What is “Jagae”(Mother-of-Pearl)?
Traditional Najeon Technique, Jagae, or mother-of-pearl, refers to the shells of abalone, mollusk or clam. The najeon technique involves inlaying mother-of-pearl on the surface of lacquered objects, and the resulting lacquerware is called najeon-chilgi.
The materials of the mother of pearl were utilized by the craftsmanship skills that had already reached their peak in the Goryeo Dynasty around 1,000 years ago. In studios and by artisans managed by the country, this high-quality culture created the bottom drawers of the royal family, the luxury goods of aristocrats, and gifts to the Chinese royal family. Accompanied with a long-established history and beauty gifted by nature, the mother of pearl becomes art itself with radiant color when carved and polished. As a gemstone becomes a jewel when carved and polished, the mother of pearl becomes flowers and birds, with skillful hands crafted by years of experience.
How to make it?
The process begins by applying a coat of lacquer to a basic wooden frame. Next, the surface of the object is covered with a hemp cloth and coated with lacquer again. This process is repeated several times before inlaying with mother-of-pearl, and finally giving it a lacquer topcoat. It takes at least three months, and sometimes as long as three years, to complete a single piece of najeon-chilgi. The resulting masterpiece has an iridescent shine and is resistant to moisture and insects. The literary critic Lee Eo-ryeong described najeon-chilgi products as “jewels hidden deep in a golden-brown mud flat.”