Shibayama technique

A few words about the Shibayama technique which I use… (You can find the process in pictures here.)

Shibayama work is a combination of inlay and relief, which marries the two techniques in such a way that their most spectacular characteristics are highlighted.

It was first used in Japan in the 18th century for decorating ornaments and objects for personal use.

Apart from their aesthetic appeal, the distinctive value of the objects made by Shibayama artisans lies in the elaborate handwork and meticulous care necessary for their creation.

Typically depressions were carved into ivory, exotic woods or lacquered surfaces. These depressions were then inlaid with small quantities of precious materials (mother of pearl, tortoise shell, coral, jade, bone, and abalone), thus forming the pattern.
However, contrary to traditional inlay work, the inlays here were not polished down to the level of the base. Instead, each inlay was engraved, creating a relief consisting of many pieces.

Nowadays, objects created using the mother-of-pearl inlay technique can be found in the collections of the Victoria&Albert Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In addition, among the items of several large international auction houses (,, are objects decorated by workers using the Shibayama technique. In Hungary, the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asian Arts specialises in collecting artefacts from the Far East.

Some special examples of the Shibayama technique: cabinets, vases, tsubas, inros and walking canes.