Learning and writing about chinoiserie and the Blue Willow pattern got me to thinking about all the bamboo patterned items that we carry at the The Grove and Clementine What is the backstory of the use of the bamboo motif? After all, there is not a lot of bamboo growing in France! When did it begin to be used in European design? 

As you might have expected the bamboo pattern was imported into Europe at about the same time as the stylistic components that came to be used in the Blue Willow pattern. Asian design came as a result of the great voyages of discovery taken in the 16th century by the dominant European countries of the era including Spain, Portugal, Holland and Great Britain. The name “bamboo” returned on the same ships as the plants themselves and the various ceramics bearing its motif. (The word itself is probably a corruption of a Malay word for the plant by Portuguese speakers, or is that TMI?)

In Chinese culture the bamboo motif represented the behavioral model of a gentleman - its upright form and flexible strength were considered desirable attributes and the hollow heart of the bamboo stalk was given a positive spin as representing the open nature of a gentleman’s heart, accepting the good and avoiding the inflexibility of arrogance and prejudice.

Bamboo is ubiquituous in south and east Asia as it is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and spreads easily in any kind of soil. In the areas in which it grows it replicates the uses that hardwood is put to in other parts of the globe – as a building material, as a component in common household items like chopping blocks and even dishes and utensils (chopsticks!), for written documents as a substitute for paper and writing instruments in place of wooden pencils. Because of its tensile strength and beauty bamboo has been used to create musical instruments, flooring, furniture, weapons and even fabric. 

Bamboo as a motif has provided the West with a simple, elegant touch of the exotic and has been fully incorporated into the design pallet of contemporary America. At Clementine we have a variety of products in which it is featured including table linens, glassware, dinner services flatware and various decorative items.

As for the bamboo plant itself, there has been a renewed interest in the West for using bamboo in products for which we have traditionally used tree-based woods, such as flooring, cupboards, countertops, etc.  Bamboo is beautiful, durable and sustainable – it grows quickly and easily which makes it a hit with the ecologically minded. 

But the use of bamboo in households does not stop there. Because of technological breakthroughs bamboo fiber can now be used to produce soft and durable fabrics. These fabrics are increasingly used by American companies for consumer products like household linens. The Grove has some beautiful blankets that made with bamboo fiber combined with cotton taking advantage of the best features of both. Clothing is also being made with bamboo fiber and the Grove Girls are on the lookout for options that you will enjoy.

It is exciting to how the combination of an ancient product with new technology can provide us with new choices and change our lives for the better. Keep an eye on bamboo as it beauty and utility become even more incorporated into our daily lives.

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August 01, 2022

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