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A Design Research on Bamboo’s Potential
Dwinita Larasati
Eindhoven, 3 June 1999
The Design Academy
Postgraduate Studies
MA in Design Research
Dr. Jules J.A. Janssen
Faculty of Architecture and Building
Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE)
Ir. E.L.C. van Egmond-de Wilde de Ligny
Faculty of Technology Management
Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE)
The thesis abstract has been written in the candidate’s language and is
included for convenience and comparison.
First of all, I want to express my gratitude to God, whose blessings
have accompanied me every step of the way in finishing this thesis
work. I also want to thank my family for their support, trust and
understanding, and to Sybrand Zijlstra, who keeps my spirit high
and never fails to be a real friend.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Dr. Jules Janssen and
Ir. Emilia van Egmond, who have guided me through the research
process; to Robert Hellier, Denya Cascio, Lode Coen, Lilian
Henze, Meghan Ferril and all the tutors, for their guidance and
encouragement; and to my sponsor IKEA Foundation.
Thanks are also due to all the many design professionals,
researchers and institutions who have supported this work:
M.Ihsan, my fellow designer and researcher from ITB, Bandung;
Mrs. Chairin Joedawinata from Bamboo Java, Bandung; Adolf
Babel & family and the Babel Design team in Heilbronn; Mrs. & Mr.
Gyllenbogel in Helsinki; Prof. A.G.Rao from IIT, Bombay; Bryn
Griffiths from RCA, London; Harianto Aly and Singgih from Aruna
Arutala, Temanggung; Mr. Reinder van Tijen in Dieren; Jelle
Zijlstra; Charley Younge & Maarten Leijdekkers from Plyboo,
Schellinkhout; INBAR; and Linda Garland from EBF, Bali.
And heartfelt thanks to my fellow students and friends from The
Design Academy and from The Faculty of Arts and Design in ITB,
for their cheerful support, as well as everyone who was involved in
this research project and who directly or indirectly inspired and
encouraged me to conduct this research.
Finally, I would like to dedicate this research to all the bamboo
artisans, particularly in Tasikmalaya, West Java, whose unique,
precious skills deserve more respect and attention.
Eindhoven, June 1999
Dwinita Larasati
Bamboo grows in abundance throughout Indonesian archipelago,
and has been a part of the life of the Indonesian people for
centuries. Its rapid growth makes it an almost infinitely
sustainable resource. Although bamboo belongs to the grass
family, its technical properties resembles wood, and therefore it
can replace or supplement wood, which are becoming more and
more scarce.
In this research three discrete factors were explored in order to
discover possible approaches to the development of this abundant
natural resource. The three factors were: the contribution of
advanced technology and improved treatment methods to improve
bamboo's material performance; the appropriate use of human
resources through the application of appropriate technology; and
the introduction of improved design to create functional products
with a wider potential market.
Exploration of the current situation led to an analysis of factors
requiring changes in supply, production and distribution methods,
and in the design of products and the material use of bamboo.
Taking all the factors together, the hybrid level of technology
(which combines elements of traditional processes with elements
of advanced treatments, non-traditional processes and the input of
designers) was selected as the most appropriate given the current
situation in Indonesia.
Prototypes were then created using a hybrid technology, which
had as their goal:
− to create an improved, functional product that will meet
external users needs, and
− to provide for local employment and economic development
without social or environmental disruption.
A modified feasibility study was also conducted.
In conclusion it was found that hybrid technology is capable of
fulfilling the stated requirements both in terms of an improved
product and in terms of appropriate local benefit.
The documentation concludes with a scenario that combines the
researcher’s findings and recommendations in the form of a
narrative set in contemporary rural Indonesia.
Bambu telah menjadi bagian dalam kehidupan bangsa Indonesia
selama ratusan tahun sebagai sumber daya alam (SDA) yang
selalu terbarukan, dikarenakan pertumbuhan dan daya
regenerasinya yang sangat pesat.
Meskipun “bambu” berarti adalah seluruh badan rumput yang
menyerupai semak dengan sumbu bercabang, struktur sel dan
properti teknis bambu menyerupai kayu, sehingga bambu dapat
pula disebut ‘kayu’.
Hal ini menunjukkan bahwa bambu merupakan SDA yang sangat
potensial sebagai material alternatif pengganti kayu, yang
persediaannya makin menipis.
Dalam penelitian ini diulas tiga faktor utama yang dapat
meningkatkan pendaya-gunaan bambu, sebagai berikut: kontribusi
teknologi maju bagi peningkatan kualitas material bambu;
pendaya-gunaan sumber daya manusia (SDM) melalui penerapan
teknologi tepat guna; dan inovasi desain bagi produk bambu
fungsional yang dapat menjangkau pangsa pasar potensial yang
lebih luas.
Tinjauan terhadap situasi masa kini mengarah ke analisa faktor
perlunya beberapa perubahan dalam metoda penyediaan bahan
baku, produksi dan distribusi, dan penggunaan material dan
desain produk bambu.
Mengambil seluruh faktor tersebut, tingkat teknologi hybrid (yang
merupakan gabungan elemen-elemen proses tradisional dengan
elemen-elemen teknologi maju, proses non-tradisional dan
masukan dari desainer) terpilih sebagai tingkat teknologi yang
paling tepat guna untuk diterapkan bagi situasi di Indonesia masa
Prototype dibuat dengan menggunakan teknologi hybrid, yang
− menciptakan produk fungsional yang dapat memenuhi
kebutuhan para pengguna eksternal, dan
− menyediakan lapangan kerja dan pembangunan ekonomi
tanpa mengganggu keseimbangan sosial dan lingkungan.
Studi kelayakan untuk prototype tersebut juga dilakukan.
Dalam simpulan ditemukan bahwa teknologi hybrid dapat
memenuhi persyaratan baik inovasi produk maupun
pengembangan sumber daya lokal.
Tulisan ini diakhiri dengan sebuah skenario yang menggabungkan
hasil riset/simpulan dan rekomendasi/saran dalam bentuk narasi
di daerah rural di Indonesia masa kini.
Indonesian 4
1. BAMBOO -An Extraordinary Gift of Nature 6
1.1. Bamboo as a Plant 6
1.2. Bamboo as a Material 7
2.1. Indonesian Bamboo Culture 10
2.2. The Origins of Bamboo Enterprises 12
3.1. Stigma on Bamboo 16
3.2. Designers Involvement in Bamboo Product Development 23
3.3. Bamboo’s Opportunity 25
4.1. Appropriate Technology 29
4.2. Design Projects 39
5.1. Conclusions 49
5.2. Hope for the future 51
APPENDIX 1. Comparative Study: Bamboo-Based Culture 61
APPENDIX 2. Differences between Craftsmen and Designers 62
APPENDIX 3. Responses to the Questionnaire 63
APPENDIX 4. Design Project 64
1 . B A M B O O
A n E x t r a o r d i n a r y G i f t o f N a t u r e
Standing tall and slim, with its leaves whispering in the wind,
bamboo has an exotic beauty. More than a pleasant scene,
bamboo offers much more than simple beauty. Bamboo
belongs to the Gramineae family, so it is actually a grass
rather than a tree. Bamboo grows and matures within five
years. As a comparison, a
hardwood such as pine
needs more than 10 years
to mature, while softwoods
such as acacia need 6-7
years. One can almost see
it grow since it can stretch
up to a half meter taller per
Bamboo’s widespread and strong root system binds soil
particles to prevent erosion and land slides. Its large total
leaf area, along with its roots, absorbs and binds pollutants
in the soil, water and air. In this way, bamboo aids the
conservation of soil and water particularly in barren areas
and undeveloped lands.
Harvested when newly sprouted and
tender, bamboo can be consumed as food.
The crisp texture and subtle flavor of
bamboo shoots have made them a favored
element in many eastern cuisines.
Bamboo can be used for medical purposes as well. Yellow
bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) is known to be a cure for
jaundice. The shoots of yellow bamboo contain hydroxy
benzaldehyde compound, which serves as an antitoxin in
the liver.
There are innumerable other uses of
bamboo. It has been a container, a piece of
paper, a musical instrument, a mat, a boat, a
weapon, a toy, a fishing rod, and more. It
was even used for the first lamp filament,
when Thomas Edison could not find any
other material suitable in 1880.
Indonesian tropical forests consist of various hard and soft-
wood species of trees, such as teak, meranti, gadog,
mahogany, and rubber. Especially since 1970, these have
been exploited to fulfil rapidly growing industrial production
and consumer needs for wood, mostly for building materials
and various industries
(such as pulp and furniture). Today,
the situation of Indonesia’s tropical forests is approaching a
in that the current and expected rate of their
exploitation exceeds their possible replacement. The
scarcity of tropical hardwood has been worsened by the
forest fires of 1998 in Indonesia. The worst fires were in
Kalimantan, between January and April, which caused
almost 400.000 hectares of forest damage. The
unsustainable of this resource may well lead to the
commercial and genetic extinction of several valuable
tropical woods
It will take tens of years for a new forest to mature and
become ready to be harvested. The whole world has

Herman Haeruman, in Manusia dalam Keserasian Lingkungan, 1983, stated
that excessive wood consumption as a main material for industries directly effects
the quantity of Indonesian tropical forest and timber supplies.
In Indonesia dalam Kancah Isu Lingkungan Global, 1991, Otto Soemarwoto
stated that exploitation of the tropical forest puts tropical countries under pressure
since the environmental impact from deforestation is global, such as ozone layer
leakage and global warming.
Dr. Ir. Yanto Sarosa, chief of the Tropical Bio Diversity Centre, Bogor Institute
of Agriculture, stated in the Tropical Forest Bio Diversity Observation and
expressed their concern since the fires have added to the
problem of the scarcity of tropical woods; some European
countries have even banned the import of some tropical
hard wood products from Indonesia to prevent further
exploitation. This concern has forced people to seek wood
substitutes. Bamboo can act as one.
Of the 1250 bamboo species in the
world, 11% are indigenous to
Indonesia and five of the 19 most
valuable bamboo species (selected
by International Network for
Bamboo and Rattan/INBAR based on their economic value)
grow in Indonesia. Therefore it is worthwhile to look at
bamboo as an economic resource for the purposes of
Indonesian development.
In order to use bamboo as a potential economic resource, it
is important to analyze bamboo’s superior qualities.
Bamboo has an astonishing reputation as a strong
construction material, having been used over centuries for
structural purposes. Bamboo’s cell structures and technical

Assessment Workshop held in April 1998, that this condition gives disadvantages
properties resemble wood, yet it
is superior in both strength and
elasticity when compared to
wood and steel
Bamboo fiber has a static tensile
strength up to 400N/mm². For
comparison, wood has a static
tensile strength of 50N/mm²;
steel construction, 370N/mm²;
and glass fiber, up to 7000N/mm²). The Modulus of Rupture
and Elasticity of bamboo (MOR and MOE: units used to test
the strength of industrial materials) has been proven to be
equal to hardwood. After its first three years of growth,
bamboo’s skin contains an abundant proportion of silicon
acid that hardens the surface and protects it from termites,
chemical substances,
and mechanical forces.
The physical and
mechanical properties of
bamboo, along with its
rapid regeneration,

to bio diversity preservation.
Several experiments have been conducted to measure the strength of bamboo
and compare it with other materials. The statements above are taken from
Bambus-Bamboo, 1985, and Research Needs for Bamboo and Rattan to the Year
2000, 1991.
make bamboo a potential material to supplement wood.
However, because bamboo is widely used by rural people, it
carries an image of a poor man’s timber
. Bamboo products
have been neglected, or have been drowned in a sea of
products made of new materials, especially since most
bamboo products do not
possess modern quality
(modern is a term used to
describe practicality in
processing, packaging and
maintenance). At the same
time, there are some attempts
to improve the performance
and appearance of bamboo
products by applying advanced
technology to its treatment.
In this research, the possible methods to improve bamboo
products will be investigated. Through the introduction of
well-designed bamboo products that highlight bamboo’s
unique characteristics, it is hoped that bamboo can become

