has not escaped the gravity.

13A Michelangelo ART Ethereal floatation The Creation of Adam

13 Jeremy geddes defying the Gravity

Holistic or composed entities of art and design can remain personal, if are fleeting expressions. But most other expressions, to reach a wider community, must persist. Grounding is the first step towards the persistence. Grounding is related to the force de majeure, the gravity. Grounding creates a balance. Its lack unnerves our sense of regularity, but its oddity excites us. The balance is about distribution of mass around the vertical and across the perceptible zone. Vertical is the post struggle phase of gaining the equilibrium.

11 When Horses Gallop by Andres Barrioquinto

The height of the vertical is always referenced to the horizontal of the ground. The depth of perception stretches the ground in perspective, and proportionately reduces the vertical.


Some form of equipoise is sought for compositions. The balance with equipoise forms symmetry. For equipoised balance the elements around vertical must remain with it, bearing the same effect of gravity, but their repositioning can cause un-equipoise. The symmetry around the vertical, however, is affected by the position of the vertical in the field of perception.

Delhi, Lotus Temple

7 Holistic form Matrimandir Temple of The Mother Auroville Pondichery India

Symmetry is more apparent in visual fields as two eyes can focus to a single object. Two ears need some attenuation to perceive the balance. For the sensation of touch balanced localization is difficult to achieve. Smell and taste buds have singular identity, but spatially too close for distinctive perception of balance.

15 Paul Klee

The zone of perception varies in extent and over time, mainly due to changes in contextual conditions and environment.

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The holistic entities are of many types, copycats, metaphoric or abstract. Copycats duplicate the original in altered scale, sensory (colour, texture) effects and purposes. The metaphoric expressions could be literal models or images of human or other beings (in natural or grotesque form). The abstract presentations remain obscure for their imagery or meaning.

5 Escultura de Frank Gehry El Peix, fish sculpture located in front of the Port Olímpic, in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain 1992

The composed creations, unlike the holistic ones have many elements, some are mutually related, due to the purpose, proximity, similarity, counter balancing, scale, massing, etc. These constituents individually or in combinations evoke the past experiences. The past experiences are subjective and fluid. A composition remains a frame in a time slot of a happening.


14 VR offers a way out of the inhibitions for Surrealist Art Movement relativity-escher