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Colour : Natural + White, Material : Bamboo + Crepe Paper, Finish : Natural, Texture : Wireframe and Crepe

Colour : Natural & Blue, Material : Bamboo, Finish : Waterbase, Texture : Smooth

Colour : Natural + Lilac; Natural + Salmon Orange, Material : Bamboo + Ceramic, Finish : Natural, Texture : Natural Smooth with Grain

Colour : Natural + Sky Blue + Blue, Material : Bamboo + Plywood, Finish : Waterbase, Texture : Smooth

Color : Natural + Green, Material : Bamboo + Synthetic Leather, Finish : Waterbase, Texture : Smooth

Colour : Natural + White, Material : Bamboo + Ceramic, Finish : Waterbase, Texture : Smooth and Wireframe

Tulip Lamp

Tulip Lamp is a hanging lamp that is designed using the birdcage technique.

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Showcase 05 May 2017

Amygdala recreates Indonesian bamboo craft for contemporary market

Amygdala Bamboo found its roots in a small village in Indonesia which has been engaged in bamboo craft for generations. Due to unfavorable market conditions, however, the craft had hit a standstill in the village. And this is what motivated Harry Marwardi, founder and owner of Amygdala Bamboo, to start a brand that could leverage the skills of local craftsmen and help them in a significant way by crafting products that would appeal to the contemporary market. We speak to Harry about Amygdala’s inception, vision, and the kind of work they create. Edited excerpts:

Could you tell us a bit about how Amygdala Bamboo came into being in the first place?

It started from my involvement as a researcher for the Industrial Design Department at Bandung Institute of Technology. We often went to craftsmen’s villages in West Java which mostly use bamboo as the main material. During this process, we realised that the research often only focused on the prototyping stage which did not help the craftsmen in any way. So we eventually decided to create a business brand that focuses on helping craft products that could be appreciated by the contemporary audiences and would thereby increase the prosperity of the craftsmen.

Our vision is to be “Empathic Design Driven” which involves exploring craftsmen’s basic skills and developing them for the modern market so that the craft can survive.

Colour : Natural + White, Material : Bamboo + Crepe Paper, Finish : Natural, Texture : Wireframe and Crepe

 

You primarily work with Sela Awi (West Java), a bamboo birdcage village in Indonesia. Tell us a bit about that.

There’s been a lot of demand for birdcages from China, and therefore the village has been making birdcages through generations and it has become their main source of income. Almost 4000 birdcages are produced per month, but the business mostly depends on the distributors and agents.

So the craftsmen end up being in a very vulnerable position, as the distributors and agents can choose to go to other places or change their business orientation at any time for a better opportunity. And the craftsmen of the village wouldn't know where and how to sell their products. This actually happened, and therefore, many of them are losing work today and going bankrupt. The craftsmen are realising the problem though and are motivated to improve their products to appeal to the market.

Led by their leader named Utang Mamad, they are adapting very well to Amygdala’s designs. This is especially because we don’t give them designs that are too far away from their hereditary and basic skills. For example, their lattice technique for making birdcage is expandable and can be developed into various organic shapes by playing with the frame.

Colour : Natural & Blue, Material : Bamboo, Finish : Waterbase, Texture : Smooth

 

Our vision is to be “Empathic Design Driven” which involves exploring craftsmen’s basic skills and developing them for the modern market so that the craft can survive.

Is the production or business scale of Amygdala big enough to address the issue of craft survival in the village community?

Currently, the scale is enough to help eight craft groups in the village. This year, we're planning to expand to other villages in the nearby area. Our venture helps provide alternate source of income to these craftsmen other than making birdcages and house labour. Moreover, several craftsmen no longer even make birdcages and only rely on our business.

Colour : Natural + Lilac; Natural + Salmon Orange, Material : Bamboo + Ceramic, Finish : Natural, Texture : Natural Smooth with Grain

 

Where do you sell your products – locally or internationally? And in what kind of places?

At this moment, we sell locally in various boutique shops at Bali, Jakarta, and Bandung. We did try to sell once at big malls in Jakarta, but I think our scale is not enough for that yet.. Internationally, we regularly join fairs in Korea and Italy.

Colour : Natural + Sky Blue + Blue, Material : Bamboo + Plywood, Finish : Waterbase, Texture : Smooth

 

What are some of the best things and worst things about working with Bamboo as your primary material?

Bamboo is very easy to find in Indonesia, and it can be developed into many shapes and functions with various techniques. In term of preservation, it helps the environment by producing 18% -30% more oxygen as compared to other plants. The feel and texture of the material are also beautiful, simple and neutral, and can be adapted to many different styles. 

The challenges we encounter are during the preparation of the material before it’s ready to use for production. In several cases, bamboo is much stronger and flexible than other materials, but without the right maintenance, it can sometimes be vulnerable to weather or extreme conditions.

Color : Natural + Green, Material : Bamboo + Synthetic Leather, Finish : Waterbase, Texture : Smooth

Colour : Natural + White, Material : Bamboo + Ceramic, Finish : Waterbase, Texture : Smooth and Wireframe

 

Could you pick one particular product and tell us about its making?

Tulip Lamp is a hanging lamp that we designed using the birdcage technique. At first, we encouraged the craftsmen to make a doughnut shape by bending the bamboo rod. Originally, they would only bend small details while making a birdcage, but to achieve the doughnut shape, they had to bend it in a full circle without breaking the bamboo. And after that we tried to make a trumpet shape by exploring different sizes of frames. Finally, combining these two shapes, we crafted a hanging installation that creates a warm ambience from the shades of light flowing through the wireframe gap.

Tulip Lamp

Tulip Lamp is a hanging lamp that is designed using the birdcage technique.

 
 

Amygdala has come a long way since inception. We spotted them at the Chiang Mai Design Week 2016, and were instantly reminded of craft-revival-based businesses back home trying to make a name for themselves too. Taking a stand, the Amygdala team has managed to bring alternate income to a dying trade and intends to reach out to other such bamboo-craft villages across the country with a clear-cut vision of equipping a steady common platform for each.