Bamboo can easily be obtained, and people in rural area are the ones who still
actively produce and use bamboo in the traditional way. These people are mostly
poor, and poorly educated. Dr. Janssen stated this in his paper, Bamboo and the
Environment, 1997, and added that Westerners have an old fashioned ideas about
bamboo (such as heavy furniture in the colonial style).
more appreciated by urban users. Available natural, human
and cultural resources are the key elements to consider in
the production process, therefore it is important to discuss
how technology can be appropriate for a given environment.
The designer’s involvement in the bamboo industry can
result in products with modern qualities, which, it is hoped,
will change people’s perception of bamboo and reduce the
stigma currently attached to bamboo materials.
2 . B A M B O O O F T H E P A S T
Bamboo has had an immense influence on the life and
culture of the Indonesian people for centuries. Bamboo has
often figured in local paintings, legends, songs and folklore
and it carries many symbolic meanings in its various uses.
The following are a few examples
Bamboo’s astounding growth and strength represent a
symbol of life and energy, therefore in many parts of
Indonesia, a bamboo knife is used to cut a new-born’s
umbilical cord, thus bringing vitality to the new-born child.
In Bali, the yellow variety of Schizostachyum brachycladum
is used during burial ceremonies because yellow is
considered the sacred colour of Hinduism. The spirit in
green bamboo canes is called in Dayak songs to grant
vitality to new-borns and to young couples. Minangkabau
people believe that spirits dwell in the hollows in bamboo
and use jointed bamboo as household charms. The walls of
the bamboo stalk are associated to those of the home, so it
is believed that if a thief breaks into the home, he will be

S. Dransfield and E.A. Widjaja, eds., Plant Resources of South-East Asia:
Bamboo (Leiden: Backhuys P, 1995) 25-26, and Anne Richter, Arts & Crafts of
Indonesia (San Fransisco: Chronicle Books, 1994) 114-119.
trapped as if he was trapped inside a bamboo stalk, until the
house owner forgives him and releases him from the spell.
Available plant forms and similarities in the material culture
of diverse communities in Indonesia result in utilitarian and
sometimes even decorative or ritual
items that display an obvious likeness.
This is particularly evident in the way
bamboo containers are used and
decorated. If the nodes are left in place,
they seal the bottom of a container; and
a lid can be made either from bamboo or from another
material. In spite of the similarities, bamboo baskets and
mats throughout Indonesia show astounding variations in
form and pattern.
In South Sulawesi, the Toraja use green bamboo canes to
carry milk palm wine (tuak) to and from the markets;
decorative containers are ornamented with incisions and
poker-work designs burned in geometrical bands and
rubbed with red and black pigments.
West Timorese lime containers are decorated with the
geometric Bronze Age lozenge patterns found throughout
the archipelago in other art and craft forms. North Sumatran
Batak containers have finely scratched curvilinear motifs like
those painted and carved on the majestic ship-like traditional
Bands of triangles representing stylised bamboo shoots and
their inherent qualities are a common motif in textiles,
woodcarving and metalwork throughout Indonesia.
From these samples it is known that bamboo has been used
as an inspiration for decorative elements, as well as being
an object to decorate according to various meanings and
Bamboo musical instruments can be
found scattered throughout the
Indonesian archipelago. Several kinds of
bamboo flutes are played in many parts
of the islands. In West Java, each set of
angklung is composed of bamboo tubes
suspended in a frame; the instrument is rattled to provide
musical accompaniment to dances. The watery melodies
tinkled on Balinese bamboo xylophones
or gerantang serve the same purpose.
The sasando, a Rotinese stringed
instrument, has between twelve and
forty wires strung onto a central bamboo
cylinder; a large lontar leaf is curved around it to form a
hemispherical sound box.
Bamboo’s hollowed stems in various sizes and shaped in
various forms can produce specific sounds. Therefore
people have been using them for centuries to express their
pleasure, gratefulness, grief or joy, both in religious and
traditional ceremonies.
Bamboo has also been used to manufacture weapons for
hunting and combat. For instance, arrowheads used by the
peoples of Irian Jaya were and still are made from small
species of Racemobambos and of Nastus, and the arrow
shafts from small, straight, thin bamboo culms of
Schizostachyum species. Sharpened bamboo poles were
used as a primary weapon in wartime, and became
especially popular during the fight for independence against
the Dutch and Japanese colonialisation.
Because of its association with war and weapons, heroic
and nostalgic meanings are attached to bamboo, along with
other images connected to wartime privation.
There remain an abundance of interesting examples of the
uses of bamboo throughout Indonesia. Letters and
calendars for determining auspicious
days were inscribed on bamboo.
Bamboo has also been transformed into
pipes, lice crushers, and quivers for
blowpipe darts; not to mention its
popular uses in the form of kitchen
utensils, kite frames and toys.
This tradition of bamboo utilisation
continues and most of the bamboo
artefacts described above are still
being made and are widely used in
the traditional manner, therefore the
image ‘traditional’ is firmly attached
to bamboo.
In addition, bamboo is a ubiquitous
material, therefore it costs almost nothing to purchase;
bamboo wares and constructions are easily replaceable and
commonly used by low-income communities. Therefore
negative images, such as cheap, disposable and common,
are attached to bamboo as well, despite the many layers of
valuable traditional meaning.
Indigenous Indonesian peoples who live inland of the
coastal regions perform agricultural activities as the primary
means to sustain their lives. Rice land is considered their
most important possession. Between planting and
harvesting times, however, they perform other activities
based on religious purposes (such as creating rituals,
dances and artefacts) and on physical needs (such as
mending and making tools).
People naturally find potential resources in
their surroundings and utilise them. In the
case of West Java
those resources are
primarily bamboo material. Tasikmalaya, a
town in West Java, is taken as a case sample
because this area has a reputation of producing bamboo
artisans. Tasikmalaya is the origin of the bamboo artisans
of West Java, whose woven bamboo products and skill in
weaving are remarkable. Rajapolah, an area in the outskirts
of Tasikmalaya, has a famous marketplace for bamboo
products. In this part of West Java bamboo grows in
abundance, so undoubtedly the people are very familiar with
the material and have utilised it for centuries to fulfil various
daily needs. The production of bamboo goods is, in fact, the
most common activity carried out alongside, or even instead
of, agricultural activities.
In West Java, as in any other rural area throughout
Indonesia, recent population growth has resulted in a lack of
private rice lands to rely on for even subsistence support
People in rural areas, therefore, tend to seek other paying
jobs. Producing bamboo wares, commonly carried out as a
household activity in villages, is one way to earn a living.
Instead of making only a small number of products for their
own use, local artisans make additional products to sell in
the marketplace. It can be seen here that the producers are
not the only users of their products, but they produce also
for those who will purchase their products. Bamboo craft is
no longer a family’s part time activity, but has already
reformed a family into a ‘production unit’.
These shifts, from self-use to selling bamboo products in
marketplace and from a part-time activity to the income

Ines Smyth, Differentiation among Petty Commodity Producers, Institute of
Social Studies, The Hague, 1988.
The land was either bought or inherited and distributed among offspring; its
ownership was characterised by the very small size of the holdings. Most people
now own very small quantities of rice land, which can not support subsistence
source for a family, mark the beginning of enterprises. The
contemporary changes in traditional bamboo enterprise:
1. Producers & users
Bamboo weaving has always been carried out in household-
based units, which employed only family labour. In the
language of modern capitalism, the entrepreneurs were all
producers themselves, who owned the means of production.
The head of the family, for example, who is also the head of
a production unit, is responsible for providing the capital to
purchase raw materials and tools, training the workers and
managing the distribution of products. Bamboo products
were produced within and by the family, and every family
member in a home was involved.
Within these production units there was
no formal division of labour, though
generally men did the initial stage of
work (cutting, cleaning and sawing the
bamboo), while the women wove and
the children helped assembling and
finishing the products. Everyone
collaborated by contributing his/her own
part in manufacturing the final product.
Users of traditional bamboo products were the producers
themselves, or they came from neighbouring areas where
they purchased or exchanged their products in the local
marketplace, therefore they were familiar with the real
functions of the products.
2. Quality
In the traditional system, where the maker and the user are
the same person or group of people, bamboo products have
never been required to meet given quality standards. The
raw bamboo was preserved in the traditional manner,
through immersion in water and mud. The material that
resulted was durable enough for the purposes it was
serving. Traditional bamboo products were easily repaired
or immediately replaced when broken or worn, since the
users themselves were familiar with the production process
and the material could be easily acquired.
Traditional craftsmen created additional products for the
purpose of celebrating specific events or ceremonies.
Therefore they happily put their spirit and energy into
making their products, for it was an honourable pleasure to
be involved in the events. The spiritual connection between
the craftsmen and their work produced excellent results.
3. Workmanship / Human resource
The skill of bamboo crafts was taught from one generation
to another, among the kinship relations and close
neighbours. Special knowledge and skills were also taught
by the skilled to others in the community. The most
experienced ones in the family taught the skill to the others
through an apprenticeship method. Therefore kinship
relations have remained important for the teaching of crafts.
4. Raw material supply
Bamboo grew naturally, in great abundance, in someone’s
backyard or field, so it could be acquired easily. The
available raw material was more than enough to fulfil the
local people’s daily needs.
5. Marketing of bamboo product
In the traditional system, the head of the family was
responsible for the marketing of the families’ products.
Products that were ready to sell were gathered and brought
to the local marketplace, where various families had their
own usual space.
6. Distribution/transportation
Traditional bamboo wares had to be brought to the local
marketplace. Traditional means of transportation such as
rickshaws and carts were quite sufficient to fulfil this need.
7. Design
Designers did not contribute
their knowledge to the
development of bamboo
products. Traditional bamboo
products were used for their
original purposes, and the designs had been passed from
one generation to the next for centuries. These traditional
bamboo products include a wide variety of kitchen
equipment, fish traps, mats for huts' walls, and many other
daily objects.
Communities in rural areas are still using these traditional
methods to produce bamboo goods. However, the current
situation is different from the traditional past. This has
caused changes in bamboo product manufacturing and
introduced more complexity to the above mentioned factors.
Traditional enterprises have to adjust to these changes in
order to survive in the contemporary world. The present
situation and its influence on the bamboo industry will be
reviewed in the next chapter.
3 . B A M B O O I N T H E P R E S E N T
3 . 1 . S T I GMA O N BAMBO O
Having been an integral part of Indonesian culture for
centuries does not ensure that bamboo products will always
be the people’s first choice.
Factors in the bamboo industry have changed over time,
several of these have influenced the perception of bamboo
as a subordinate material, such as: unreliable production
and distribution, the quality of existing bamboo products (a
combination of material and workmanship), the design of
existing bamboo products, the economic value of bamboo
materials and bamboo’s competition with other materials.
1. Producers & users
Over time, changes have occurred in the production process
of bamboo products. Individual households have changed
in size and composition, as a consequence of the shifting
patterns of birth, death, marriage and divorce, as well as
demographic movements from rural areas to urban areas
and vice-versa. These alterations confirm the view that the
household is not a static entity, but a unit that responds to
periodic reorganisations and to unexpected, irregular
In any case, these changes in the family influenced the
production units: they are larger, though they are still
household based. Within years of its development, one
production unit is not necessarily formed only of two parents
and their children. Instead, it can be that the grown children
form their own enterprises with other relatives. Or, it can
also be that the women of an extended family form their own
production unit, based on their responsibility to support
themselves and their children in the case that they are
widowed or divorced. The nature of the individual
production units and the (family based) relations dominant
within them have not altered. The composition within
production units, however, has changed.
A change in user groups has also occurred. Bamboo goods
of today are sold to markets outside the production villages,
which then creates wider ranges of users with new and
different demands. These external users
, who live in urban
areas, have a different life style than the rural producers.
Therefore the products must be modified to meet the needs
of urban users. For example, a woven rice steamer will not
be used to cook rice in an urban setting, since the urban
users prefer electric rice cookers. The urban user may want
to use the rice steamer as a pencil case instead, therefore
requiring a smaller product of the same form with denser
2. Quality of existing bamboo products
The durability of the material is one of the most important
aspects that determine the quality of bamboo products’
performance. The physical quality of bamboo products
depends also on the workmanship.
Once split and made into
products, bamboo can
lose some of its durability.
The surface of bamboo,
which was protected by
its hard skin, becomes exposed, therefore making it easier
for termites and fungus to attack and damage the material.
Traditional preservation methods prevent some of the
damage. However, new and improved treatment methods
that increase bamboo’s durability will make it more
competitive in the contemporary market.

