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Amazing Bamboo Structures

Bamboo has been used in Asia for centuries. It's been used for housing, baskets, food, utensils, containers, etc, but more interesting are the huge bamboo installations created by Hiroshi Teshigahara. His astonishing structures are massive.

When you see Hiroshi's work you might think waves, a gentle wind or an octopus. Regardless, they're amazing. But how does the bamboo stay that way? "Generally speaking, a bamboo structure holds its shape by being securely fastened to a foundation, be it though the use of metal pegs, boards, wires, screws, nails, etc," explains Beatrice Yamasaki, Director of Sogetsu Hawaiian Branch. "For instance, several bamboo stalks may be pounded into the ground in a circle and then individual strips of bamboo screwed or wired to these stalks to form the foundation for the sculpture. There are obviously many techniques used to be sure that a sculpture retains its shape. A lot of technical knowledge and skill is involved."

"The length of time it takes to complete a bamboo structure will depend upon its design - mainly its size and complexity and the number of people working on its construction," says Beatrice. While one structure might take less than an hour, it might take a week or longer to finish a different one.

While bamboo structures are interesting to look at and learn about, the man who is behind them is just as impressive. Hiroshi was one of the first to begin using bamboo to make these large works of art. As headmaster of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, one of three major ones in Japan, he spent most of his time and energy teaching. "He taught classes, conducted workshops, gave demonstrations, held his own exhibits and directed exhibitions of the school," says Beatrice. "Being a very creative artist, he also did calligraphy and made ceramic pieces (vases, tea ceremony bowls.) He was a remarkably creative person, just like his father Sofu Teshigahara, who founded the Sogetsu School."

Hiroshi was a familiar name long before he started creating his bamboo structures. He became known worldwide for directing several films, including Woman in the Dunes and Rikyu. So how did a well known director get into Sogetsu? His sister, who had been expected to carry on the Sogetsu Ikebana tradition, passed away. His father had died the year before. After a lot of thinking, Hiroshi took over the Sogetsu School until his death on April 14, 2001. His creative bamboo works can only be seen in books and photos.

Sogetsu Ikebana is taught all over the world. It's not just large bamboo structures. Ikebana is an artist's expression made from flowers and plants. If you are interested in learning Sogetsu, Beatrice has some advice. "Since bamboo is not readily available everywhere and since bamboo structures are difficult to make without some instruction, I would advise those who are really interested in working with bamboo to find and consult people in their area who make things out of bamboo." Beatrice also suggests reading The Book of Bamboo which provides some good background about the interesting plant, bamboo.

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