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Shinko Shikki By Russel Wright

Not enough is known about the original of Russel Wright's Shinko Shikki Lacquerware, it's production numbers or the like, but I will discuss with I do know and have derived based on years of research. Firstly,  I communicated with the lovely Dr. Yuko Kikuchi, whose reported work on the Russel Wright in Japan subject HERE  is amazing, and she helped piece in some of the missing links for me.

Her reporting has taught me that it was when Russel Wright was in Japan, promoting the Japanese export "Handicrafts" movement, is when he had to have had the ideas for his Theme Formal and Theme Informal lines.  For it was a modern mix of glassware, lacquerware, and ceramic (ie" porcelain ware) that comprised the Theme Formal and Informal lines. This is where the Shinko Shikki Russel Wright pieces came into play, as they were mixed and matched with and was made to accompany.

So during his trip to Japan according to Dr. Kikuchi's report when he met with several companies including  Yamato Porcelain Company of Tajimi, Japan,   Schmid International in Nagoya (then newly established in 1960) and Shinkō Shikki which was a lacquer ware manufacturer in Nagoya . Wright was inspired by what he saw in Japan, and thus his 1965 dinnerware line came alive.


Dr. Kikuchi indicates there are list of products Russel Wright ordered from the Shinko Shikki factory in the Russel Wright Archives, however, during my research in Syracuse in 2006 they were no where to be found.  Thank goodness the late Ann Kerr was diligent in her research and had stumbled across this very production list as told below.
I bought this from DecoramaShop, go there to see more pictures of this line. Photo: DecoramaShop.com
The late Ann Kerr was instrumental in getting to the archives before they later became a bit disorganized.  She found the Lacquerware production list, thank heavens --assuming it's the very one that Dr. Kikuchi has referenced:
Red indicates things I've never seen.
Place Plate
Soup / Dessert Plate
Soup / Salad Bowl 
Covered Rice Bowls
Salad Serving Bowls
Salad Fork and Spoon
 

One problem I do have is that Ann Kerr indicated that the items were Lacquerware-Bakelite in her 2nd edition Russel Wright Encyclopedia. I am unsure if I agree. Perhaps plastic lacquerware yes, but actual Bakelite is not likely.  Made to look like Bakelite is more like it.  The items are actually lightweight and composition is not reminiscent of Bakelite.

As far as dating, Kovel's indicates an announcement on production happened in 1964. Kerr references features of the Theme Formal line in China, Glass, and Tableware 1965 edition and showing in the New York housewares show that same year. One can assume this 1965 date is when it was available here in the States. It obviously was not well received due to lack of examples in circulation.  Russel Wright Studios also dates the Theme Formal accompanying glassware 1965.  Oddly, however, The Metropolitian Museum of Art has dated a whole Theme Formal line to 1963, see it here.  It has been said that whole lines and prototypes of the line have been acquired by high ed collectors and museums, and not many actual pieces made it into production. the Syracuse archives yielded me but only a few lines of notes.

It's a shame this line wasn't better received. To me, it's very elegant and drip glazed Asian styling for the modern mid century home, both the lacquerware and ceramics are lovely.  The opalescent glassware is also lovely.  Perhaps the Theme Formal was too fancy for the 1960's America.  As for the Informal, I can't fathom why the Bauer drip glaze was so well received in Wright's career but drip glaze of the Informal was not.

The lacquerware is so gorgeous, with dripped paint on top almost as if it was poured while the article was on a wheel.  The examples I do have are just too lovely to use and I assume would be easily scratched even with plastic cutlery.  I was told however, that these primarily would have been made to eat with chopsticks and Asian food, so perhaps scratching would be minimal.  No two pieces are alike.

What's worse is I have no idea where the actual plastic line was produced. I was told it was produced in Nagoya Japan, at the Shinko Shikki factory. Ironically, the factory burned and supposedly all the records were destroyed.  I heard a new factory is in place now, the only one I can find is called Shinko Shikki Shankai or Shinko Seiki, Co, Ltd, but no one knows anything. If you go to Japan often, take this Map of Nagoya and try to find the old plastics factory site and let me know what it is now!   I want to sidetrack for a bit and tell you that in Japan, Shinko Shiki (only one "k") is commonly referenced as a Japanese festival or fair, read more about that here.   A celebration if you will. If only we had more records we could celebrate this lovely line!

As for value, expect to pay $125 and up, as much as $250 or more for a covered rice bowl in a good economy. Prices are subject to rarity. I would love to know where it all is, or went to.  Where are the original test plates? If you have lacquerware to sell, or for me to add your photograph here for the archives, please contact me.