The term external users will be used throughout this thesis for people who are
not directly involved in the production and original use of bamboo products.
In addition, these external users adjust the use of their
bamboo products to suit their needs, which are different
from the products’ intended function. Usually, they buy a
bamboo product for its decorative qualities, though, they
expect the product to be as durable as more modern
materials. If premature breakage takes place, they have no
direct access to the producers who can easily repair or
replace the product. Therefore it is necessary for bamboo
products directed to external users to be more durable than
those made for user-producers.
Another problem is caused if the product is brought
overseas, where the climate can be totally different. This
climate change can cause the bamboo to crack or split. For
example, a bamboo chair that was made of tropical bamboo
contains a high percentage of liquid. If it is brought to a very
dry climate, it will lose its humidity and the material will dry
rapidly, causing it to shrink and split. Therefore specific
preservation and processing methods need to be applied to
bamboo products destined for export in order to anticipate
and prevent these problems.
Without proper treatment, these material damages that
degrade bamboo product performance will continue to
3. Workmanship / Human resource
The skill of bamboo artisans is taught from one generation
to another through family and relatives, but this method of
teaching is not producing enough highly skilled artisans to
meet the increasing levels of product demand. The
shortage of skilled artisans limits productivity, which will be a
problem if more products are required.
The shortage of skilled artisans is caused in part by a
demographic shift of young people, the potential human
resource, from production villages to urban cities. A major
factor in this continued emigration towards urban centres is
the lack of paying work in rural villages. If bamboo were
proved to be viable employment, it can be assumed that
more young people would stay in the villages to do the work.
These potential artisans will also become motivated to
improve their skills if they are paid well for their work.
A training program that acknowledges product quality, to
supplement the traditional handing down of the skill, might
be a solution to help local youth develop their competence in
this area.
4. Raw material supply
The availability of raw material is the starting point of
bamboo wares production. The production of specific
bamboo products requires particular bamboo species. For
example, the best bamboo for basketry is a species with
straight long fibres such as Gigantochloa apus (some
bamboo species have twisted fibres).
An increased demand for bamboo products requires a
guarantee of raw material supply. In some cases, artisans
are experiencing a shortage of local raw materials (bamboo)
because the bamboo is being used by large factories that
produce skewers, toothpicks and chopsticks. Materials are
sometimes in such short supply that artisans have had to
fight for their share, or worse, to steal from one another.
Meanwhile, some bamboo plants have been cut down by
landowners and replaced by other crops considered more
economically profitable, contributing further to the shortage
of bamboo.
Therefore, there is a need for well-
managed bamboo plantations, especially
for the much-used species, in order to
secure an abundant supply for mass-
production. Besides the cultivation of
commercial varieties of bamboo, the
preservation of the bio-diversity of
bamboo species must be considered as
Without proper cultivation, the supply of bamboo as an
industrial material can not be insured, which can cause
irregular production. Undependable production is one of the
current problems in the bamboo product industry.
5. Marketing of bamboo products
The existence of external users is one of the recent changes
in the bamboo industry, which has caused the division of
bamboo products into groups according to the levels of
marketplace. The artisans make their products in the usual
way, but then these products are graded by a distributor (an
intermediary, or bandar). A bandar is also the one who
orders a specific number of a certain design to be completed
by a given date, since the artisans rarely produce goods on
their own initiative.
There are bandars from outside the local community who
come only once in a while to the production village for
business purposes. These bandars do not control the
manufacturing of the products; they are concerned only with
selling the results. They have access to the external users
and some familiarity with their demands, since they usually
live in neighbouring urban areas.
The first bandar chooses the products that s/he believes are
the best ones, which are generally selected based on their
neat, strong weaving and joints and clean appearance.
Obviously, this aspect of the quality depends on the skill of
the craftsmen. Once the best products have been given to
the first bandar, the rest will be offered to the second bandar
for secondary markets, and so on.
The first bandar sells the products to the first class markets
in Indonesia. These markets sell the products for decorative
purposes or as gift items, and the products are usually
displayed attractively in the arts & crafts sections of
luxurious department stores. These products sell for a high
price compared to products sold in secondary and tertiary
markets. These bamboo products are not being used to
fulfil their original functions. For example, a woven fish trap
is not used to catch fish when sold in a big city, but might be
placed on a dining table as a fruit bowl. Because the
products are displayed in arts and crafts departments and
serve as an impromptu rather than intended function, many
people have acquired the image of bamboo products only as
'ethnic handicrafts’ or 'souvenirs'.
The second bandar sells the product to secondary
department stores or supermarkets, where the products are
treated similarly, though usually in less fancy displays.
Therefore bamboo products in this market level are also
considered ‘ethnic handicrafts’ or ‘souvenirs’.
The third bandar sells the products to the tertiary market,
which is the common marketplace where the local people
find things they really need and will use in their households.
These bamboo products are sold inexpensively, with the
retail price very close to the actual production cost.
Some exported bamboo products are indeed displayed in
kitchenware shelves, or as unique gift items in some
speciality shops (such as Asian stores) in Europe.
European people are not familiar with bamboo; therefore
bamboo products appeal to them as 'oriental', 'eastern' and
In summary, bamboo products have been divided into a two
tiered market, related to the intended users. External users
purchase bamboo products as traditional art work, while the
local, indigenous users in rural areas purchase the
functional products since their functions suit their needs and
are affordable.
Until the design of the products intended for external users
more closely matches those users’ needs, bamboo products
will continue to be seen only as handicrafts and the
perception of bamboo as traditional will remain.
6. Distribution of products/transportation management
Currently, the demand for bamboo products comes from
places farther away than the local marketplace and
neighboring villages and towns, and far greater volumes are
requested, so a more complex arrangement of
transportation facilities is required.
Cars and trucks have to be rented, and the cost of the rental
must be paid. Currently, the workers themselves must take
care of this, but most of them do not have the knowledge
and/or resources to arrange it efficiently. Therefore timely
delivery will fail due to lack of transportation, and this
reinforces the impression that the bamboo business is
unprofessional and undependable.
A current solution has been offered by the government to
benefit bamboo producers who do not have the expertise to
manage their own business. An organisation under the
Ministry of Co-operation, Middle and Small Scale Industry
(Menkop/PKM), Koperasi Unit Desa (KUD), has been
created to assist small-scale industries with capital funds.
KUD offices are established in villages, so local people can
access them easily. KUD provides special low interest
loans to the producers, and arranges communal
transportation to be used by the producers for delivery to
faraway places. However, this system is not working since
KUD, a government organisation, is unreliable.
7. Design of existing bamboo products
Professional designers have not been involved in the
development of traditional bamboo products, since the
products are based on existing traditional bamboo designs.
Traditional bamboo products are modified by the artisans
themselves to attract external users. The artisans have
simply applied their own taste by referring to photographs in
magazines or to goods they have seen in big department
stores. External users can also request a particular
modification by asking the bandar, who then tells the
craftsmen to modify the products in a particular way.
The artisans, who live in rural areas, are not themselves
familiar with the life styles of the external users. The result
is often a bamboo product whose design is unrelated to its
intended use, which must then compete with other, more
functional products made of other materials. Therefore
involvement of designers, who are familiar with the needs of
external users, is necessary in order to create well-
conceived and competent bamboo products.
This brings up the question of why designers have not been
looking at bamboo in the first place. This question is
especially valid for Indonesian designers who come from a
bamboo rich culture. The involvement of Indonesian
designers in developing bamboo product will be discussed
in the following sub-chapter.
In addition to the seven factors mentioned above, there are
two other factors that reinforce the perception of bamboo as
a subordinate material:
8. Economic value of bamboo
Bamboo grows naturally all over Indonesia. It will spring up
on someone’s land and the owner of the land will then sell it
to an artisan. The price of each pole depends on the
species, but most varieties are very inexpensive,
approximately 3000 rupiah per pole
. Each pole can be
made into tens of baskets; therefore the cost of the material
is very low.
The production tools (saw, knife and scissors) are
household possessions for daily use, therefore bamboo
wares production does not need large capital investments in
materials, production tools, or facilities.
Bamboo artisans are generally situated in rural areas. The
local marketplace is where they sell traditional bamboo
products, which are originally directed to the local and least
expensive end of the market, and are therefore are priced
The low production cost is an advantage to the developing
bamboo industry, since no large capital investment is
needed. But, on the other hand, the fact that bamboo
products are aimed at the least expensive end of the
market, and priced according to the actual production cost,
not only serves to keep the income of the producers
extremely low, but contributes to bamboo’s image as
'traditional', and as a 'poor mans' material.
9. Competition in modern quality with other materials
In this era, anything can be imported, and that includes
knowledge and technology. Various materials and
manufacturing techniques are being introduced to
developing countries.
Plastics, for example, are increasingly popular as a material
for household products. Large investments have been
made in plastic factories and plastic production is enormous,
therefore the products are very affordable. Plastic has some

1 US$= approx. Rp.9000 (Rp.8546, currency rate on Wednesday, 26 May,
practical advantages. It has a smooth surface, providing for
easy maintenance and a ‘clean’ image; it can be mass-
produced uniformly and precisely, therefore the products
can be easily packed and transported. Moreover, even
inexpensive plastic can be produced in a variety of bright
colours, making it attractive. These qualities are factors of
‘modern’ product quality.
The situation is different for bamboo products. Woven
bamboo products do not have an exact uniformity in shape
or size. Existing bamboo products have a limited
appearance, never far from their traditional woven form. In
addition, their performance is also limited to simple
household products or rough building components; bamboo
could not be used as a primary component in products that
need high precision in manufacturing, such as cars,
computers and appliances. For these reasons bamboo
material retains a 'natural', 'ethnic' and 'traditional' image.

It can be concluded from this sub-chapter that the usage of
bamboo is discouraged by these factors:
• Improper or less than optimum treatment of bamboo
material, which degrades the performance of bamboo
• Shortage of skilled artisans in the production area, which
causes poor workmanship and reduces production
• Lack of reliable material supply, due to an absence of
well-managed cultivation, which causes undependable
• Availability of traditional woven or modified traditional
designs only, which do not possess competitive modern
qualities and which are no longer suited to the needs of
the intended users.
• Lack of effective management regarding transportation
and distribution of larger volumes of product to
increasingly distant markets, which gives an impression
that bamboo producers are unprofessional and
Added to the unusually low-price of bamboo products, these
factors combine to create an image of bamboo as
‘traditional’, ‘ethnic’, ‘handicraft’ and a ‘poor man’s material’.
People's perception of bamboo is based on their experience
in dealing with the material, that is with the currently
available products and manufacturing systems. As long as
there is no major change in that experience, the stigma on
bamboo will remain forever.
There are several reasons that Indonesian designers have
not been interested in exploring bamboo
. In the first place,
this lack of interest can be traced to the way designers are
educated. Formal design training originated in western
countries, so the materials used to teach and practice are
materials that are familiar to the western world. Obviously,
bamboo was not familiar since it was not a material that they
used extensively in daily life. Because design education is
based in western cultures, examples of products also come
from that part of the world. Therefore educated Indonesian
designers have not become used to working with bamboo
either as material or in product applications.

