Almost completely unknown in the west until about 15 years ago, Japanese artists specializing in one-of-a-kind bamboo baskets have since gained a considerable international following. I had long heard about one such artist, Yonezawa Jiro-san, and was finally able to meet him the other day, in the city of Oita. After 17 years living in Portland, contemporary bamboo artitst Yonezawa-san has returned to live in his native northern Kyushu. His work was most recently part of New Bamboo: Contemporary Japanese Masters, an extraordinary exhibition at the Japan Society, New York, as well as a one-man show at the Portland Japanese Garden entitled Dream Weaver: The Bamboo Art of Yonezawa Jiro last November. Always the innovator, Yonezawa-san does not stay with one concept for too long before itching to create something extremely different. The three styles in the photos below clearly show great breadth in his work.
Says our mutual friend, bamboo artist and author Nancy Moore Bess of Yonezawa-san, "I thinks he sets a high, high standard for himself. It is his combination of the traditional (that thin diagonal twill weaving is extremely difficult!!) with innovative forms and materials that keeps me coming back to his work again and again. I don't think a major basketry collection would be considered complete if it didn't contain at least one of his pieces."