Over the years, I’ve learned the names of traditional bamboo basket weaves like kikko, ajiro, and mutsume, which are used by master bamboo weaver Takami Yasuhiro. When I visited Takami-san in Yufuin 5 years ago, he said that the kikko –which means turtle-shell- weave is the most difficult. I was mesmerized at the rhythmical swooping and holding of the strips as his wife, Ayako-san, demonstrated the kikko weave.
The translucent ajiro weave is an original of Takami-san’s that I also love. Ajiro means “in place of a fishing net” and it refers to woven pieces of wood or bamboo fiber traditionally used to capture fish. At first glance, the translucent ajiro looks like a plain weave, but when it’s seen from an angle, the rows of chevron patterns become visible.
The mutsume vertical basket in this collection of work is the largest basket that I’ve received from Takami-san since I started working with him in 2012. Mutsume means “hexagonal” and there are two additional splints running vertically through the hexagonal weave in this basket. When I see it, I’m reminded of what Takami-san’s son-in-law, who trained under him, told me a few years back. “People think large baskets are easy to make, like all you need is a longer splint,” he said. “But it’s not that simple. I don’t think my hands are weak, but as the basket gets bigger and taller, the splints become less flexible and impossible to bend. You need experience and extremely strong hands to make big baskets.”
These days when I see a beautiful basket, I follow its pattern with my eyes and imagine weaving the strips in my head for a few minutes. I quickly lose focus and become confused, but that never stops me from being amazed at these alluring patterns developed in pursuit of function and durability.