See Appendix 1: Comparison between the attitude of Indonesian and Finnish
peoples toward their original natural resources
A second factor is the way professional designers work:
relying on available data as to a material’s properties
, and
there is lack of data dissemination on bamboo as a
production material. Without such data, it is not easy for
designers to work with a material in a proper way. In
addition, most designers have been brought up in urban
areas and have had little direct daily contact with bamboo.
A third factor is the physical shape of bamboo, which
appears to limit its potential forms. Bamboo as a raw
material is always cylindrical and hollow. A bamboo pole is
actually shaped like an upside-down cone, with a
circumference that reduces gradually. Unlike other
materials, such as wood, plastic, and earthenware, bamboo
does not obviously lend itself to achieving a variety of forms.
These three factors have discouraged Indonesian designers
from exploring the potential of bamboo. However, in the
recent past, other factors have emerged which are leading
more designers to turn their attention to bamboo as a

See Appendix 2: Differences between bamboo craftsmen and designers.
After tens of years of formal design education oriented to
western culture (the Industrial Design Department was
established at the Institute of Technology in Bandung, ITB,
in 1972), Indonesian designers are becoming inclined to find
potentials based on their own cultural resources. They are
beginning to look at their own roots and find their own
identity by exploring indigenous resources. Many designers
are currently exploring materials that have been known and
used for centuries in Indonesia, such as rattan and
earthenware, and bamboo fits this trend.
A second influence is the logical extension of the design
belief that each material has its own advantages and
disadvantages and can provide optimal performance if
properly applied. Viewed in this manner, bamboo is a
fascinating material to begin to explore. With little available
data on bamboo’s physical characteristics, and not much
more direct experience, proper design and treatment for
bamboo can be discovered only through experimentation.
The results are expected to prove that bamboo is a very
competent and rewarding material.
Yet another factor is the stress currently being placed on
environmentally responsible design. Therefore, when the
issue of the scarcity of tropical hard woods emerged,
designers became motivated to find alternative materials as
a supplement to hard woods. By using bamboo as a
supplement (especially valuable for its rapid growth), it is
hoped that the tropical forest, a limited natural resource, will
be conserved.
Looked at from the standpoint of appropriate technology,
there is an enormous opportunity for contemporary
designers in developing bamboo as a material. Designers
can act as a bridge between rural bamboo producers and
the demands of urban users. With the involvement of
design knowledge in bamboo product development,
resulting in the introduction of improved bamboo products, it
can be assumed that demand for bamboo products will
increase. Increased demand will create increased
manufacturing, which will lead to increased employment and
contribute to rural development. The resources - raw
material, tools and potential workers - are all available
3 . 3 . BAMBO O ’ S O P P O RT UNI T Y
Contributions from advanced technology can improve the
performance of bamboo through, for example, preservation
techniques, which are still being developed to increase its
durability. The preservation process must be performed
immediately, within 24 hours of the bamboo being cut, in
order to produce usable raw material that can be processed
further. The skin, or surface, of bamboo protects the inner
part of a bamboo pole. Once the skin is wounded or split,
termites can invade the pole to lay their eggs since they,
and later the larva, feed on the sweet liquid of bamboo. This
feeding gradually turns solid bamboo into powder from the
inside, which naturally causes a weakening of bamboo’s
physical structure. Preservation techniques for bamboo
seek to eliminate any possibility of invasion by termite and
also to prevent attack by fungus.
Traditionally, bamboo was preserved simply by immersing
bamboo poles in mud and water for approximately one
month. Another method was to arrange freshly-cut bamboo
poles upside down and set oil (diesel fuel) on top of the
open stalks for about one week to push bamboo’s sweet
liquid out. The poles can
also be immersed in various
chemical substances. One
version of this method is
called Boucherie.
Boucherie, invented in 1839 by a French medical doctor of
the same name, has been applied to bamboo since 1947. It
takes approximately two weeks to complete the process,
and requires industrial machinery to inject chemicals at high
pressure, which push out and replace the sweet sap in fresh
bamboo poles. A dip-diffusion Boucherie method is applied
for bamboo strips, where the strips are immersed in the
preservative substance and are covered with plastic
afterward to let the substance diffuse.
Other techniques designed to improve bamboo’s
performance as an industrial material have resulted in
various kinds of bamboo boards. Traditionally, bamboo in
the form of sheets can be made by
weaving bamboo ribbons, manually, into
mats, which then can serve as parts of
huts such as walls, ceiling and ground
coverings. No adhesive substance is
used in the weaving process. The first
modern attempt to make bamboo into thick firm sheets,
which can serve as boards, was in China during the Second
World War. In principle, the technique calls for having the
bamboo in flat forms (splits or woven mats) and adding an
adhesive substance and high pressure to form it into boards.
This can be achieved by pressing together several layers of
woven bamboo mats or bamboo splits. The adhesive
substance impregnates the bamboo thoroughly and the
result is a solid board.
These advanced techniques are still being developed and
tested, and there is a history of positive results. However,
there are some restrictions in their application.
For example, the Boucherie method of preservation works
effectively only under certain conditions. The preservation
site has to be located close to the bamboo plantation area
for the process to be practical, since freshly cut bamboo
poles must be treated immediately.
The site also requires quite a large space to accommodate
the Boucherie units and the drying of treated bamboo poles.
The Boucherie method requires qualified workers to
supervise the equipment and control the proportions of the
chemical substances. Therefore, though it is known as the
most effective preservation method, there must be a well-
managed co-operation between the related resources:
capital, human and material.
In a related development, some bamboo industries in West
Java have been immersing the raw bamboo in a chemical
substance to whiten it, so they can achieve ‘clean’ and
smooth appearance in the products. However, the
chemicals used in this treatment make the material less
elastic, therefore more difficult to work with. Many
producers also use paint and lacquer to finish their products
in order to make the products more attractive, but these
finishing substances can actually damage the bamboo over
The Indonesian Science Institute
(LIPI) has also been
experimenting with producing
bamboo boards. They are using
a kind of resin, Phenol
Formaldehyde (PF), as the
adhesive. However, this
chemical can be toxic under certain conditions. PF also
changes the appearance of natural bamboo: making it
reddish and giving it a characteristic smell. There are other
substances that can be used, which are more natural and
environmentally friendly, but they must be imported and are
therefore expensive. The PF-treated bamboo board is still
being studied for its resistance to fungus and termites, its
resistance to fire and weather conditions, and its other
physical and mechanical properties. The experimentation
from LIPI has not been completed and only preliminary
results are available, since the research was postponed due
to the recent monetary crisis in Indonesia.
So far, there have been no other official test-results of
bamboo board’s endurance against weather, fire and
chemical substances, though the preliminary results seem
. Bamboo board is commonly used only for
indoor construction, therefore the many other obvious
possibilities, such as cabinetry and furniture applications,
need to be explored.
These advanced treatments have generally been developed
by scientists and engineers through research in the material
sciences. The improved bamboo materials that have
resulted have demonstrated performance and appearance
that are comparable to timber, in some cases even to metal,

Tests were done in Bangalore, India, earlier this year by the Indian Plywood
Industries Research and Training Institute (IPIRTI), which indicate that flame
for interior elements and construction purposes. In fact, it is
clear that there are numerous potential product applications
of bamboo board, and even more far ranging possibilities if
the same techniques were used to press the layered splits
into other shapes.
This is where designers can contribute their knowledge.
Industrial design is one of the professions, or knowledge
fields, that can be expected to uncover the potential for
more creative applications. People in urban areas, who
responded to the questionnaire
concerning attitudes
toward bamboo products, welcomed the idea of improved
bamboo products and expected that an exploration of
bamboo would lead to new high quality products.
Design professionals can be expected to come up with
creative, intelligent and appropriate uses of the material.
With an appropriate application that can expose its superior
qualities, bamboo material will be able to perform efficiently.

will not easily ignite a bamboo board since the boards are very dense and the
surface is very smooth.
From the responses to the questionnaire, it was concluded that people who live
in countries without bamboo cultures are unfamiliar with this material, while
people who are familiar with it still regard it as a secondary material since there
has been no improvement in its performance (which includes function,
appearance, design and material quality). For more detailed information, see
Appendix 3: Responses to the Questionnaire.
In this way, bamboo will have the opportunity to prove itself
as a competent and exciting material.
4 . B A M B O O F O R T H E F U T U R E
Now that we have become acquainted with bamboo’s
potential and the wider possibilities for the treatment of
bamboo, it is important to consider a suitable production
process for the given economic, physical and cultural
conditions and environment. A suitable production process
is known as appropriate technology and the nine points of
appropriate technology can be used as the basis for
analysis in order to protect the human and natural
environment in which the production takes place.
Before discussing appropriate technology further, let us take
a look at the traditional formulation of technology.
Technology is the relationship between product and
process. Product has physical features as follows:
• Function: what a product is used for.
• Geometric appearance: how the product is formed, with
respect to its size, shape, form, colour, etc.
• Material usage: what material(s) the product is made of.
• Physical and technical features: how strong and durable
the product is with reference to tensile strength, potential
load, resistance to fire, weather, chemical substances,
Then there are other features related to a product:
• Production complexity (in terms of the number of steps
required to produce the product, people and processes
required, or amount of time required)
• Cost of the product (including manufacturing,
distribution, taxes, associated labour costs)
The physical product features are product requirements,
which are determined by the strategies of the producers as
well as by the market, either local or international. The
product requirements are used as a constraint for design
concepts. To meet these requirements, a process is
needed to manufacture the product.
The process can be divided into:
• Physical facilities: equipment and tools needed to make
the product.
• Human abilities: labour force with specific skills and
knowledge who are needed for the production
• Documented facts: data on production such as
processes, procedures, evaluation procedures, blue
prints, patents, etc.
• Organizational frameworks: type and scale of the
enterprise required
The model below
attempts to incorporate design and
technology practice. It shows that there is a restricted
meaning of technology, which applies only to the technical
aspects of the production processes; and a more general
meaning of technology, which integrates cultural,
organisational and technical aspects as well.
A designer, who is involved in developing a bamboo
product, can propose a particular production process. It is
important to ensure that the process is economically,
socially and environmentally sustainable.
A sustainable process can be achieved by applying a
suitable method in a specific circumstance. In order to
determine the most suitable method in a given
circumstance, the nine points that define appropriate
technology can be used as the basis of analysis.

Catherine Budgett-Meakin, ed., Make the Future Work (Singapore: Longman
Singapore Publishers Pte. Ltd., 1992) 48.
goals, values and
ethical codes,
belief in progress,
awareness and
economic and industrial
activity, professional
activity, users and
consumers, trade unions
knowledge, skill and
technique; tools,
machines, chemicals,
liveware; resources,
products and wastes
meaning of
meaning of
The definitions of appropriate technology
are as follows:
From the diagram above it can be seen that appropriate
technology analysis includes the following aspects:
Economic: Application of appropriate technology should
improve the economic condition of the community.
(1) The technology should provide for and increase the
income of local artisans.
(2) The technology should be affordable for and by the

Modified from: Catherine Budgett-Meakin, ed., Make the Future Work
(3) The technology should be seen as a part of real
development, owned and controlled by the community.
Application of appropriate technology should positively
effect the further development of the community.
(4) The manufacture of the technology should
capitalise on local skills, ingenuity and materials.
Social/cultural: Application of appropriate
technology should be responsive to the social and
cultural environment of the society.
(5) The technology should fit in with, and be
adapted to, the local social and cultural
(6) The use of appropriate technology should result in
increased self-respect and self-reliance.
(7) It is the technology that best suits the needs and life
styles of the people using it.
Environment: Application of appropriate technology should
consider the sustainability of natural resources.
(8) The technology should use renewable resources of
energy whenever possible, and be economical in the use of
non-renewable sources of energy.
(9) The technology should not harm the natural environment
and ecosystem.

