The lacquer itself is a sap taken from the native Melanorrhoea usitata tree. This is initially mixed with sawdust to form a paste, applied then left to dry for ten days. Further layers are added, getting finer along the way, in the end stages being mixed with ash, until the final coats of the finest lacquer are applied, between twelve and twenty of them.
The red elements of the design are added first. The drawing being engraved freehand directly into the lacquer from memory without use of a stencil or predefined pattern of any kind. Several artists are likely to work on a piece (one source states the design is laid down by young male artists then detail is added by young women) and this is evident in our screen with many discrepancies in layout and execution that tell of several different hands at work.
Once the red elements of the design are engraved, the whole object is painted in a pigment derived from Chinese Cinnabar and left to dry. When dry, the whole is rubbed down to remove all the red except where it has filled in the engraved lines.
The piece is then sealed with a resin from the Tama tree. The green elements are engraved into this, the object coated in green pigment, dried and polished as before to leave green and red outlines. The process is repeated for any additional colours.
Even the smallest decorated object is the result of months of painstaking work by several artists. They are still there, these wonderful artists in Bagan and their unique craft deserves better than being wrongly labelled.