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THE URUSHI BIKE: Contemporary Design Meets Ancient Craft

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Vanhulsteijn Limited Edition Urushi Bicycle for Sotheby's

 

As part of Milan Design Week 2015, British brand Paul Smith played host to a stunning collection of bicycles by Dutch cycling brand Vanhulsteijn. The display of limited edition cycles centered around the showstopping Urushi bike – named for its labor intensive Japanese lacquer finish.

 

Vanhulsteijn Limited Edition Urushi Bicycle for Sotheby's

 

Vanhulsteijn Limited Edition Urushi Bicycle for Sotheby's

 

Conceived in a collaboration with Sotheby’s, the Vanhulsteijn Urushi bears the brand’s characteristic cantilevered seat but takes the bike’s already chic frame to whole new levels of artistic achievement by incorporating a gold-laced lacquer finish, ray-skin upholstery and custom-designed fittings.

 

Vanhulsteijn Limited Edition Urushi Bicycle for Sotheby's

 

Vanhulsteijn Limited Edition Urushi Bicycle for Sotheby's

 

To achieve the labor intensive lacquer finish, Vanhulsteijn’s founder Herman van Hulsteijn tapped two Russian artisans who specialize in the technique. Together they opted to implement the Tsugaru Nuri style, which incorporates several layers of gold leaf and imbues each of the 9 limited-edition-bicycles with a one-of-a-kind pattern and a rich sense of depth.

 

Vanhulsteijn Limited Edition Urushi Bicycle for Sotheby's

 

 

While the Urushi technique is time consuming and labor intensive (taking up to five months to finish a single bike) the ancient and sustainable practice is making a comeback within the Asian contemporary art community and it appears the fondness for the finish may now be trickling west. For a behind the scenes look into the fascinating process, be sure to have a peek at the video above. A gorgeous bike but after learning all that goes into it would anyone dare ride it?!

 

Photography by Hanne van der Woude.

 

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