With the progression of time, Taiwan’s bamboo weaving industry has lost its glorious past of mass production, which was a similar predicament neighboring Japan once faced with. However, Japan’s bamboo weaving industry has embarked on a new path ever since Japan started promoting the bamboo craftsmanship as an art. The new model that coordinates collectors from Europe and the U.S., art galleries, and selling through agents has propelled the renaissance of Japan’s bamboo weaving industry, which attached more importance to the artisans, as the value of bamboo weaving craftsmanship increased.
Learning from Japan’s successful experiences, Taiwan’s bamboo weaving industry is trying to start a new leaf. Through transforming and upgrading bamboo crafts, the industry aims to evolve itself into an explorer of beauty and shapes, and gradually moves towards the path of elevating the bamboo craftsmanship as an art.
Traditional craftsmanship always relies on mature techniques. If the practitioners can learn from others and introduce new methods, the development of the craftsmanship can continue and won’t fall into disuse. In 2019, the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute invited the Japanese bamboo artist Watanabe Chiaki to Taiwan as a guest lecturer. In the workshop, Mr. Chiaki introduced the delicate craft skill of integrating bamboo poles and strips, which was unseen to Taiwan’s bamboo weavers. Through experience sharing and technique instructions, the workshop aimed for empowering bamboo weavers, encouraging them to think outside of creating bamboo crafts as functional culinary utensils or containers, and further build their own unique awareness of artistic viewpoints.
The delicate bamboo craft skill of integrating bamboo poles and strips is to shape thin bamboo poles into a desirable structure and attach bamboo strips as a surface layer of the structure to form the final craft. The poles act sometimes as the circle opening of the crafts, sometimes as the structure to support the crafts. This skill is extremely meticulous and rare to be seen, thus is experiencing its downfall even in originating Japan. As Taiwan and Japan have different climate and topographical characteristics, the bamboo species are thus not the same. In Japan, craftsmen choose the soft and indigenous Yatake bamboo to practice this technique, while in Taiwan, we choose the indigenous thin Makino Bamboo to truly exemplify the meaning of adapting to local conditions and passing on traditions locally.
The difficulty of weaving with the skill of integrating bamboo poles and strips is that the bamboo poles can crack easily. It is also important to take into consideration both the curves and organic forms of bamboo artworks. The curvy surface formed freely is the essence of this craft skill, compounding with overall color arrangement, the dyed bamboo strips showcase the dynamic layers. The vivid lacquer coating further elevates bamboo artwork’s value as a collection, as well as increases the work’s vibe of quietness and steadiness.
All bamboo artworks in this exhibition balance well between “techniques” and “conceptional beauty”, bring a brand-new sensory experience to viewers from the aspects of craft skills, artistic sense, and experiments, where viewers will further discover the new look of contemporary bamboo art in pleasant surprise.