Arts of Asia in Reach
Lacquerware Boxes Lesson Plan
3. Strategies & Procedures

Engage (Motivation)

Introduce the lesson by explaining that lacquerware is an ancient art in both Japan and China. Lacquer is usually painted over a wooden base, but can also be painted over baskets, paper, or other materials. Lacquer is actually the resin of the lacquer tree and is very poisonous in its natural form. It is collected, strained, heated to remove some of the moisture, and then painted on a base, either in its clear natural form or with coloring added to it. Black and red are common colors, and the Japanese often highlight a design with powdered gold paint. Many base coats are painted on and carefully dried away from dust before final decorations are added. Today many people use plastic copies of lacquer items because they are less expensive.


Students will discuss the process of making lacquerware, exploring different techniques such as the three kinds of maki-e. Referring specifically to the document box in the AMAM's collection, students will examine the work and determine which technique was used where. Students will view a variety of techniques used in Japanese lacquerware, and be able to identify which methods were utilized to achieve different effects.


Students will create their own 'maki-e/lacquerware' boxes.

(Students will be using unfolded cardboard box sets ordered from
  1. Using a sponge brush, paint brown side of cardboard with black acrylic paint.
  2. Let dry.
  3. Using sponge brush, paint bottom box with gold acrylic paint.
  4. Using pencil, lightly draw design onto box lid.
  5. Color in design using colored pencils.
  6. Use metallic gold pencil or marker as an accent.
  7. Fold box lid along each edge so that the painted sides are facing out.
  8. Secure corners with white glue and tape or paper clip the glued corners until they are dry.
  9. Repeat steps 8 and 9 for the box bottom.
  10. Using a sponge brush, apply a thin coat of Modge Podge to the entire box (all sides of lid and bottom)
  11. Allow box to dry for 24 hours.

Continue to: 4. Assessment & Closure