Natural Craft: Bamboo Craft

 

When is it harvested?

Bamboo is harvested when it reaches maturity. Depending on the type of the bamboo, it can be harvested anywhere between 3-7 years. Most commercial bamboo is harvested around 3-5 years. Young bamboo is never taken as they are still pliable and will not be as resistant to cracks. Highly sustainable, there is no need to replant bamboo as harvesting bamboo does not include the lower bottom of the plant. It will just grow back, therefore making it undamaging to the environment.

Bamboo is harvested at the time between after the rainy season and the beginning of the dry season. This is because the starch and water content in bamboo is low at this time which decreases the risk of borers (bugs) and fungi. Another factor to consider while harvesting bamboo is time. Due to photosynthesis, it is best to harvest bamboo before sunrise because most of the starch is still in the roots.

How is it Processed?

 

A)     Primary process

Stripping the bamboo by hand requires these steps:

1.  Scraping off the culm’s dark green skin.

A section of the bamboo’s culm is laid 45° to the ground. The thumb is positioned on the upper other end of the bamboo and the index and middle fingers are spread out to support the weight of the bamboo.

The knife is pushed in a downward motion along the bamboo. Care is taken to ensure that the skin does not come off yet. Only when the knife is brought upwards, the sharp side of the knife is used to scrape off the skin. These actions are repeated until all the skin comes off. An equal amount of pressure must be applied when scraping off the skin to ensure an even colour.

 

 

Scraping off the skin of the bamboo

Scraping off the skin of the bamboo

Before and after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Flattening the edge of the culm.

The edge is pared off with a knife. Care is taken to ensure that the force applied is equal to ensure a level culm.

 

Flattening the culm

Before and after

 

 

3.  Dividing the culm into slices of equal width.

Depending on what it is used for, the bamboo is measured to be split into widths anywhere between 3-20mm. The amount of slivers gained from one bamboo is dependent on the diameter of the bamboo. Each sliver must be as straight as possible to ensure a smooth weave in the later processes.

To do that, each measure must cross the central point of the culm and each section must be around the same angle from the centre as well. Another point is to split the bamboo edge-first.

 

 

How to measure the bamboo to be split

Starting from the edge

Marking the areas to be split

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Separating the slivers.

The bamboo is cut lengthwise to the marked areas. Each slice must be uniform and straight.

 

Separating each sliver

 

 

5.  Further separating the slivers into fine strips.

This is one of the most intricate tasks in processing the raw bamboo. With the thumb positioned 1cm away from the edge on top of the green part of the bamboo and the other fingers supporting from the bottom, a horizontal nip is made with a knife about  1/3 of the bamboo’s thickness. Pressing firmly on the bamboo slice, twist the knife to separate and make the first layer.

 

This action is repeated four times which equal a total of five layers. The thumb should press firmly to make sure The front two centimetres are twisted to make it soft. Then, the first layer is cut 2 cm further and carefully stripped. Shallow cuts make thinner strips and deep ones, thick strips. It all depends on the product the weaver is making that determines the thickness of the strips.

 

 

The 1st cut

The 2nd cut

After 4 cuts, making a total of 5 layer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.  While separating the strips, a great deal of attention must be paid to ensure that the strips do not break. How does one do this?

 

  • This is done by constantly monitoring the coordination of the left and right hand as well as the angle of the index fingers. The strips need to be cut at least 2cm deep in order to have a firm grip and separate each layer properly.
  • Another point is to use two hands to separate the layers.
  • First, use the thumb and index finger of the left hand to grip the 4 bottom layers while using the thumb and index finger of the right hand to strip the 5th layer and using both the middle and pinky finger to control the direction.
  • Once the 5th layer is stripped, put the 1st strip in between the index and middle finger of the left hand, the 2nd strip between the middle and ring finger, 3rd strip between the ring and the pinky finger and the last strip between the thumb and index finger. The bottom part of the strip is held by the right hand. A concurrent movement of the left hand descending and the right hand ascending will separate the strips.

 

*The strips can even be translucent, if expertly handled.

 

Stripping the first layer

Stripping the last two layers

 

 

 

7.  Classifying and grouping the strips by colour.

 

Grouping the strips according to colour

 

B)     Secondary Process

The bamboo strips will then be bleached. These are some methods listed below.

 

1.  Sulphur Smoking Method

a. The bamboo strips are covered with a plastic bag.
b. Sulphur is burnt in a dish or container of sorts. It is then covered to let it smoke.
c. It is then put under the plastic bag with the bamboo strips immediately.
d. The plastic sheet is sealed with mud and it is smoked for about 12 hours.
e. After that, the sheet is opened and the smoke fanned away.

*There are 3 factors that will affect the final result: the amount of area covered by the plastic sheet, the amount of smoke emitted by the sulphur and the amount of bamboo strips smoked.

 

2.  Hydrogen Peroxide Soaking Method

a. A solution of 30% Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) is mixed with water at a ratio of 1:2.
b. The bamboo strips are dipped into the mixture and soaked for about 24 hours. Bricks are used to prevent them from floating.
c. After 24 hours, the strips are washed with water and dried in a shaded area.

 

3.   Hydrogen Peroxide Boiling Method

a. A solution of 30% Hydrogen Peroxide is mixed with water at a ratio of 1:3.

b.The bamboo strips are boiled in the mixture for 30 minutes or until fully bleached. Bricks are used to prevent the strips from floating as this hampers the bleaching process.

c. During the boiling process, the strips are turned over twice to ensure both sides are evenly bleached.

d. Once boiled, the bleach is washed with water and dried in a shaded area.

 

Boiling the bamboo strips

 

How are our frames made?

The method of weaving patterns using bamboo is similar to using a loom, where there is a “warp” (lengthwise strips) and a “weft” (strips to go through the lengthwise strips). Most are done using an “under and over” method, whereby the strip goes over one or a few strips and then another.

Our frames utilize the Twill Weave in the Bamboo Weave frame and the herringbone weave in our Bamboo Zigzag frame. In our Bamboo frame, each fine strip is glued next to each other before a frame held together with bamboo twine is pasted on top. A torch is used to burn off any excess fibre. Our Bamboo Dot frame uses bamboo sticks, which are the ‘branches’ of the bamboo. They are cut diagonally, dried and glued onto the frame. Each cylinder is uniform in its shape yet each holds their own unique personality. Finally, each frame is carefully varnished with a sustainable eco-friendly resin for protection.

Simple yet sophisticated, each frame is truly one of a kind in their unique beauty.

 

Bamboo Weave frame: Twill woven

Bamboo Zigzag frame: Herringbone woven

 

 

Bamboo branches to make our Bamboo Dot frame

Bamboo branches to make our Bamboo Dot frame

 

 

 

 




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