I spent a little time this morning researching bamboo art and its origins, as expected I discovered some amazing facts and learnt quite a lot on the subject. This art reminds me of architecture in a lot of ways, but just at a much much smaller scale. Structurally it’s absolutely brilliant and there’s no better example in my opinion than Japanese maker Hajime Nakatomi. Just check out the details in the above picture, it’s crazy how this piece almost resembles an engineered building with each strut wrapping around in an extremely precise way. I’m truly in awe.
Hajime has a very interesting story behind him as well which is always adds an edge. He attended one of Japan’s top private colleges when he was younger, the American equivalent of Harvard or Yale, and was a serious student of clay. In fact he was even a member of the university ceramics club until several events changed the course of his career. Firstly he came across a sculpture made by the great Shono Shounsai, who’s now a Living National Treasure in Japan and was an artistic pioneer who pushed bamboo flower baskets to new heights as a fine art. Hajime also met bamboo artist and industrial designer Ohashi in Tokyo, and came upon a book about bamboo fences which got him inspired to attend the Beppu Occupational School to learn bamboo making, much to his parents’ dismay. After graduating he apprenticed to Honda Syoryu, who’s best known for his dramatic, undulating sculptures.
A few comments before I talk about the work itself and the process, I thought it was interesting how Hajime turned his back on the privileged university education to learn a craft that he truly loves, basically following his heart. It takes a lot of guts to do something like that, and to see the final result of his hard work is truly breathtaking, it just shows if you really pursue something you can become anything you want. As you can imagine, his work goes for a lot of money and it’s widely exhibited across the world, he’s also worked with some big companies in his time.
The work to me is a merger between traditional and contemporary, I could picture these sitting in both a beautiful modernist home and a traditional wooden structure. It’s got a classic feel but with a fresh edge. Basically they’re all quite conventional from afar but when you get up close there’s a ridiculous amount of detail that goes into each one and they all have amazing flowing forms. Hopefully you’ll agree with me. Although most of these are more functional looking there’s a couple further down (fourth and seventh image from the top) which are more sculptural and are quite different from his usual work. The circles in the fourth image were created by warming the bamboo so it can be bent, the wheels are then linked together. In traditional bamboo weaving you usually start with a base and then knit the body, so this process is quite different and was finished off by using a lacquering technique which was applied five times. I hope you enjoy this selection of imagery that I put together, for more like this I would recommend checking out Hajime Nakatomi’s website on the link below.