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The first year it sleeps.  The second,  it creeps.  The third year, it leaps!

The first time I heard of “the big bamboo” was on a Thanksgiving Vacation taken to Nassau.  I’d found a club I liked, and was on a personal dance marathon. I had to walk onto the plane taking me back to Miami, barefoot.  Too many blisters to think of shoes. Sung by a reggae band, the song became an ear worm for me.  Here are just enough of the lyrics for you to get the jist of it!  I doubt that the song would have been played in the USA.  It was just naughty enough to get and retain my interest. So when I searched for the lyrics, 60 years later, doubting I’d find anything, there were several items to choose from .  Lawdyme!

I ask my woman what could I do

To keep her happy the whole night through

She said there’s only one thing I want from you

It’s a little piece of the Big Bamboo!!

Oh the Big Bamboo grows always long

The Big Bamboo is always strong

The Big Bamboo stands us straight and tall

The Big Bamboo pleases one and all!!

The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.

With this information stored in the not too deep recesses of my my mind, I didn’t give a lot of thought to bamboo for many years.  Until I learned of a special bamboo exhibit by an esteemed  Japanese bamboo artist at the Japan House in LA.  To those of you who don’t know how the artisanal craft system in Japan works, there is a very proscribed path one must follow. Family lineage plays a strong role in assuring that certain families maintain dominance, one generation following the other.  Lineage is everything in life, in case you didn’t know.

Tanabe Chikuunsai IV( b. 1973)dramatically pushes the boundaries of the artform.  His family is famous for making exquisite ikebana baskets.  That’s how he began working with the material.

Chikunusai’ s dad or grandad??

It’s always astonished me, each time I visit Japan, to discover, how in the right hands, with the right training, Japanese artists are able to take rather ordinary materials such as metal, bamboo, paper and clay and transform them into spellbinding works of art.  How do they even conceive of such objects?  I am in awe!  Creativity run wild.  If you can dream it, you can (probably )make it.  Art is such an integral part of Japanese culture.  It’s treasured and respected.  Serious art galleries exist in major department stores.  Each time I visit such department stores, I end up in their art gallery.  I’m always inspired.  Art is a part of daily life.(as it should be.)  I took to it readily!  For more background on contemporary Japan, please read this post:  





Bamboo artistry probably began with basket making.  Who doesn’t need a beautiful basket?  It takes many years of diligent apprenticeship with a master bamboo artist before an individual can be recognized as a bamboo artist. For generations, Buddhist temples gave offerings of flowers in bamboo baskets.  It was probably only a matter of time before some forward thinking artist, thought, “hmmmmm.”  I wonder what would happen if???  Fortunately, that kind of thinking is encouraged and supported too.

And so, here’s the legacy of that kind of thinking:  Bamboo Installations seen and admired at the Japan House by me!:  These sculptures are quite large.


Taking bamboo to its ultimate use, how about a house?  They really exist in Bali.  I’d love to try one out. In Bali, of cou Set free your inner Robinson Crusoe.Architect Elora Weldy,.who grew up on Bali is using bamboo as the building material for these houses.  So the next time you pass through Bali, check them out!


I hope this blog has expanded your mind for the possibilities of bamboo.  In the the right hands, of course.

Let’s go beyond placemats and coasters.


Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.


  • Martin Ringel says:


  • Eleanor Moriarty says:

    Bravo. Well done my friend. Am a lover of handmade baskets. Thank you for the knowledge you shared with the history of bamboo in the many artistic creations. Don’t think I will get to Bali but will do the picture viewing . We have a shared experience of a night filled with dancing. I barely walked for four days and wrapped feet in padding. Hummm
    Love you

  • dbsite33 says:

    Wow, Dianne, love this post from the bawdy to the exquisite and mind boggling. Brava! Great to see you at Swing Out, too!

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