Eggshell

In the workshop, organized along the same lines as Ruhlmann’s own, works in progress sit like butterflies in their chrysalises; here, at a small worktable, brass feet are being handmade one at a time, each as pure in form as a Brancusi.

Jack Forster,
Forbes Life

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In 1900, the Japanese government sent a delegation to the Exposition Universelle in Paris to demonstrate Japanese superiority in lacquer art. After the Exposition closed, one of those Japanese artists, Seizo Sugawara, decided to remain in Paris, where he set up his own workshop. In 1912, Sugawara crossed paths with Jean Dunand, an accomplished French metal smith. Sugarwara wanted to learn about techniques for forming metal vases, and Dunand wanted to learn about decorative lacquer techniques. They decided to exchange workshop secrets.

The result was a creative explosion that made Dunand one of the foremost artists of the Art Deco period. He combined traditional Oriental lacquer techniques with contemporary forms and abstract decorative designs. His artistry translated into boldly patterned screens, tables, and vases that today are collected by museums and connoisseurs of fine art worldwide.

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Dunand included in his artistic repertoire techniques for using eggshells in conjunction with lacquer to create distinctive designs. These eggshell techniques became a specialty of Dunand’s Paris workshop and were popular with his clients. To guarantee a steady supply of eggshells, Dunand maintained a chicken coop in the courtyard of his workshop.

Regrettably, because of its labor intensity, the art of eggshell and lacquer finishes disappeared in the 1940s. Pollaro has revived this artistic technique. The photographs below demonstrate the extraordinary power of these finishes.

 

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