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Still a mighty tool

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon10/23/2020 6:0 AM GMT+08  • 3 min read
Still a mighty tool
Namiki's Emperor Chinkin Dragon pen features beautiful lacquer work and attention to detail in the art of chinkin.
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Namiki unveils the Emperor Chinkin Dragon pen, featuring the beautiful lacquer work and attention to detail in the Japanese art of chinkin

When the digital age hit, every- one thought that it would be the end of pens, but fountain pen enthusiasts need not worry: research firm Analytical Research Cognizance reported last year that the luxury pen sector is set to grow even more by 2024, with the market size expected to reach $298.0 million.

Against this optimistic backdrop, fans of Namiki can look forward to the launch of the Namiki Emperor Chinkin Dragon pen, which features the ancient Japanese craft technique known as chinkin.

Chinkin is a very meticulous and time-consuming technique that involves a combination of lacquering and hand engraving. The method was first explored in 1922 by Pilot (the parent company of Namiki). However- er, just as progress was being made on the process, World War II struck and the production of pens ceased. It was only a few years after the end of the war in 1945 that Pilot resumed production — and along with it more innovative techniques and designs such as the use of lacquer.

The Japanese art of lacquer work begins with the resin of the Japanese varnish trees. Raw lacquer is harvested and filtered to remove dust and small particles. With numerous rounds of washing, coloring agents, oil and desiccating agents are added to the varnish. This processed lacquer is then used for the various types of lacquerwork.

Many places in Japan have developed different methods of creating these pigmented finishes, and the city of Wajima is well-known for its Wajima-nuri lacquer that features a base strengthening process known as shitaji. Namiki has, in particular, adopted the Wajima-nuri form of chinkin where designs are carved into the lacquered surface using a very sharp chisel, after which gold leaf or powder is in-layed into the carved design.

Every motion of the carving requires careful concentration and there is no room for error. In contrast to ordinary drawings or paintings, doing chinkin on curved surfaces such as bowls, tea caddies or on the barrel of a pen requires great skill. The work of chinkin displays the experience and mental discipline of the craftsman.

The final result is the work of an intricate production process, the smooth but robust final lacquered surface of Wajima-nuri that makes delicate carving possible. The thickly lacquered surface also prevents the wooden base from being exposed when it is deeply carved.

This year, the dragon is used to decorate the Namiki pens as it is a symbol of both strength and good fortune. In ancient In- dia, the nagas (dragon god) had both benevolent and malevolent forms. In China, the Azure Dragon is one of the four gods guarding the four cardinal directions of north, south, east and west.

The design on the barrel and cap of the pen shows the dragon appearing among swirling clouds, as he glares at the ground with a piercing expression. The dragon is also clasping the Cintamani —a wish-fulfilling gem within both Hindu and Buddhist traditions — which is represented by the ball at the tip of the pen clip, to bring out the brilliance of the gem.

To give the dragon a three-dimensional feel, the design is chiselled with dots and lines, which are then inlaid with gold and blue-gold powder. To highlight the figure of the dragon, whitegold powder is used to finish the clouds.

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