(Singapore: Longman Singapore Publishers Pte. Ltd., 1992) 14.
(6) The use of
appropriate technology
should result in self-
respect and increase
(4) The manufacture of
the technology should be
local, capitalizing on local
skills, ingenuity and
(7) It is a technology that best
suits the needs and life styles
of the people using it.
(5) It should fit in with,
and adapted to, the local
social and cultural
(9) It should be non-violent
to the natural environment
and ecosystem, and should
be sustainable.
(2) It should be within the
economic means of a
(1) The technology should
enable local artisans to
earn a living and increase
their potential for income
(8) It should use renewable
sources of energy whenever
possible, and be economical
in the use of non-renewable
sources of energy.
(3) The technology should not be
seen as an end in itself but be part
of real development, owned and
controlled by the community –the
‘appropriators’ of the technology.
Appropriate technology analysis of the traditional
bamboo industry
Environmental aspect: The activity of producing bamboo
products does not disturb the balance of the natural
environment, since the primary natural resource used is
bamboo, which regenerates rapidly, and all other sources of
energy are fully renewable. In addition, the traditional
process does no harm to the ecosystem as all by-products
(waste) associated with it are non-toxic.
Social/cultural aspect: The activity, as a part of a
longstanding tradition, fits in with the local social and cultural
environment. The indigenous users of traditional bamboo
products have confidence in performing this activity, and
they are able to control all the resources (natural, human
and cultural) involved in the production process. This self-
confidence results in self-respect and self-reliance.
The activity is fully adapted to the local social structure and
traditions, since producing traditional bamboo ware for own-
use is a part time activity performed in between harvesting
times. Moreover, bamboo products are used in religious
and traditional ceremonies, so producing them is an
honourable pleasure.
Economic aspect: The activity capitalises on local skills in
bamboo weaving, which they inherit from their ancestors,
and on local material, bamboo, that grows close to the
The community controls all activities involved in bamboo
product’s utilisation, from the obtaining or purchasing the
raw materials and making the products, to using,
maintaining and disposing of them.
However, the traditional bamboo industry does not provide
for or substantially increase the income of the local artisans.
Therefore it is appropriate only as a secondary activity
where the primary income is earned in another way, through
rice farming for example. Also traditional bamboo
production has been stable for centuries. It fulfils limited
and static needs within the community itself. It would be
hard to argue that traditional bamboo enterprise is part of a
real development, or that it positively effects future
Looking at the analysis of these aspects, the traditional
method is, for the most part, already an appropriate
technology for the community, especially in the social and
environmental factors. But there are aspects of appropriate
technology, specifically in the economic area, which are not
being fulfilled by the traditional bamboo industry even in the
current situation.
As soon as the making and selling of bamboo wares
becomes the primary source of income, the traditional
method fails to provide a stable, sufficient and reliable
income for the artisan. In addition, once the need for
bamboo products is freed from the finite needs of the
immediate community, the idea of real development comes
into play.
In order to create an appropriate technology that can
increase income generation, several conditions in the
traditional bamboo industry have to be considered.
The factors involved in production activity (supply of raw
material, distribution and marketing of bamboo products) will
become more complicated and dependent on more complex
resources. The producers must be able to meet established
schedules to facilitate distribution, and processes must be
adjusted to produce larger volumes.
Outside markets must be taken into consideration and the
product requirements determined by those markets. The
market, and the external users the products are intended
for, will have different requirements for bamboo products.
Specifically, they will require modern quality (practicality in
maintenance, manufacturing, packaging and distribution,
maintaining and disposing). Traditional bamboo products -
an outcome of traditional process - do not have these
qualities, which causes a gap between the traditional
process and the new product requirements.
In addition, environmental factors must be considered in the
demand for greater amounts of raw material. Bamboo ware
for industrial production requires a steady and reliable
supply of raw material. This calls for systematic
development of bamboo as a sustainable material.
If these conditions are met within a technology that is owned
by the community, adapted to the social/cultural
environment, capitalises on local skills and materials, and
does not deplete non-renewable resources or harm the
ecosystem, then new needs will have been met with an
appropriate technology.
Hybrid technology
It is important to review the levels of bamboo industry in
Indonesia, in order to determine the application of a
technology that is appropriate for economic, social/cultural
and environmental development.
The table below places various types of current Indonesian
bamboo production into their technology levels.
Traditional Advanced
Raw bamboo: culm, rod,
split, strips, etc.
Raw bamboo: split, woven
Immersing in mud Injecting preservative
Processing Manual weaving technique Forming bamboo boards /
moulding / moulded
Tools Simple household
possessions (knife,
scissors, etc.)
Advanced and specialised
Other materials
and substances
None Adhesive substance,
additional product
Manual weaving technique High pressure moulding,
followed by conventional
manufacture assembling
Finishing Natural Polishing, laminating
Product groups Kitchen wares and
household products,
traditional housing
construction elements
Boards for interior building
Design Traditional Improved products: new
Users Local community External users: are not
involved directly in the
production process, export
Enterprise Household based, labour
Mass manufacturing
As the table above makes clear, the current split between
traditional and advanced technologies is very broad.
Traditional methods can not fulfil the current requirements,
while advanced methods are not affordable by the
Hybrid technologies fall between traditional and advanced,
or combine elements of each to create new solutions. In a
hybrid technology human resources would be considered
more important than advanced machinery, but the process
applied could be something other than traditional weaving
techniques. A hybrid method would look into possibilities for
new treatment and preservation options, but focus on basic
production options adaptable to the existing culture.
Combination of
traditional and
Raw bamboo:
culm, rod, split,
strips, etc.
Raw bamboo:
culm, rod, split,
strips, etc., and
bamboo: boards,
composites, etc.
bamboo: boards,
composites, etc.
Traditional method, injecting
preservative substances
Processing Manual technique with machinery
processing of
Tools Simple
additional small
Specialised tools, additional small
materials and
Adhesive substances, additional product elements
Weaving technique, conventional
manufacture assembling, adapted
manual technique
Finishing Variable: natural, polishing, colouring, laminating
Kitchen ware, tableware, furniture, accessories, etc.
Design Modified traditional products, new and improved design
Users External users
Enterprise Labour intensive, improved household enterprise, with co-
operative organisation of producers that are protected by
the government’s policies.
As the diagram above makes clear, many possible solutions
fall within the category of hybrid technologies, but all
solutions share a focus on labour intensive, modified
household enterprise, all involve the contribution of a
designer to create improved products, and all direct the end
product toward an external user.
There are three types of solutions possible within the hybrid
The first is to modify existing bamboo products (as Bamboo
Java is doing today), using traditional methods, possibly with
the support of small machinery such as sanding machines.
The goal is to produce improved designs for which there will
be more demand, and which can be produced in greater
volume, resulting in higher income for the producer. The
drawback is that traditional weaving methods will never have
modern quality, and will retain a traditional craft look.
The second type of solution uses manual processes other
than traditional weaving and, in some cases, advanced
preservation methods, to create improved bamboo products
that have a non-traditional look and/or modern quality.
This is the most promising area in that:
− It offers increased possibilities for designers to explore
the quality of bamboo as a material, since designers are
not restricted to working only with bamboo ribbons (the
basic material for weaving), but can experiment with
other production processes.
− It offers increased possibilities for improved products
because the designers can base the design on the
potential of the material plus current needs to produce
new ideas.
− It is the more likely to produce products that possess
modern quality.
− It is not significantly disruptive either to the existing
social structures nor to the natural environment.
The third category includes using pre-treated bamboo
as the production material. So, instead of raw bamboo
splits, rods, or strips, boards or composites (advanced
treatment) are used as the basic production material.
This would be possible if a developing economic situation
allowed the community to upgrade the preservation or
treatment level to advanced. Local human resources with
skills such as carpentry and cabinet making could then
process the materials further.
Below is a graph illustrating the relationship between the
treatment levels of bamboo products.


