Poetry of Form: Suruga Bamboo Basketry
Tiny bamboo strips crisscross,
The amazing, artistic features of Suruga Bamboo Basketry of Shizuoka, Japan.
Suruga - Contemporary, Timeless
What seems to strike many art enthusiasts about much of Japanese bamboo basketry, is it's lasting appeal across time. Whether used for ikebana flower arranging, or appreciated as decorative art, its flowing forms are contemporary... and yet its roots reach far back. Suruga Basketry is no exception.
In Shizuoka, home to Suruga Bamboo Basketry Guild, remnants of basketry were found dating to Yayoi period (300 BC-250 AD). Other fine samples of Suruga Bamboo Basketry trace back to 1607, Edo Period, with the arrival of the Shogunate, Tokugawa, to Suruga Province (now Shizuoka). Fine, quality bamboo thrived in the Abe River basin of the Shizuoka and in the mild, wet climate. It was in this time, that the craft took off and the unique features of Suruga style were born.
Starting With the Samurai
In those early Edo times, the samurai took up the bamboo weaving craft to supplement their income (2). From baskets and confectionery containers to graceful cages for birds and beetle bugs (photo), they developed a latticework style of rhythm and flow that became Suruga Basketry. And, as time went on, more artisans flocked to the area and soon the bamboo craft flourished.
Perhaps it is the use of organic materials - in part - that has led to this craft's longevity: bamboo tends to retain the look and feel of nature and even take on an added aesthetic appeal (wabi-sabi) that comes with age.
From these beginnings, Suruga Bamboo Craft Guild artists have been creating fine decorative bamboo crafts for contemporary appeal. In 1976, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry formally designated Suruga Bamboo Basketry as a National Traditional Craft of Japan.
Why is Suruga Bamboo Basketry Unique?
What sets Suruga Bamboo Basketry style apart from much of Japan's other basketry has a lot to do with the bamboo strips themselves. Unlike many other Japanese basketry styles which use flat strips, Suruga Basketry is hailed for its weaves of exceptionally thin, rounded strips of madake and moso-chiku bamboo that grows abundantly in the region. These bamboo varieties are very suitable for crafts: easy to split, very flexible and tough. It is these qualities as well, that allow the craftsperson to create the timeless open-weave, airy and contemporary style. Though a seemingly simple form, the process takes considerable time, effort and requires skill and mature craftmanship. The thin strands must be preciously cut and shaved multiple times as this will effect the final aesthetic beauty, the curves, the overall balance of the basket or vase. Read on to learn more about this process and/or watch the following video.
The Making of Suruga Basketry Art
One of our craft artists during her apprenticeship of Suruga style.
The distinctive basketry style of Suruga starts with the bamboo material grown in the region. The bamboo used for this collection are mostly of madake and or mosochiku. Once harvested, the bamboo plant is first cut with a saw, boiled in water to remove the oil and then dried in the sun. Once dried, the outer layer is shaved, and the bamboo is spit into thinner lengths and then again shaved and thinned.