Chaboo at Portland Japanese Garden

November 17th, 2008 by admin

I had the priviledge of loaning chaboo and sensu to my friend Jiro Yonezawa for his exhibit at the Portland Japanese Garden. The beautiful setting was a perfect match for his art.  The venue was stunning to say the least.  I talked to the art director there and she was very receptive to the idea of doing a group show there for furniture in 2010.

Sensu was used to display a few of his smaller pieces and also to serve as a reception table.

Chaboo was used to display one of his basket sculptures.

Jiro is a master sculptor, formally trained in Japan to work with bamboo weaving.  His work is amazing in its craftsmanship, form and attention to detail.  He has developed signature techniques as he has refined his craft over the years.  He is world renowned and his work is included in the Lloyd Cotsen collection of bamboo baskets considered to be the greatest collection in the world today.

The show at the Japanese Garden continues througout the month of November.  You should go have a look.  The gardens are beautiful as well with the last of fall foliage clinging on.

Bamboo at Portland Japanese Garden

November 14th, 2008 by admin

My friend Jiro Yonezawa is a master bamboo weaver/sculptor.  His work will be on display at the Japanese Garden Nov 15-30.  He has asked me to loan a few of my furniture pieces to display his sculptures. The versatile Chaboo, of course and Sensu.

There is an opening reception this sunday nov 16 at 2pm with a lecture by Nancy Moore Bess, author of Bamboo in Japan. I have her book.  Thanks Patty and Chen for buying it for me a few years ago.

Jiros work is amazing!  Ive helped him out with some public art projects in the past and wish I could continue to learn from him about working with bamboo but he has moved back to Japan.  Were lucky to have him back temporarily for the show.

And yes, I am recruiting him hard for Project Chaboo.  Integrating his bamboo cane work into Chaboo would be appropriate and incredible.  Im crossing my fingers that he has time during his stay here.

If Jiro doesnt have time, I will do something myself where I integrate raw bamboo into Chaboo.  The interplay between machined and natural of the same material would be interesting to explore.

Coat rack/Umbrella Holder

October 8th, 2008 by tomitadesigns

Im designing a coat hanger/umbrella holder for a new client.  Theyve given me a lot of creative freedom and Im taking full advantage.  They like my kibako bookstand so thats a good start. Ill use the 1.5″  bamboo countertop material ripped into 1.5″ x 1.5″ strips.

They also like my use of the sumi ink for contrast.  Their criteria function wise are somewhat relaxed.  They have a closet for coats right by the entry so this coat hanger would be mostly for sculptural purposes.  They require it to hold 2-3 coats and 2 umbrellas with the reality being that most of the time there would actually be nothing on there at all.  Nonetheless, the design of this piece is driven by function.  What are the different ways to hang coats and umbrellas?  How is the structure going to be stable and not fall over?  I need to consider the possibilities of free standing, wall mounted, suspended, and any combination.

My initial inspiration is the form of a tree.  I like the idea of branches holding the coats.  Another gesture that comes to mind is a field of long grass or a bamboo grove.  Upwards movement would be nice in this space.   There is a window at the height of 67″.  The horizontal line of the sill is something I need to fight to get the feeling I want.

I narrowed the possibilities down to three concepts and made 1/3 scale models out of plywood scraps and my trusty hot glue gun.  The overall height is about 7ft

I met with the clients and we have decided to proceed with the center design direction.  Time to input the model into sketchup and play around with proportions and color.

Here is the latest edition modeled in sketchup in two colors.  I concentrated on staggering the distances between the “branches” to create more movement in the piece.  At  the bottom they are closer together and become more spread apart as you go upward.    I was looking for a progression similar to a sine curve or fibonacci sequence.  The height has been increased quite a bit to go over the window sill plane.

The latest design change.  Client has requested it handle 3 coats and 2 umbrellas.  I raised the whole thing up by 10″ so that the third one up is at 40″, an acceptable height for hanging coats.

Construction commenced!  Dadoing out the slits for the splines with a tenoning jig in this photo.  Splines are made with katalox, a dark mexican hardwood.  The splines create the joint at the elbows and also create some visual interest.

Lowering the center of gravity on this piece is a concern.  Its really tall and I dont want it tipping over under a load of coats.  The base needs to be made heavier.  I drilled multiple 1/2″ diameter holes on the undersides of the base and filled them with molten lead which i melted down using a camp stove outside my shop.  Lead has a very low melting point for a metal.

Dont try this at home kids.  Notice I am wearing a respirator, safety glasses, and welding gloves.  I have never done this before so I had no idea if the lead would splatter or explode or anything like that.

I figured out through trial and error that the lead pours best if you let it cool down slightly.  When its too hot it boils when you pour and it also catches the bamboo on fire (not good)

Crazy idea but it worked!  The base is very very heavy now, and you cant see that there is metal in there at all from the top.  I chiseled away the excess and sanded it down.  I covered eve

rything with a thick epoxy to keep the lead sealed, just in case.  What a fun day of experimentation.  And just think… the brain damage wont hit me for years down the line.  YEs!

Detail of the base.  I added a corner brace of sorts.  The lead filled legs really lower the center of gravity.

Looks right at home outside my shop!

Here it is in action.  This will be a fun piece for the clients to play with.

Electric Picnic Music Festival- IRELAND

October 3rd, 2008 by tomitadesigns

Electric Picnic Music Festival is a 3 day outdoor music festival in Stradbaly, Ireland that took place august 29-31. The festival is known for emphasis on public art and includes poets, comedians, the circus, a ferris wheel, movie theater and other elements not usually seen at these outdoor concerts.  First international project for team BambooDNA.

