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Learn About Unique Materials Used To Carve Netsuke

Feb 21, 2008
Netsuke developed as the toggle or fastener for the external pocket. It was positioned on top of the sash and over a period of time, the artist carved exquisite designs on them. When netsuke came into being, they were simple pieces and but later were carved out of ivory, wood, bones, coral and shell. Netsuke artists prefer this material due to the flexibility offered-soft yet firm, dense with growth rings and delicate to carve with, as it often chips and crumbles. Whale's Teeth are another option that artists use to carve for netsuke. Netsuke artists prefer the smaller teeth and sculpt very pretty Netsuke.

Netsuke or Netskay as popularly said in Japanese came about because the traditional Japanese dress does not have pockets. As people needed to suspend everything from the sash with a silken cord, they required a toggle. Netsuke developed as the toggle or fastener for the external pocket. It was positioned on top of the sash and over a period of time, the artist carved exquisite designs on them.

An intricate art of miniature sculptures which has been defining time with exquisite workmanship. These thumb sized minute sculptures are carved in different designs of animals, mythical creatures, everyday life events, masks, nature and anything that set aglow the artists imagination. When netsuke came into being, they were simple pieces and but later were carved out of ivory, wood, bones, coral and shell.

Today there are numerous materials that are being used to create exotic pieces of netsuke. The bill of a Helmeted Hornbill is in great demand as it is dense substance quite like ivory which makes it easy to carve and has a beautiful luster. Although known as ivory, it s not ivory and is yellowish in color and red pigmentation on the top and bottom.

Black Coral is similar to the reddish coral but is made from the skeletons of marine organisms and is black with streaks of red and brown. Netsuke artists prefer this material due to the flexibility offered-soft yet firm, dense with growth rings and delicate to carve with, as it often chips and crumbles. Jet or Umoregi is a partially fossilized wood that looks like ebony. Fossilized trees turned to a type of lignite and Jet has a wooden grain and the luster of lacquer.

Whale's Teeth are another option that artists use to carve for netsuke. Sperm whale has teeth on the whole on its bottom jaw, which are used to carve scrimshaws. Netsuke artists prefer the smaller teeth and sculpt very pretty Netsuke.

Walrus Tusks are quite a common material used for netsuke. The walrus tusks grow to nearly 2 feet and have been used over centuries to be carved into interesting pieces of scrimshaw and Netsuke, especially in Japan. They are easily identifiable due to their inner filling of a harder translucent substance which is resistant to carving and sculpture. However, it looks beautiful when carved.

These are a few unique materials, apart from wood and mammoth ivory which an artist utilizes to set apart his art from the rest. Beautiful, translucent with higher polish and finish, each netsuke carved from a different material has its own show and luster.
About the Author
Anita Satin Choudhary writes for Ivory and Art Gallery. Browse the gallery for unique collection of artifacts ranging from Netsuke to Kashmiri carpets and Porcelain
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