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Radiance of Nature with Urushi

Prize(s) Winners in Ambient Lighting / Hanging Lights & Lamps
University Central Saint Martins, University of The Arts London
Lead Designers Yu Watanabe
Photo Credits Yu Watanabe
Completion Date 13th June 2023
Project Location London
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Entry Description

A microcosmic space connecting us with nature through reflections in Urushi lacquer and Japanese perspectives of lighting and space.

In Radiance of Nature with Urushi, Urushi lacquer, a sustainable, natural and beautifully glossy Japanese sap used in traditional Japanese crafts, is utilised in modern design. Evoking a sense of being in a forest, bamboo is arranged in tree-like shapes creating a space that connects us with nature. It also aims to revitalise the craft of Urushi, which is unfortunately in decline due to the emergence of alternative materials. This project not only explores the fascination of materials, but also encourages the viewer to look at the materials through the lens of their backgrounds, narratives and connections with nature.

Unlike the West, where people remove shadows from their space, the Japanese embrace shadows aesthetically as a part of beauty. The true value of Urushi is that it can reflect a candle-like light in a dark room, giving off a luminous glow that embraces the sense of the depth of darkness. In this project, Urushi is applied to tree-like shaped bamboo and reflects a small glimmering light reminiscent of light shining through tree branches in nature. This project presents a way of accepting the darkness and surrendering to the beauty of space in one’s own immersive and microcosmic world.

Sustainability Approach

Why can‘t everyday objects also be an opportunity for people to connect with nature? Urushi, a fully repairable, biodegradable, and naturally produced lacquer, allows us to create products embodying the cycle of nature. This ancient Japanese craft founded in principles of sustainability is revitalized through a modern design in this project.

Urushi is extracted from trees in small amounts, processed and applied to natural materials such as bamboo. Although highly durable, Urushi products can be returned to nature when disposed of breaking down naturally under UV light. Crafted by hand by skilled artisans, each product is created in respect of the slow, yet continuous production of natural material. This circular design has a wide range of applications and the potential to restore the relationship between nature and people contrasting the modern reliance on single-use plastics.