Bamboo splits,
rods, boards,
strips, etc.
boards, mat
One example of an existing company that applies the hybrid
level is Bamboo Java, which is situated in Bandung, West
Java. Bandung is the nearest urban city to Tasikmalaya, an
area known for its skilful bamboo artisans. This company is
owned by a couple of designers, who employ craftsmen
from Tasikmalaya. The owners act as intermediaries,
design the products, and directly supervise the quality.
Bamboo Java has cultivated a local market (such as Chedi,
a five-star hotel with a ‘natural’ theme in Bandung) as well
as international clients such as Hackman in Finland and
Harrods in London.
The designs of Bamboo Java products,
which are mostly woven containers and
tableware, are modifications of traditional
bamboo products. Their workers have
somewhat superior skills in comparison to traditional
bamboo craftsmen, especially in their recognition of
consistent quality.
Bamboo Java has created a unique production system in
complete harmony with the Tasikmalaya community. The
artisans of Bamboo Java work in their home villages within
their traditional family groups. Each group has a leader who
brings the products periodically to Bandung where they can
be checked for quality and the final products accepted.
They use the traditional harvesting and treatment: cutting or
splitting of raw bamboo, and the traditional method of
preservation and production process: weaving techniques.
However, the designs have been improved to conform to the
demands of urban users, the artisans have been trained to
create new forms with more consistent quality, and some
additional materials are used for accents, colouring and
To conclude this sub-chapter, in the given situation of
Indonesia, hybrid processes offer the greatest opportunities
for real economic development within the parameters of
Appropriate Technology. Such a technology must continue
to fulfil the economic, social and environmental constraints
as traditional methods have done in the past.
Hybrid technologies can meet these requirements, and
utilising the skills of a designer, using non-traditional manual
processing methods, to design and produce products
suitable for an external market that will, at the same time,
materially benefit and develop the local culture without
damaging the ecosystem.
Such locally based bamboo enterprises can be established
in any area where bamboo grows in abundance, as long as
support for material supply, production and distribution
activities can be developed in the community that surrounds
Bamboo can be an important part of the future of this
society. And the future begins now.
4 . 2 . DES I GN PRO J EC T
Prototypes were created as a validation of the research
concept. With the objectives of the research as the starting
point, the product requirements were set and relevant
design aspects analysed.
The requirements were that the product must:
• Expose bamboo’s superiority using a non-traditional
process and fulfilling a non-traditional function.
Bamboo’s positive qualities (its flexibility, strength and
lightness) should be explored to create a bamboo
product that is not woven and does not have a traditional
function. By highlighting bamboo’s unique
characteristics, this bamboo product is expected to
demonstrate that bamboo is a potential material worth
• Apply appropriate technology in the choice of a
production process. Bamboo’s material performance
can be improved by taking advantage of improved
methods of material treatment, but the production
process must ensure social harmony and environmental
safety, as well as local economic benefit.
• Aim at a group of users that represent an urban market.
Common users of traditional bamboo products are
widely seen as people who live in impoverished rural
areas. This gives an impression that bamboo is suitable
only for the very poor. In order to change this
impression, this bamboo product is directed specifically
at users with a higher standard of living.
In the following table, bamboo products are sorted based on
international market demands.
BUILDING COMPONENTS Floorings, ceilings, roofs, staircases,
windows and door frames, window and
door panels, etc.
Mail boxes, garbage bins, bus stops,
telephone booths, kiosks, vending carts,
play ground facilities, park benches and
shelters, garden houses, street signs,
lighting fixtures, flag poles, fences and
gates, etc.
Cupboards, cabinets, shelves, beds,
seats, tables, lighting fixtures, trash
bins, room dividers, sunshades, etc.
OTHER PRODUCTS Dining ware, kitchenware, tableware,
toys, musical instruments, jewellery,
containers, souvenirs, etc.
It is worth noting here that many products in the preceding
table could have fulfilled the requirements of the project.
Time, quantity of material, access to appropriate machinery
and personal preference all influenced the choice of specific
There were some restrictions in the realisation of the
• Limitation in material. Raw bamboo could not be
easily acquired in The Netherlands. Since material
quantities were small, the product itself had to be small.
This limited the designer to the category other products.
• Requirement for appropriate technology. This
requirement constrained the designer to use tools and
levels of workmanship skills readily available in
• Functional object. The improved bamboo product had
to be a functional object directed at an urban user group.
This further constrained the designer to functional
product within the category other products.
• Finally, familiarity and preference had an effect on the
choice of product for the prototype as well. In this case,
tableware was chosen by the designers as the product
to be developed.
Once this choice had been made, product requirements
could be made more specific.
• In order to highlight bamboo’s unusual lightness as a
material, cutlery designed for airline use - where every
gram has a direct cost in fuel - was chosen.
• Cutlery for in-flight use also fulfils the requirement to aim
at primarily urban users with a high standard of living.
• By focussing on an airline, such as Garuda Indonesian
Airways, the product could be simultaneously directed at
a local (domestic flight) and an export (international
flight) market. In addition, the cutlery expresses
Garuda’s cultural identification with a bamboo rich
The design aspects were analysed as follows.
Material: The production material is raw bamboo in the form
of splits and sheets. Other materials required were
adhesive substances and materials common already in
airline industry (aluminium, plastics) as components for
Function: as tools for eating during flights, including fork,
knife, spoon and small spoon. In addition, packaging was
considered. Both utensils and packaging must be compact
in order to be practical for shipping and storing on the
Ergonomic: the products have to suit the needs of the
users and be comfortable to use.
Technology: application of hybrid process where human
labour and simple tools are used in a non-traditional
Aesthetic: natural and honest appearance, simple and
elegant. The products bear 'modern' characteristics and do
not appear 'traditional'. The identity of the airline can be
integrated by synchronising the shape of the products to the
airline's logo, or by adding graphic elements.
Economic: for the manufacturer: production cost has to be
affordable and the profit from production must increase the
income of the producing community; for the users:
maintenance of the products has to be practical (durable,
washable cutlery).
Ecology: the use of a rapidly regenerating, rapidly
replaceable, natural resource (bamboo) will supplement and
conserve more limited ones (wood). The waste products of
the production process are not harmful to the environment
since they consist of degradable natural substances. In
addition, bamboo cutlery, lighter than the metal cutlery, can
reduce the energy (fuel) used per flight.
Social-cultural: the hybrid process selected for production
makes use of the traditional family based production unit,
thus it is fully adapted to the local social cultural
environment. In addition, it is hoped that an improved
bamboo product with ‘modern’ quality will reduce the current
stigma attached to bamboo as a production material (in both
manufacturing and end-user sectors).
In making the prototypes, the production process was based
on the concept that the products will be manufactured by
craftsmen in rural areas. Therefore simple and common
woodworking tools and materials that can easily be acquired
were used. These basic tools include a handsaw, knife,
chisels and sandpaper. Materials include bamboo (as the
main material), as well as glue and small pieces of metal
and wood. These additional materials were used as
adhesive, as simple jigs and as elements for joints.
It should be noted that the process of making prototypes is
an unconventional approach in traditional bamboo
industries, where craftsmen modify the products at the site.
In contrast to traditional production methods, preliminary
sketches for the design were made, through evaluation
these sketches evolved to the final design. The proportions
and dimensions of the products were evaluated, as were the
steps in production process, the
capacity of workers, and the tools
and materials used. Technical
drawings were then provided to
specify the exact size and shape
of the products, in order to acquire
uniformity. The prototypes were
then produced based on the
Ihsan, a designer and partner in developing the design for
the prototypes, conducted the opportunity segment of a
feasibility study in co-operation with Bamboo Java. Bamboo
Java is a company in West Java that has been producing
bamboo products for the export market and employing local
human and natural resources to manufacture their products.
This company was an appropriate place to do a feasibility
study for production, since the workers are skilled bamboo
workers and are familiar with high quality requirements. The
designer’s experimental prototypes were shown to the
artisans, and they were asked to produce products of equal
or better quality.
Due to the limited time, only the prototypes of one fork, one
knife and one spoon were studied for feasibility. The small
spoon was not studied, nor was the packaging that is part of
the final concept. The feasibility study for production
• People involved: a designer, an intermediary and a
craftsman. The designer met with the intermediary,
bringing the design in the form of prototypes and
drawings. The intermediary then instructed the
craftsman to duplicate the prototypes.
• Capital needed. The raw material, bamboo poles
approximately 5 meters long, cost 3000 to 3500 rupiah
The salary of an artisan is 10000 rupiah per day
• Amount of raw material and other substances used.
One bamboo pole (10-cm diameter and 5 m long) can be
made into approximately 200 pieces of cutlery.
• Tools and machinery used. The artisan used one
golok knife (multi-functional traditional knife) and one
small carving knife. Other tools needed are chisels and
small handsaw to form the products, and sandpaper to

1 US$= approx. Rp.9000 (Rp.8546, currency rate on Wednesday, 26 May,
Rough product cost estimate (per piece), assuming four artisans producing 160
pieces per day. Material cost: Rp.17.50 (Rp.3500 per pole divided by 200
pieces). Labour cost: Rp.250 (4 times Rp.10000 divided by 160 pieces).
Total cost in materials and labour per piece: Rp.267.50, or approx. 3 US Cents.
finish them. Bamboo Java was not able to provide these
tools for the test, so the products were made exclusively
with the two knives and left unfinished.
• Complexity of production process: from raw material
to final product. Treatment: as soon as bamboo poles
are cut, they are preserved in the traditional method
(immersing in mud and drying naturally). Production was
in four phases: The preserved bamboo pole was cut to
acquire the desired length, then split length-wise to
acquire the desired width. These small bamboo pieces
were then shaped to the desired forms using the two
knives. Sanding to smooth the surface will be the final
phase of production.
• Duration of process: from raw material to final product.
One artisan was able to make one set of cutlery (one
fork, one knife and one spoon) within one hour. It will
take less time if the process is done per phase with four
artisans, where each worker has his/her own part of the
production process (cutting and splitting bamboo poles,
rough shaping, final shaping, or sanding).

Bamboo Java’s artisans manufacture the products in their
home villages in Tasikmalaya, West Java. One of these
local artisans was used for the feasibility study.
The artisan who duplicated the prototypes had only two
kinds of knives to work with. However, the forms of the
reproductions are already equal to the prototypes, though
the sizes need some adjustment. The time to do the
feasibility study was very limited; therefore the products,
though they have achieved the expected form, are left
unfinished and unrefined.
In spite of the lack of appropriate tools, the feasibility study
has conclusively demonstrated that, a Bamboo Java worker
with an average level of skill is capable of manufacturing
products of equal or better quality as the prototypes.
Summary of conclusions from the opportunity segment of
the feasibility study:
• Local human resource in Indonesia, specifically in the
bamboo-producing area of Tasikmalaya, West Java, is
capable of producing the product.
• The cost of materials was low. The technology is
affordable by the community; the product will be
affordable by the consumer.
• In spite of the fact that the appropriate tools were not
available when the study was conducted, the technology
needed for production is readily available.
• Cost of labour: the time required was not prohibitive
either in labour costs or in its implications for the
potential volume of production.
Examples of other product groups
Bryn Griffiths, a student at the Royal College of Arts, London
(from the Department of Industrial Design Engineering) has
agreed to contribute his Master Proof as a product sample
for the furniture product group. Bryn’s concept matches the
product requirements specified in this research in several
ways. It exposes the superior qualities of bamboo; in this
case, its strength and flexibility. It uses a non-traditional
process to create a product with a non-traditional function
and appearance. In this case, Bryn chose to work with an
advanced treatment process to demonstrate that advanced
treatment can improve the performance of bamboo as a
material. Bryn’s project is also aimed at a user group that is
primarily urban with a higher standard of living, and the
product is suitable for both domestic and export markets.
Although Bryn did not focus on appropriate technology, the
advanced technology used can be appropriate if applied in a
suitable environment, where high investment can be made
in advanced machinery, where sufficient material and
substance supplies are available, and where there are
qualified human resources and a proper managerial system.
If the above conditions are met, a designer should not
ignore the possible advantages of using advanced
machinery and techniques.
Construction and building components:
Examples from the construction
or building component groups
are already available on the
For instance, Plyboo, a company
in Schellinkhout, Holland, markets and distributes high-
quality bamboo boards that are manufactured in China.
As flooring, these strong and uniquely textured bamboo
boards are superior to wooden ones, since they expand less
in heat (so they can be put more precisely to the wall
corners). Bamboo boards’ surface is also more durable
than the surface of wooden boards, since it is less easily
worn down through friction. Plyboo has been used
extensively in private homes. In
addition, Plyboo flooring has been
used to cover an indoor basketball
hall in Haarlem and in the office of
the Ministry of Environment in The
Other products:
In the decorative elements & other products groups,
Bamboo Java is a current source of many examples of
woven products whose design and production have been
improved to fulfil export standards. The owners of Bamboo
Java are designers, and they develop the products by
modifying traditional products to create
products in many different sizes and
shapes. They add accents by attaching
other materials.
They have also made new designs that
still primarily use the original weaving
technique as the production process.
The appearance of Bamboo Java
products carries the traditional handicraft
image, so their products do not meet the
product requirements of this research.
However, the production process fully meets the
requirements of appropriate technology and was used, at
least in part, as a model for the application of appropriate
technology presented in this research.
Another product in the other product groups that meets
many of the product requirements of this research are the
coasters created by students of Prof. A.G. Rao
. The
products pictured below were shown in the International
Bamboo Congress and Workshop in Costa Rica, in
November 1998. These coasters use a hybrid process,
which combines a traditional preservation method with a
non-traditional production process to produce bamboo
products with ‘modern’ quality and a sleek appearance.
Traditional bamboo products from India are based on
weaving techniques, similar to the techniques in Indonesia.
In this project, the students did not use weaving, but gluing
and bending techniques to form the products. The coasters