Wow- the story starts with bad news.   The container we had shipped to Ireland from Columbia full of 400 large bamboo poles got stuck in customs in Rotterdam and would not arrive in time for the festival.  This amount of material was our most ambitious yet- even more than Coachella.  NONE of this material would be arriving.  All we have is our minds, bodies, and a few hand tools.

These bamboo sculpture projects have always been an exercise in flexibility.  Something always goes drastically wrong and we have to improvise.  The team has gotten used to it and gained confidence in the face of adversity to the point where when we heard that the bamboo was not arriving we merely shrugged and started to set up camp.  No problem, well figure something out.  Not much sense of panic in team bamboo!

We set out harvesting materials from around the site.  The land was private so with permission from the landowner we spent the first two days looking for and gathering material.  Its hard to believe that a normal family lives here.  They have 5 acres of roofs to maintain on the property!

First we erected the three main columns.  The plan is to build a giant willow ring on the ground.  The rings was tied with a series of clove hitches and reinforced with willow weaving. Led by Lynda the weaving team leader, the long skinny willows were painstakingly woven in one by one.   We were to then lift the entire ring up solely with human power.  Our resident rigger Brandon can do amazing things with rope and pulleys.  These complicated lifts would not be possible without him.  Of course, Brandon was out of commission with back spasms so he had to direct us to do all the work.

The first lift was a failure.  The forces exerted on the ring when we lifted pushed the inside oculus together and we lost the form.  After lowering the ring once again we fortified the center with a willow ring and tried again.  The second lift was a success.  Now, we started constructing a second smaller ring to go above the first one.  One of our irish volunteers Tom and I scrapped the weaving technique we used for the first ring and instead built two large wreath like structures with willow.  We strapped the offshooting willow branches to these two rings and hoped for the best.  LIFT!

A crowd gathered and laughed at how absurd this lift looked.  Kevin did an amazing job of manuevering the second ring until Ryan and Jenn could secure it into place.  Once the second ring was in the crew up there could relax.  Looks like a nice place to hang out!

Because our material didnt arrive this project changed in scale dramatically.  Though not nearly as big as we had originally planned, the new sculpture we built involved a lot more detail work and craft than we usually get a chance to do.  Our local willow artist Lusi and her teenage son Ollie spearheaded a team building lanterns.  Incredibly complex, these structures probably took a full day each for one person.  Marisha led the design and building of benches made out of solid wood slabs.  Our young Aussie Dana led all things related to sledgehammers and axes.  On the last day we all carved totem poles, leaving our signature touch on the project.

Not having our bamboo was actually a good thing.  We learned to work with a new material and learned to work in a new way.  The spirit of Electric Picnic is more about craft than the american music festivals where prefabricated truss structures and tents dominate.  We were true to the spirit this year due to our adversity.

The structure was quite successful as a hang out area during the concert. The benches provided unorthodox sitting angles for conversation and the structure lit up pretty nice at night. We didnt have our usual lighting guru/mad scientist/pyrotechnician, Alan so we settled for floodlamps that the festival provided.

We all learned alot from this project.  Being flexible, staying calm and positive in the face of adversity and just doing the best you can with what you have were all good lessons.  All good things must come to an end.  Teardown was easy.  The site looked apocalyptic with all the trash around.  We burned what we could.  No attachments….

Bamboo Sculpture in NYC

August 13th, 2008 by tomitadesigns

Another build by the Bamboo DNA crew.  We built a 80ft tall 10ft diameter bamboo structure at the All Points West Music Festival at Liberty Point State Park featuring Radiohead and Jack Johnson.  There are no mechanical fasteners- everything is held together in tension by woven bamboo slats.

The setting was nothing short of spectacular.  The NYC skyline, Ellis Island, and the statue of liberty right in front of us.  The park is so huge and wide open it was a strange experience to be so close to manhattan and feel so alone.  The structure consists of 30 20ft long guadua bamboo poles.  We built a temporary 2×4 framework whose dimensions and positions were calculated in advance.

Bamboo poles were temorarily lashed to the framework.  Then, the real fun begins.  20ft long bamboo slats are woven into the structure in an alternating pattern.  Opposing forces create structure with enough redundancy and the framework can be removed.  This work is brutal, requiring teams of 3-5 people shoving the slats through inch by inch.

The work gets more difficult towards the tip of the cone.  As the radius gets tighter the tension and friction increase to the point where it takes four people lunging at once to move a slat an inch at times.  Both out of necessity and for style the slats start to angle upwards at the top.

The lift is always the most risky and exciting part of the project.  Without access to a large crane we had to do a delicate balance using a grade-all and forklift.  Luckily we have a rigging expert, Brandon on the team.  He made two rope rings that distributed the load evenly among the 12 columns for the lift.  These also became attachment points for the guy wires which he would rig later.

Once erected Brandon went to work with the guy wires.  After this point the power equipment went away and we adjusted the angle of tower purely with human power using a system of 6 pulleys.  The system creates a 6 to 1 power advantage.  With four people weighing a total of 600 lbs you can generate 3600 lbs of force.

The final day of the build was spent on touch up, building the deck, canopy feature, and lighting.  The deck is a 2x 6 structure clad in bamboo in a star of david pattern.  It also served to brace the structure during the lift.

Allen and James did a great job with the lighting.  They also setup a propane torch at the top of the spire, 80ft overhead.  All in all an impressive build.  10 people, 4.5 days.  This may be the tallest bamboo structure ever made in the US…..