Bamboo is a remarkable natural material, unmatched for the speed at which it grows and its versatility. These qualities, along with its strength and ruggedness, are well exploited in Japan, where it has long been used for everyday objects, tools and musical instruments and as a building material.
The objects on display in this exhibition offered a snapshot of bamboo’s use in the Japanese household and in industry. There are more than 1300 species of bamboo in the world and 600 in Japan alone. However, only a small number of these species can be used to make artefacts; such as, Madake (Japanese timber bamboo), Mosodake (thick-stemmed bamboo) and Hachiku (giant gray bamboo). Processes like chopping, peeling, bending and weaving transform bamboo’s shape in countless ways. The weaving, mesh, thickness and length of the material changes according to the object’s final purpose. To turn bamboo into an artefact requires well-tempered edged tools and skilled craftsmanship. The craft person’s tools are surprisingly simple given the complexity and diversity of what is able to be achieved. The manual ability of the worker is key.
The unique, hand-crafted objects on display were made on the basis of traditional design techniques which have been handed down over many years. These design techniques translate the essence of bamboo for practical purposes. Increasingly, everyday objects and tools once made of bamboo are now made of plastic and metal.
Bamboo was a collaboration between the Jasper Morrison Studio and Japan Creative. It was a specially edited version of ‘Our Bamboo: Exploring Materials’ by Japan Creative, shown at the Triennale in Milan in April 2023. It reflected Jasper’s longstanding interest in bamboo, as a humble material, easily grown, that can be crafted into beautiful objects of many different kinds.