Prof. A.G. Rao, from the India Institute of Technology, Bombay, has dedicated
years to bamboo product development. He was also deeply involved in several
workshops on bamboo design, one of them documented in an inspiring book,
Bamboo Craft Design, in 1994.
are made through a lamination process and use simple jigs
to shape the material.
Similar interests often lead people in the
same direction. The attractiveness of these
‘newly-known’ potentials of
bamboo as a material has
drawn many people into
discussion groups that
focus on bamboo. Some of these groups
can be tracked through the Internet where
many samples of bamboo products (both
new and traditional) can be found.
These samples are presented to show the wide variety of
appearance that bamboo material can present, ranging from
traditional woven forms to a very modern look (flat, smooth
and simple).
New methods of treatment and contributions from designers
can improve both the performance and the appearance of
bamboo products. It is hoped that improved bamboo
products that expose the superior character of bamboo will
create a different image of bamboo: simple, modern and
elegant. By exploring bamboo’s potential and highlighting
its advantages through improved products, it is hoped that
the stigma of bamboo, which has been reinforced by the
traditional appearance of bamboo products, can be reduced.
Mapping of samples according to levels of technology
Traditional processes for traditional products (producers =
end users of products).
Designers are not involved at all, since the designs of the products
have been the same for centuries and the functions never change.
Hybrid processes for variation and modification of traditional
Designers develop the products based on the original traditional
ones (craftsmen modify their products in this category). The
changes are mostly variations in size and color of the products.
Weaving technique is still mainly used as the production process.
It is also possible to add other materials as supporting elements
(as joints, to create accents, etc.)
Hybrid processes for new performance and appearance of
bamboo products.
The new design is not based on the traditional products and
production process. Designers explore bamboo as they explore
other materials: based on documented physical and
mechanical properties of the material, they respond to current
requirements and propose a design that fulfils a clear function and
has modern quality.
Hybrid processes for new performance and appearance of
bamboo products.
The role of the designers is similar to level 3, but at this level pre-
treated bamboo is used as the basic production material.
Advanced processes for new design of bamboo products.
The advanced methods are applied in the whole production
process, though production materials can be used for products in
the traditional and hybrid levels. Designers may use these
improved methods optimally and be more creative in utilizing the
available facilities. At this level, designers also design production
materials (pre-assembled construction elements, building
components, etc.) alongside the ‘ready-to-use’ final products.
5 . C L O S I N G
5 . 1 . C O NC L US I O NS
Summary / General Conclusions
1. Bamboo grows rapidly and matures within five years.
Bamboo's cell structures and technical properties resemble
wood, yet it is superior in both strength and elasticity.
Therefore, as a renewable natural resource, bamboo can be
a substitute or supplemental material to wood, which is
becoming more and more scarce.
2. Producing bamboo goods has long been a source of
secondary income to supplement agricultural work. Bamboo
is very easy to obtain since it grows in abundance. The
skills and tools to produce traditional bamboo goods are
locally available and are part of the existing social/cultural
structure. The traditional technologies have been, in the
past, fully appropriate to the environment both
social/culturally and environmentally.
3. However, the current situation has changed. A shortage
of rice lands has led to wide spread poverty and
unemployment in rural Indonesia. The production of
bamboo wares for sale is one possible solution. This
transition from own-use to producer for an external market
requires several changes:
a) The production and distribution process will become more
complex. This leads to a need for:
− a dependable source of raw material supply
− improved product quality control
− efficient transportation and distribution systems
b) In addition, the introduction of external, primarily urban,
users means that the traditional products are no longer
appropriate. New products are called for that:
− fulfill a clear function and meet user needs
− have modern quality (practicality in processing,
packaging and maintenance)
4. The disadvantages created by traditional methods and
design, combined with the extreme low-cost of the material
and its association with poor rural areas, attach a stigma to
bamboo as a material.
5. Advanced preservation and treatment technologies for
bamboo have been developed since the 1940’s, and new
treatments are currently being explored. These treatments
can improve bamboo's performance.
Research Conclusions
1. Non-traditional processes (manual processes other than
traditional weaving) can expose bamboo's superiority in
products with modern quality.
2. Designers can contribute to bamboo products’
development by:
− Acting as a bridge between the current users and
producers; thereby creating products that fulfil both a
clear function and the needs of the users.
− Exploring bamboo's material properties to create new
ways to use the material.
3. Possible levels of technology in contemporary Indonesia
can be divided into three groups: traditional, hybrid and
advanced (mass production). Hybrid technology, where
elements of traditional processes are combined with
elements of advanced treatments, non-traditional process
and the input of designers, is the most suitable level for
bamboo industry development given the current situation in
Indonesia. The goals of hybrid technology appropriately
applied are:
− to create an improved, functional product that will meet
external users needs, and
− to provide for local employment and economic
development without social or environmental disruption.
4. The creation and testing (feasibility) of the prototypes
using a hybrid technology conclusively demonstrated that:
− A hybrid process can produce an improved, functional
product with modern quality that meets the needs of
external users.
− The production of such a product can create local
employment and economic development without social
or environmental disruption.
− The product was feasible in terms of the human
resources required, the complexity of the process, the
mechanical resources required, and the cost of materials
and labor.
The documentation concludes with a scenario that combines
the researcher’s findings and recommendations in the form
of a narrative set in contemporary rural Indonesia.
5 . 2 . HO P E F O R T HE FUT URE
It was very early in the morning, the sun had just risen a few
minutes before in the small village of Sukamaju in
Tasikmalaya, West Java. Pak Saman looked around his
living room. The nine square meters of space with an
opening to the backyard, is where he and his family work.
Piled in one corner of the
room was a stack of
bamboo splits ready to
form. In the other corner,
a pile of bamboo cutlery
lay ready to polish and
across from it a
cardboard box was filled
with finished pieces.
Looking at the piles, Pak Saman’s mind wandered back to
the day when Bu Tuti, his bandar, came to visit him,
accompanied by a young woman he knew later as the
designer of the cutlery. Bu Tuti had been his bandar for
years; she bought his bamboo baskets regularly. Bu Tuti
and the designer showed him the prototypes of the cutlery,
and Bu Tuti asked if he could produce 1000 pieces a month
of the same goods in the same quality. It did not seem to be
a problem, though these new products were totally different
in appearance from his usual woven products, so he tried
making one right away while his guests waited. Within half
an hour, using only the usual knives for making baskets, he
could make four rough pieces of cutlery. By then he knew
that he and his family would be able to produce the cutlery
with the same high quality if proper tools could be provided.
The designer reminded him that uniformity in size and a
smooth appearance were important. Bu Tuti told him that if
the deal was made, he could produce the cutlery as the
priority and make the baskets on the side, if he had time left
The next day, Bu Tuti brought the necessary tools, two
chisels and a stack of sandpaper. In the evening, Pak
Saman delivered a set of finished products. Bu Tuti and the
designer were satisfied with his work and agreed to order
1000 pieces. Bu Tuti would come once in a while to his
home, as usual, to check on the work.
Pak Saman was checking the tools piled on a shelf by the
door when his wife entered the room, calling him for
breakfast. While enjoying his coffee and fried bananas, he
asked his oldest son if he had checked the bamboo they
had ordered, which should be available soon at the
preservation site. The preservation site lies at the outskirts
of the village, near a bamboo plantation that was set up
about ten years ago. The plantation provides the raw
material, while the preservation site prepares it for use by
the bamboo artisans in Sukamaju village and several other
neighboring villages in Tasikmalaya.
The traditional method of preservation is still used, but the
community is working to upgrade it to Boucherie method,
which will make the material even more durable and cut
down the time it takes to complete the preservation process.
Boucherie will be an effective method for this area, since the
bamboo plantation lies nearby. The process can be
performed immediately, and a
large enough area is available
to accommodate the tools and
machinery during the process
and to dry the treated bamboo. Selected workers are being
trained to operate the Boucherie method, since the use of
chemical substances needs to be strictly supervised in order
to produce the proper result and to avoid spills or waste that
can damage the environment.
Considering the scale of the area, there is always enough
preserved raw material for the bamboo industry in
Tasikmalaya. A truck runs regularly from the preservation
area to each production village. Pak Saman’s son makes
their monthly order and picks it up in town when it’s
delivered. The communal preservation and distribution
system, provided by the Village Co-operation Unit, gives the
Tasikmalaya artisans more time to concentrate on the
production process.
The evening before, Pak
Saman’s oldest son,
using a cart, had picked
up some poles that the truck had delivered to the Sukamaju
community center. He said these poles will be enough for a
full month’s work.
After breakfast, the Saman family was ready to face the day.
Pak Saman watched his youngest children running off to
school while his brother and his niece, Dina, who live a
couple of blocks away, greeted him through the gate and
entered the house. They have come for the day’s work with
the Saman family.
Pak Saman began to split the bamboo poles with a golok
and to cut the long split into pieces of the desired length with
a handsaw, while his son and his brother, with a set of
chisels, were carving the pieces to form sets of cutlery,
which would be polished by Bu Saman and Dina. With this
working system, they can produce up to 300 pieces of
cutlery per week. Bu Tuti told Pak Saman on the day she
gave him the order that if the demand for the cutlery
increased, the Saman family would need the support of
simple machinery, to help with splitting the bamboo and
sanding the pieces. These simple machines would increase
productivity enormously.
Working at home, Bu Saman can also prepare meals for the
family and take care of their livestock. Once in a while, Pak
Saman can tend his fruit plantation in their backyard, which
is another source of income for him. As the head of the
family, Pak Saman supervised all the work his family did,
especially the carving and forming, since he had to maintain
the quality required by Bu Tuti and the designer.
Afternoon came, and Pak
Saman’s youngest children
came home from school.
They rushed to the kitchen to
have lunch and then went to
the living room to join the rest
of the family. Seeing her
cousins coming in, Dina
checked the time and said that
she had to go to her training class. The training class is
held once a week in the Youth Center of Sukamaju, where
youths of Sukamaju learn about bamboo production. Dina
can meet friends her own age who have finished their
elementary education and are willing to be professionally
trained in bamboo production, since this occupation has a
good prospect. These youths are given basic knowledge
about the whole process of the bamboo products industry.
However, they have different interests; some will specialize
in plantation and cultivation, some in raw material
preservation, but most of them will learn the craft and skills
to make bamboo products. The advanced training for
specialization is given separately by experts in each
knowledge field.
Dina has recently joined the advanced group for bamboo
crafts. She wanted to be able to make high quality products.
Dina and her friends in this
group have basic skills in
bamboo weaving, taught by
their older family members
when they were much younger.
In the training, skilled craftsmen
teach them proper weaving
techniques and sometimes
introduce new weaving variations and tricks. These
craftsmen remind them to treasure the skill, since this
unique craft is the heritage of their rich and precious culture.
Sometimes there are designers who bring new designs for
bamboo products, which are discussed and, afterward,
made by Dina and her group in the workshop during the
training session. The discussion about the new designs
familiarizes Dina and her friends with the products they
make. Dina has learned from the training that it is important
to keep a precise and constant quality.
After Dina left for the Youth Center, the youngest Saman
children took her place in sanding the cutlery pieces and
cleaning them with water. Pak Saman then counted the
finished cutlery pieces, which were packed in a big
cardboard box. By the end of the day, they had already
produced more than three hundred pieces of cutlery, which
means that he can deliver the box to Bu Tuti this evening, as
Bu Tuti received all deliveries from her craftsmen in her
house in the center of Tasikmalaya. She has been a bandar
