Using only the finest raw materials, the most talented artisans and elegantly colorful designs, J.Fleet Designs creates lacquerware to last a lifetime. It is no coincidence that today’s post borrows the tagline used by Susan Unger in her home collections. For many years, Susan Unger and J.Fleet have had a very successful collaboration designing luxury lacquerware for everyday use.
Founded by Emily Rubin Persons in 1995, the company merges the ancient Asian tradition of lacquerware with contemporary design and sensibility. The exclusive designs are handcrafted and expertly inlaid in the best Vietnamese artisan workshops.
Lacquerware refers to products made with a base of rose, cherry, ebony, jack fruit or walnut wood and covered in the resin of the lacquer tree (Rhus Succedanea) which grows mostly in the Northern Vietnamese province of Phu Tho. The natural resin mixed with different mineral pigments takes on versatile uses such as glue, color base and hardener.
Above and below are some of Susan Unger by J.Fleet designs inspired by nature’s tones and forms.
“The luxurious colors and designs are made by layering foils and hand-mixed lacquer colors. We also use the traditional arts of mother-of-pearl inlay, burning and inlaying cracked eggshell. The rich variations in color and texture that occur in creating our lacquerware make each piece uniquely beautiful and a treasure to own.”
Above these lines, an image of an artisan inlaying silver foils, alongside a detail of the end result. Although not traditionally used for lacquerware, this technique came about when trying to find the best way to reproduce Susan Unger’s unique silkscreened designs on J.Fleet’s products.
As Emily explains: “ After several attempts to “inlay” the material under the clear lacquer, the factory owner was able to figure out how to create the designs by layering colors over layers of silver foils. This opened up a whole new design direction for J.Fleet Designs. This was a truly new and inventive technique, yet the factory owner still only used the traditional materials of the ancient craft. This began the new and very unique look for me as I was able to offer something no other factory was able to produce.”
Empty duck eggshells are glued to the lacquerware to create the intricate effect seen above. The next steps will be to apply many layers of liquid lacquer — letting each coat dry before applying the next — and finally polishing and rubbing under water to bring out the shine.
Each product, regardless of the technique used to decorate it usually goes through 20 stages, and takes no less than 100 days to complete.
Using Mother-of-Pearl is also a very laborious process, by which the inside of seashells are cut into 2mm pieces and carefully given the desired shape. We love how J.Fleet fuses classic materials with contemporary prints and designs — something hard to find in a traditional cottage industry.
The product line includes serving trays in all sizes — ranging from oversize ottoman trays to small cocktail and vanity trays — bathroom accessories, serving bowls of all sizes, placemats and boxes.
The care of the lacquerware is simple, just use “warm soapy water and a sponge to clean lacquerware after food use. Furniture polish or car wax can be used to buff out fine scratches that occur from regular use. Please use horn or wood utensils for serving the food as metal will chip or scratch the surface. We do not recommend these items in the microwave or dishwasher. A little nail polish can repair small chips in the lacquer.”
Below is the Martini Glass collection, a new collaboration between BiniChic and J.Fleet Designs.
Their hand made process allows for high customization of the product and low production minimums. J.Fleet Designs has created special collections of lacquerware for such select customers as The Metropolitan Museum of Art (below, on the left), The Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, Calvin Klein Home, amongst others.
They are the perfect way to add a luxurious detail to any room, and unique gifts for the holidays.