Karumi: high-tech craftsmanship redefining the art of bamboo


Karumi: high-tech craftsmanship redefining the art of bamboo

Bamboo is a symbol of prosperity in the Japanese archipelago. Light and elegant, it grows at a remarkable rate and can even withstand earthquakes. Its wood is widely used in Japan’s construction and craft industries. For over a decade, the Hermès partner firm Hinoki Kougei has been using this material in the world of contemporary furniture and design.
In 2017, Portuguese architect and 1992 Pritzker prize winner Álvaro Siza Vieira, put this material to the test by designing three seats – a bench and two stools – for Hermès. How did he succeed in showcasing its purity and lightness?
Coaxed by the expert cabinetmakers at Hinoki Kougei, the tough bamboo succeeded where the original material of flexible wicker had failed.
For ten years, this artisan business, established by Chuzo Tozawa in Tokyo in 1977, has been revisiting the art of moulding this traditional material to create unique pieces.
The canes arrive, still green, from the dense forests of Kyoto on the island of Honshu, and from Kagoshima on the island of Kyushu. They are harvested between December and February. In the workshop, the 34 artisans begin by slicing the wood into thin strips. These are then flexible enough to be bonded together and transferred to moulds, in order to acquire the multiple curves that form the bench and stools. Carbon fibre is its other secret, extending like an invisible spinal column inside the longest section of the bench to strengthen it.
Behind the name Karumi, which means “purity through simplicity”, is hidden high-end craftsmanship which perpetuates ancestral know-how by combining it with ingenious technical innovation.


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