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Pilot - Namiki Yukari Royale Maki-e Fountain Pen - Frog

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Pilot - Namiki Yukari Royale Maki-e Fountain Pen - Frog

Frogs, or "kaeru" in Japanese, have long been a symbol of wealth, happiness and protection in Japanese folklore. After hibernation, frogs will travel whatever distance it takes to return to the pond of their birth in order to reproduce. The verb "kaeru" also means "to return" in Japanese and this double meaning has made frogs a popular motif in protective charms for travelers. 

This pen was created in 2017 by Yumi Hayashi, the first woman hired as a maki-e artist by Namiki. The artist has curated an intricate scene of frogs, leaves, and water, carefully detailed with gold glitter and raden. The scene features various flowers that bloom at different times of the year to represent passage of time and three golden frogs in dynamic motion in the center. The tranquility of the water is achieved with raden or mother-of-pearl, creating a luminous pond shining behind the frogs. 

The pens in Namiki's Yukari Royale Collection feature elegant designs on a large ebonite body and size #20 18k gold nib. The motifs are created through the highly advanced Togidashi-Taka Maki-e technique (Burnished-Raised Maki-e), also applied in the creation of pens in Namiki's Emperor collection. First, Togidashi Maki-e (Burnished Maki-e) is used; the background and scenery are painted with lacquer, which are then sprinkled with gold or silver powder and sealed with Urushi lacquer. After drying, the surface is lightly burnished with charcoal, revealing the design underneath. Then, the main design is further rendered through additional use of materials like lacquer and charcoal powder. Finally, Hira-Maki-e (Flat Maki-e) is used to create the last details with layers of metal powder and lacquer. (The Pilot-Namiki website also provides a fascinating peek into the steps of the process here.)

The making of a maki-e piece is an extremely labor- and time-intensive process involving a repetitive series of applying layers of lacquer, drawing the design outline, sprinkling gold and silver powders to fill in the designs, and polishing to achieve a lustrous surface. The lacquered main design is filled in with the carefully sprinkled gold and silver powders, and then several additional layers of lacquer are applied. Once these layers harden, the surface is polished many times. A finished product can take up to 3 months, and some of the pieces go through the repetitive lacquer-drawing-sprinkling-polishing process up to 130 times.