The resin secreted by the lac insect, it is a traditional, natural, breathable varnish, often used by specialist paint finishers to protect painted furniture and paint finishes.
Lac is used to dye fabrics to the prettiest pink shades; the insect, Kerria lacca is part of the coccidae family from which we get the red cochineal.
The lac insect sucks the sap of the tree and produces the ‘stick-lac’ constantly; this raw shellac is collected, then heated over a fire so that it liquifies; the shellac runs out into a container leaving the pieces of bark and other impurities behind. The thin, sticky liquid – a bit like caramel – is dried into flat sheets, broken into flakes and sold for varnish or dye, depending on the colour of the flakes. The flakes are re-constituted according to the end use; colours vary from pale blond to rich reds and browns, depending on the food source.