This is how this particular antique/distressed looking finish is created in our workshop. In Chinese, this particular finish is known as 布纹漆
1) A large sheet of fabric (often a course, light cotton) is laid out on top of a flat even surface such as a large sheet of plywood or a tabletop. A even coating of “Nizi” – a kind of adhesive gesso, is spread evenly over the surface of the material. This both protects the lacquer from changes in the wood as well as provides a base coat, much in the same way an undercoat of paint is used on a wall. The adhesive is then let to air dry for a short period of time.
2) Lacquer is then brushed over-top the layer of “nizi” – usually at least five or six times depending on the desired thickness desired. This is then left to air dry for at least two or three days. Drying time depends on the humidity.
3) After a few days when the lacquer has dried completely, a fine sandpaper is used to smooth out and polish the surface. The hardened, but fragile lacquer-coated fabric is then taken by one end of the fabric and lifted up, causing cracks in the surface of the lacquer as it is pulled up.
4) Pieces are then cut to fit the surface of the furniture and the various sheets affixed onto the surfaces and sides of the piece. Finally, a coat of clear lacquer is then applied to protect it.