Traditional Vietnamese Lacquering and Contemporary Jewellery and Objects

Traditional Vietnamese Lacquering Processes and their Applications to Contemporary Jewellery and Small Scale Body Related Objects

Bic Tieu

MDes (Hons), 2007

Supervised by Wendy Parker, Leong Chan


The luster and luminous qualities inherent in lacquer objects speak of a revered historic technology chronicled by remarkable achievements. Sophisticated lacquer objects from the East Asia and Vietnam are products of the integrated histories, technologies, and cultural expressions of these territories. The application of lacquer as a decorative medium originally developed in China. Through exchange and trade, the material was transmitted to neighbouring countries where each region explored the material and developed distinctive styles and techniques. Although lacquer from East Asia and Vietnam share similar material natures, the cultural attributes of lacquer, it’s aesthetics, design, form, and symbolism provide for marked distinctions across the zone. Vietnamese lacquer contributes surface techniques and motifs to the lacquer repertoire. The aim of this research is to investigate the materiality and processes of Vietnamese lacquer as a surface ornamentation integral to the design and making of objects.

The published material is dominated by descriptions of the aesthetic achievements of lacquer objects with little coverage of the technology, techniques, and practices employed. There is a scarcity of contemporary research on Vietnamese lacquering processes written in the English language. This research was fuelled by a research field trip to Vietnam during 2004 working with Vietnamese lacquer artists on traditional lacquering techniques. During a residency at Hue the lacquer working processes were observed, documented and techniques sampled. This traineeship incorporated the preparation of traditional tools, of the substrate, and the application of lacquer painting techniques. Preparatory samples and templates were made in Australia for later experimentation in Vietnam. These samples were treated with lacquer and illustrate the possible exploration of Vietnamese lacquering techniques in a contemporary context.

The research is a material investigation of traditional Vietnamese lacquering processes applied to jewellery and object making. The studio practice aims to reinterpret the traditional material language of lacquer by allying it with contemporary methods and techniques. This synthesis combining traditional art methods and digital technology is expressed as a series of objects inspired by floral motifs. The seasonal floral images are significant, evoking concepts of creation and renewal. The interpretation of these graphic florals provides a contemporary representation, aesthetic, and cultural reading for the material, maker, and motif.

See more of Bic’s work here

Bic Tieu

Bic Tieu, Seasonal Vessels (2007). Lacquer on box. Photograph courtesy of the artist

Bic Tieu, <i>Seasonal Vessels</i> (2007). Lacquer on box. Photograph courtesy of the artist