Menpo Restoration Project

This menpo came my way in a very sorry state. The urushi surface was tetsu-sabiji with the hige moustache in gold maki-e lacquer. Most of the surface lacquer had delaminated from the base and had formed a thin shell.

The surface of the mask had rusted over the years and subsequently destroyed the sabiji middle layers. My intention was to remove all the damaged lacquer and completely resurface the mask.

Many visitors to my workshop remarked upon the fine moustache and said what a pity it would be to lose it.  Could I possibly save this mask? After looking at the workmanship I felt it dutiful to honour the original craftsman and do my best to preserve his work. At the time I could not, so I put it away for two years until my skills had improved.

When I eventually became confident to work on the mask I began to carefully remove all the surface piece by piece until I had a jigsaw pattern to glue back in place one section at a time.

This restoration was slow, it took me just over a one year due to the layers of kokuso required. I also had to build in each stage without damaging or overpainting the hige.

katchushi-portfolio-menpo-1-1
katchushi-portfolio-menpo-1-5

The process I followed was to fill all the gaps between the broken segments of lacquer with kokuso. Then the surface was coated with thin layers of sabiji-urushi. The recreate the russet iron effect I covered the now smooth surface with a sintered dried lacquer know as kanshitsu fun. This was a very reddish brown colour called bengara, I had to apply a number of fine darker urushi coats until the russet iron tone was achieved. Finally, I matted the urushi down and added a tare throat guard with gold odoshi which was kindly donated to me by Ian Bottomley.
The mask lives again with the moustache preserved.

katchushi-portfolio-menpo-1-7
katchushi-portfolio-menpo-1-6

The process I followed was to fill all the gaps between the broken segments of lacquer with kokuso. Then the surface was coated with thin layers of sabiji-urushi. The recreate the russet iron effect I covered the now smooth surface with a sintered dried lacquer know as kanshitsu fun. This was a very reddish brown colour called bengara, […]