This article is published by the American Bamboo Society in BAMBOO Magazine (December 2010). I received the magazine yesterday, sent by BAMBOO Magazine editor, Betty Shor.
My article starts at page 13 and ends at page 16. All photos in this magazine are black and white.
Hybrid Methods for Bamboo Product Enterprises in Indonesia
In Indonesia, where 11% of bamboo species grows indigenously (KLH, 1998), bamboo has been used for centuries for various purposes, from construction and furniture to musical instruments and kitchen utensils. Bamboo has been carrying the stigma of being a substandard material, due to lack of its application to permanent contemporary products. However, since the emergence of global issues concerning environmental qualities and sustainability, bamboo started to gain attention as a potential material to supplement or substitute wood or other conventional materials for construction, furniture or other products.
Bamboo product manufacturing methods in Indonesia are categorized into traditional and advanced methods. The traditional methods are generally applied by Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) and home industries, which are located in rural areas. The workers are craftsmen who inherit their weaving and carving skills from their predecessors, using simple household tools (often only a single knife), producing bamboo products whose designs have existed for generations and are used for their original purposes as kitchen utensils, containers, etc. The advanced methods are commonly conducted by research/academic institutions and particular companies who have access to technology and other resources. They manufacture bamboo products using conventional machineries, or machines that are specifically designed for processing bamboo, commonly resulted in laminated boards.
These two methods, however, are not quite strategic for the development of bamboo products in Indonesia, especially if the main purpose is to change people’s perception on bamboo: no longer as a substandard material, but as a potential, durable material that fits current needs and demands. On one hand, Indonesian bamboo products manufactured with traditional methods can hardly compete with traditional bamboo products from other countries, or with mass-manufactured products made of other materials with similar functions. Moreover, the products retain their ‘traditional’ image, which limits their market to people who want them for their exoticism. On the other hand, bamboo products that are manufactured with advanced methods require substantial efforts in order to guarantee raw material supply, mass-production machineries, financial capital and other resources, which would be impracticable for the near future. Therefore, applicable, appropriate methods for bamboo product manufacture in Indonesia are necessary, here of which hybrid methods are proposed. The hybrid methods are combinations of traditional and advanced methods in three levels, as follows (Fig.1. Levels of Technology in Bamboo Product Enterprises in Indonesia):
– Modified Traditional Method, in order to create improved traditional products
– Combination of Traditional and Advanced Methods
– Adapted Advanced Method, which is adjusted to the conditions of the producer communities
All hybrid methods put an emphasis on labor-intensive industry in a modified SME, involve a considerable portion of a designer’s role in increasing product values, and aim the product to users or consumers with contemporary lifestyles.
As an attempt to demonstrate the concept of hybrid technology for manufacturing bamboo products that fit current lifestyles, a number of prototypes have been produced in different occasions, using various techniques and resources. Among the first ones was a set of eating utensils made of bamboo veneer and bamboo splits, which required no weaving technique (Fig.2. Bestrek). Further design explorations resulted in another set of eating utensils that were mainly made using bamboo veneer (Fig.3. Pincuk). This set was designed along with creating a prototype of a manually, one-man operation bamboo veneer machine, considering that the manual bamboo veneering technique is gradually diminishing among current craftsmen.
More experiments using veneer and customized, precise handy work resulted in lighting facilities (table lamp and hanging lamp), produced by Apikayu Foundation, an establishment that focuses on community development through design and local natural resources (Fig.4. Apikayu). Common technique that is employed to make a certain kitchen utensil is now applied to an entirely different form that can function as a frame of a bag called Taraje (Fig.5a & 5b. Taraje). One last example is a couple of bamboo stools (Fig.6. Stoolboo) that were produced by applying the adapted advanced method. These hybrid products prove that bamboo products can have an entirely different appearances and performances compared to the existing bamboo products that are known in Indonesia. By developing the designs and the industries that produce the improved bamboo products, it is expected that bamboo could be recognized as a potential industrial material and could provide income for SME.
I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1972. I studied Industrial Design at the Institute of Technology Bandung (ITB) until 1997, with a graduation project on advanced treatment for bamboo as a construction material in Indonesia, with a design of a bamboo garden hut (a gazebo) to demonstrate the concept, collaborating with the Applied Physics Department of the Indonesian Science Institute (LIPI). I chose to work on bamboo material exploration for my graduation project, since I acquired a substantial amount of data and information about bamboo from the International Bamboo Congress that was held in Bali in 1995 and believed that, from the design perspectives, bamboo actually has a huge opportunity to be developed and that bamboo should be regarded as a valuable material.
In 1998 I continued my study to the Industrial Design Postgraduate Program at The Design Academy Eindhoven, The Netherlands. I acquired my Master of Arts in Design Research with a thesis titled Uncovering the Green Gold of Indonesia, about bamboo as a competent material for industrial and constructional products, emphasizing on the application of appropriate technology. Dr. Jules Janssen acted as one of my tutors during this study. The Hybrid Methods that are proposed as an appropriate technology for Indonesian bamboo product enterprises are the main content of my thesis, of which development and examples are continuously being made up to present. In 2007 I completed my doctoral research at Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands, with a dissertation about sustainable housing in Indonesia, with bamboo housing as study cases. Dr. Janssen acted as a supervisor and examiner during the last half of my research. Returning to Indonesia, and back to working at ITB as a lecturer and researcher at the Industrial Design department, I proceed with my bamboo research as it is gradually getting more popular. The examples of bamboo hybrid products that are presented in the article are results of design competitions, workshops, exhibitions and research projects, which were conducted following my return to Indonesia. It is due to the hybrid technology research for Indonesian bamboo products and enterprises that I received an award as a Technology Innovator on the 15th National Technology Resurrection Day in July 2010, which focused on the theme “Strengthening the National Innovation System”.