Workshop Experience Volume 38.2 Preview

The Workshop Experience
Making Bamboo Jewelry

STUDENTS HEATBENDING BAMBOO, from the Washington Guild of Goldsmiths workshop. They are using acetylene torches and have gloves on their dominant hand, for protection from the heated culm. Clamped to the workbenches are various sizes of round wood mandrels, used to bend the heat-softened bamboo. THE ALICIA BUCKLER-WHITE TORQUE OF BLACK BAMBOO, PMC/ART CLAY AND LAB RUBIES was completed at her home studio after a snowstorm prevented Buckler-White returning to the second day of the workshop in Laurel, Maryland, February 2014. Her plant motifs and the ability to conform silver elements to the bamboo are an excellent match of materials and style. Photograph by Alicia Buckler-White. ALICE ST. GERMAIN-GRAY is heating a culm with a propane torch, about four hundred degrees cooler than acetylene. By heating a section of the bamboo at a time and quickly bending around the wood mandrel on the table behind her, the bamboo is gradually formed into a curved torque. Not visible is a container of water for quickly cooling/setting the bent bamboo. Beside the propane canisters are black bamboo formed into torques. Most workshop photos taken with a Canon 7D, 17-55mm IS lens. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament, unless noted otherwise.

The teaching of craft has changed much in the time since Ornament began covering jewelry and artist-made clothing over four decades ago. Then, most workshops originated from colleges and universities where a professor, who was an expert in some technique, would teach this skill to invited instructors or artists (Liu 1980). As crafts spread beyond the traditional metals, ceramics and glass, to more and newer media such as polymer and PMC or popular jewelrymaking practices like beading, beadwork, wirework, and lampworking, knowledge became an important salable commodity (Liu 2013). Classes and workshops, as well as their tools and supplies, have become a sizeable industry and are an accompaniment to many venues. Organizations, private schools and individuals offer classes and workshops year-round, part of what we have come to call lifelong learning.


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Robert K. Liu is Coeditor of Ornament and for many years its in-house photographer. His new book, The Photography of Personal Adornment, covers forty years of shooting jewelry, clothing and events related to ornaments, both in and out of the Ornament studio. This issue he writes about his experiences teaching photography and black bamboo jewelrymaking workshops. Later this year, he plans to teach photography workshops at the Ornament studio. Liu also collaborates with Pam Najdowski about Chinese children’s hats, a disappearing folk art and now a sought after collectible. The images in the latter article were shot in an improvised hotel room studio, demonstrating another easy way to photograph textiles and fiber artifacts.