Hawaii Kai artist revives lost art of lacquering

Josh Miles
Josh Miles

By Diane Ako - bio | email and Taires Hiranaka

HAWAII KAI (KHNL) - A Hawaii Kai man is designing beautiful pieces of wood, while also reviving a dying art. Josh Miles says he's created a new style of woodworking that blends many different art forms. He believes he is the only one in the world to do this.

What do you see when you look at these pieces of art? "This whole series is called Tides," gestured Miles, who hopes you see water. "I'm trying to evoke that using the grain of the wood because it is much like water in the fluidity and the movement."

These large panels of plywood are covered with lacquer, with layers of other media in between. "Lacquer work has been around for a long time - since 5,000 BC - but I don't see a lot of incorporation of other mediums into it. What I'm trying to do is incorporate ceramic technology, porcelain, and such into wood work, then embed it in between layers of lacquer."

Miles calls this high tech decoupage, and it's taken him years to perfect it! "I've been trying to incorporate heat, fire and ceramics into woodworking. Wood and fire don't get along that well!," laughed Miles.

He invented it as a way to blend his passions into one art form. "I really love woodworking, painting, and ceramics," he explained.

But the simple beauty of the pieces is far from simple to make. "One piece can take four months to one year. There's literally 40 coats of lacquer and spraying in between. Not only that, but the ceramics and porcelain and such, that are embedded into the surface of the lacquer. It takes a month just to get that part done. It takes weeks to dry in between each coat," he described.

Miles say lacquering is a dying art because it's so time consuming. "I'm reviving it. I think it's a lost art but it needs to come back," he asserted. "It lasts forever." Just like the elegance of his lacquered art!

Josh Miles is having a show at the Han's Gallery in Koko Marina on September 27. It's on ongoing exhibition.