for Sukamaju artisans for years, so she recognizes very well
the potential and attitude of each of her craftsmen. While
waiting for Pak Saman that evening, her thoughts flew to the
Udi family, from whom she ordered another kind of product.
A designer offered her the design for a magazine rack made
of woven bamboo, which is intended for the export market.
Bu Tuti has been exporting bamboo products overseas for
years and therefore is familiar with the procedure. Bu Tuti
had specified the price of the product and guaranteed the
volume per year, and the designer provided the necessary
supplements for the product, such as packaging and proper
labeling. A complete package, including the prototypes
made by Pak Udi, were sent to institutions abroad, such as
Oxfam in the UK and CBI in Holland, that examine products
to be marketed in Europe. The product was approved and
Bu Tuti was happy to receive a number of orders. Up to
now, the Udi family has been producing the racks
continually, even employing more workers to fulfil the order,
and increasing their income.
Bu Tuti heard the sound of Pak Saman’s motorbike coming
through her front gate just before dusk. She examined and
counted the products and was satisfied with the overall
result. Bu Tuti then gave Pak Saman the fee for the pieces
he had delivered, and told him to keep up the good work
and that she is looking forward for another delivery next
week. Pak Saman rode his motorbike homeward with a
wide smile. He made much more money now making these
new bamboo products, then he did when he made only
traditional products for the local marketplace.
On the next day, Bu Tuti went to her client, an airline-
merchandising company, to deliver Pak Saman’s cutlery.
These pieces of cutlery were ordered by Garuda Indonesian
Airways to use in domestic and international flights. The
bamboo cutlery functions well and has passed all the flight
regulations such as weight restriction, compatibility and
flame-resistance. The
bamboo cutlery, which is
still produced in limited
quantities and is therefore
exclusive, has already
replaced the metal cutlery
in first class. This change
is a pleasant surprise for
the flight passengers, since a fresh set of the unusual
cutlery is also a complementary gift from the airline. Several
passengers have commented that they had no idea bamboo
look so smooth or be so elegant. The idea that bamboo is
only for traditional woven products has already begun to
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Picture references:
Chapter 1
A cross-section of bamboo - Klaus Dunkelberg & IL Team,
1985, Bambus-Bamboo.
Bamboo shoot - National Geographic, October 1980, vol.
158, No.4, p.519.
A carbonized bamboo filament - National Geographic,
October 1980, vol. 158, No.4, p.529.
A comparison between bamboo and wood cell structures
that shows their similarity- Klaus Dunkelberg & IL Team,
1985, Bambus-Bamboo.
The dark color represents distribution of bamboo all over
the world - INBAR activity report 1993-1997, p.12.
A bamboo bridge - Barry Dawson & John Gillow, 1994, De
Traditionele Bouwkunst van Indonesie.
Bamboo scaffoldings for a 17-stories skyscraper in
Jakarta, Indonesia - Klaus Dunkelberg & IL Team, 1985,
Chapter 2
Etched bamboo containers from West Timor, Nusa
Tenggara, and North Sumatra, for holding lime, medicine,
trinkets and cotton reels, and also for decoration - Anne
Richter, 1994, Arts & Crafts of Indonesia, p.124.
Gerantang or tingklik (bamboo xylophone) from
Pengosekan, Bali, and the Rotinese Sasando - Anne
Richter, 1994, Arts & Crafts of Indonesia, p.123.
Malay in rencong script, 34.5x3 cm, originated from South
Sumatra - Annabel Teh Gallop & Bernard Arps, 1991,
Golden Letters, p.72.
Illustrated manuscript of the Ramayana made in
Tenganen, Bali - Anne Richter, 1994, Arts & Crafts of
Indonesia, p.122.
Traditional bamboo house - Barry Dawson & John Gillow,
1994, De Traditionele Bouwkunst van Indonesie.
A 19
century Karo Batak girl in North Sumatra using
bamboo for carrying water - Anne Richter, 1994, Arts &
Crafts of Indonesia, p.114.
A bamboo artisan in Tasikmalaya, splitting bamboo with a
traditional knife, golok.
Traditional Indonesian household items - Anne
Richter, 1994, Arts & Crafts of Indonesia, p.115.
Chapter 3
Bamboo products at a production site in Tasikmalaya,
West Java. The products are dried naturally after the
finishing process (with veneer).
A bamboo grove in Costa Rica.
A set of Boucherie in Costa Rica. The preservative
substance is injected to the bamboo poles through the
Rolled bamboo mats ready to use for huts’ walls in Flores
Islands, Indonesia - Barry Dawson & John Gillow, 1994,
De Traditionele Bouwkunst van Indonesie.
A final process in making bamboo boards: putting the
arranged, glued bamboo splits in a high-pressure oven.
The Indonesian Science Institute (LIPI), Serpong,
Chapter 4
One of the promotional pictures from Bamboo Java.
A rough technical drawing of the cutlery set.
Plyboo flooring.
Bamboo Java products.
Coasters made by the students of Prof.A.G.Rao, India,
which were presented in the International Bamboo
Congress and Workshop in Costa Rica, November 1998.
A set of bamboo salad cutlery from Wolfgang Eberts –
1000 Things made out of bamboo homepage
Bamboo shelf from Mark Mortimer – 1000 Things made
out of bamboo homepage
A bamboo bicycle designed by Antoine Fritsch exclusively
for Hermes – UNEP-WG-SPD homepage
A bamboo bicycle from Warren Chan – Bamboobridge
Chapter 5
Bamboo cultivation center in Costa Rica.
A stack of preserved bamboo poles in Brian Erickson’s
workshop in Guapiles, Costa Rica.
Appendix 1. Comparative Study: Bamboo-Based Culture
Finns focus considerable attention to their
for example they:
Indonesians tend to neglect their bamboo,
for example they:
Are proud to say, “We dropped from the
Are used to say, “Bamboo is poor man’s
material”. Bamboo is regarded as a
secondary material since there was an
adequate supply of wood in the past.
Derive the nation’s main income from wood
industries and have so for centuries.
Have other important commodities other than
bamboo industry.
Have wood as a dominant natural resource. Have other valuable natural resources.
Give much support to research and
development of wood harvesting, treatments,
Have not invested significantly in bamboo as
an industry, except recently with the growing
need for “sustainable” materials.
Have abundant information on all aspects of
Have insufficient data and documentation on
bamboo and its utilisation.
Use wood as a principle material for their craft
and material culture.
Have various materials as medium for craft
work and material culture.
Tend to perceive wood products as ever
Do not regard bamboo as a durable material
since bamboo products can easily be
replaced by new ones and the plant itself
grows very quickly.
Appendix 2. Differences between Bamboo Craftsmen and Designers
Modified from:
Rini C.H. Joedhawinata. Strategi Desain dalam Pengembangan Produk Bambu. EBF, 1994, p.3
A.G. Rao & Madhavi Koli. Bamboo Craft Design. Industrial Design Center - Indian Institute of Technology, 1994, p.106-107
Imam B. Zaenuddin.
Bamboo Craftsmen… Designers…
Originate mostly from traditional agricultural society in
rural areas and receive general education,
supplemented substantially by learning through direct
Originate mostly from industrial urban society and are
often trained formally, usually to professional
education or university levels, with global methods and
knowledge in design, mass production, marketing, etc.
Are generalized, practical, physically industrious,
nature dependent, communal, religious.
Are specialized, abstract, knowledge based, time
dependent, individual, secular.
Are limited in knowledge on materials and processes
though they are highly skilled and specialized in
specific products techniques, usually handed down
from one generation to another.
Are able to analyze broad possibilities to develop
products through employing techniques acquired from
various resources.
Are unfamiliar with demands of urban users. Are familiar with demands of urban users.
Possess first hand knowledge of bamboo properties
and manual production processes.
Lack first hand knowledge of bamboo properties and
manual production processes.
Are unfamiliar with strategies to manage and market
their products.
Are familiar with strategies to manage and market their
Have direct experience of types and properties of
bamboo for product applications.
Lack readily available data on types and properties of
bamboo for product applications.
Are often their own products’ producers and users, so
they sometimes incorporate their own character or
taste preferences into their products.
By definition, design for the marketplace and the
Make products mostly by hand and use relatively
simple tools.
Generally propose industrial methods in production
Appendix 3. Questionnaire through the Web: An
Nature of responses
• Are only those who have access to
Internet (the questionnaire can not
reach people in rural areas/most makers and daily users of
bamboo products).
• Are mostly professionals (designers & architects,
entrepreneurs) and those who are in academic field (students,
• Mostly live in big cities and are used to popular life style and
• Did not always complete the form (caused also by technical
problems). Often they mailed directly to give suggestions or
references, or to start a discussion.
• Were limited in total number, making this survey a qualitative
• Bamboo is not so well known as a material. This unfamiliarity
makes it difficult to distinguish bamboo from rattan, for
• Bamboo is accepted as a supplementary material to wood, as
long as it doesn’t substitute wood entirely. Each material
engenders respect when its uses take advantage of the
material’s positive characteristics.
• Images of bamboo (listed from the most given answers): light,
strong, flexible, inexpensive, warm, tropical, oriental, exotic,
friendly, unique, abundant, handicraft.
• Expectation: Application of bamboo material to new and high-
quality products, reducing image of cheapness.
• Expected products (listed from the most given answers):
furniture, construction purposes, garden houses & fences,
playgrounds, musical instruments, cookware, containers &
packaging, toys, textiles, car accessories, computer cases,
mouse pads.
• All respondents show a positive attitude towards improved
possibilities of bamboo products.
Appendix 4. Design Project
Prototypes were created as a validation of the
research concept, based on the research
objectives as the starting point to determine the
product requirements and to analyze relevant
design aspects.
A modified feasibility study was also conducted.
Product Requirements
- Products that expose bamboo’s superiority and fulfil the needs
of external users
- Products whose production process is appropriate for the
- Products that aim to urban market to change the impression of
bamboo as poor man’s material
Product Group
Choice of product was influenced by:
- Limitation in material: limited the designer to the category of
other products.
- Requirement for appropriate technology: constrained the
designer to use tools and levels of workmanship skills readily
available in Indonesia.
- Functional object: constrained the designer to functional
product within the category of other products.
- Familiarity and preference
Product group based on international market demands:
Floorings, ceilings, roofs, staircases, window and door frames and
panels, etc.
Outdoor: kiosks, telephone booths, playground facilities, garden
houses, etc.
Indoor: shelves, beds, seats, etc.
Kitchenware, tableware, toys, musical instruments, jewelry,
containers, souvenirs, etc.
Specific Product Requirements
Product: cutlery for in-flight use
- Can highlight bamboo’s lightness and durability.
- Fulfils the requirement to aim at urban users with a high
standard of living.
- Could be simultaneously directed at a local (domestic flight)
market and an international (international flight) market.
Design Aspects
- Material: Raw bamboo in the form of splits and sheets as the
production material.
- Function: As tools for eating during flights. The utensils must
be compact in order to be practical for shipping and storing on
the airplanes.
- Ergonomic: The products have to suit the needs of the users
and be comfortable to use.
- Technology: Application of hybrid process where human
labor and simple tools are used in a non-traditional manner.
- Aesthetic: Natural and honest appearance, simple and
elegant. The products bear ‘modern’ characteristics and do
not appear ‘traditional’.
- Economic: For the manufacturer: production cost has to be
affordable and the profit must increase the income; for the
users: maintenance of the products has to be practical
(durable, washable cutlery).
- Ecology: The use of rapidly replaceable natural resource
(bamboo) will supplement and conserve more limited ones
- Social-cultural: The hybrid process makes use of the
traditional family based production unit, thus fully adapted to
the local social cultural environment.
In addition, it is hoped that an improved bamboo product with
modern quality will reduce the current stigma attached to bamboo
as a production material (in both manufacturing and end-user
Feasibility Study
- People involved: a designer, an intermediary and a
- Capital needed: The raw material, bamboo poles
(approximately 5 meters long), cost 3000 to 3500 rupiah and
the salary of an artisan is 10000 rupiah per day. (1 US$=
approx. Rp.9000)
- Amount of raw material: One bamboo pole (5 m long and 10
cm diameter) can be made in to approx. 200 pieces of cutlery.
- Tools and machinery used: The artisan used one golok knife
and one small carving knife (both are multi-functional
traditional knives). Other tools needed are chisels and small
handsaw to form the products and sandpaper to finish them.
- Complexity of production process: from raw material to
final product. Treatment: traditional preservation method.
Production: four phases: the bamboo pole was cut to the
desired length, split lengthwise, shaped to desired forms, and
sand to smooth the surface.
- Duration of process: from raw material to final product. One
artisan was able to make one set of cutlery (one fork, one
knife and one spoon) within one hour. Less time will be
needed if the process is done per phase with four artisans,
each has his/her own part of the process.
Feasibility Study Conclusion
- Local human resource is capable of producing the product
- The technology is affordable by the community, the product
will be affordable by the consumer
- The technology needed for production is already available