I've recently bought a Pilot with narcissus decoration in hiramaki-e (One of these) and I find it to be very beautiful. I'm aware that there's a debate as to whether hiramaki-e is a "real" maki-e (whatever that may mean), or just a cheap form. What I would like to know is, what are exactly the manual steps involved in the making of these Pilot pens?
My understanding (based on this article from the Encyclopaedia Britannica) is that it's actually a mostly manual work: "The pattern is first outlined on a sheet of paper with brush and ink. It is then traced on the reverse side of the paper with a mixture of heated wet lacquer and (usually red) pigment. The artist transfers the pattern directly to the desired surface by rubbing with the fingertips, a process called okime." Frankly speaking, to me this looks like a purely manual work, not something "industrial", as I sometimes read online.
If the procedure followed by Pilot was exactly this, for me this would be more than enough to consider this as a little piece of art, even if it's not as sophisticated as other maki-e tecniques. But I have my doubts that Pilot actually follows this procedure. Hiramaki-e implies manual drawing, then transferred on the pen body, but the pen I have has really neat and precise lines, which I don't believe can be achieved with manual drawing.