NATURAL LACQUERING
'옻칠'(Ottchil)

 
Ottchil is a unique form of finishing. It involves forming a lacquer derived from the sap or ott of rhus trees. Once extracted the thick liquid, brownish in colour is refined until it becomes translucent, meaning it is able to be used to create a natural gloss finish on objects. Once applied and dried ottchil forms a coated film that is resilient against spills and stains, meaning it’s perfect for application on objects of use such as cups, bowls, and plates. In years’ past, before the invention of refrigeration, ottchil containers prevented food from going bad as they were moisture-proof, waterproof, and insect repellent. Today ottchil is coveted for being a natural and eco-friendly technique for achieving highly-durable finishes on a range of surfaces such as wood, metal and even paper. 

The craft of ottchil however is a labour-intensive process and to get the best result it requires more than 30 coats, meaning it can be expensive. But the high quality, resilient and beautiful results this technique generates makes it worth the high cost and is part of the reason why ottchil has had such longevity in Korean craft.
1. Raw ott from the trees is filtered and refined in a sambae (burlap) cloth.
2. Semi-refined lacquer is mixed with cotton and left overnight.
3. The sambae refining process happens again.
4. Almost-refined lacquer is poured into it out onto a special wood box.
1. Raw ott from the trees is filtered and refined in a sambae (burlap) cloth.
2. Semi-refined lacquer is mixed with cotton and left overnight.
3. The sambae refining process happens again.
4. Almost-refined lacquer is poured into it out onto a special wood box.
5. Air bubbles are then removed by stirring the lacquer.
6. Density and colour is checked; a dark purple tint means it’s perfect.
7. The refined lacquer can be now used for as many layers as needed.
5. Air bubbles are then removed by stirring the lacquer.
6. Density and colour is checked; a dark purple tint means it’s perfect.
7. The refined lacquer can be now used for as many layers as needed.

© Images provided by
– Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation
– Cultural Heritage Administration


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