bamboo toy workshop | c h i n a @notcot

last year 15 students from the toy design course at shenkar college, israel and their professors yoav ziv and assaf eshet were invited to china by the toy makers HaPe international ltd, to spend a month with them developing bamboo toys. yoav ziv and assaf eshet describe their experience: a meeting at the 2007 toy fair with mr. peter handstein, founder and CEO of HaPe international ltd., lead to an extraordinary experience for our students and us.

since 2004 peter handstein, founder and CEO of HaPe has been carrying out his vision to develop, manufacture and distribute bamboo toys worldwide. with the current eco scene and massive product recalls in the toy market (over unacceptable high lead levels in toy paint) it seems that the time for bamboo toys may well have arrived.

"as professional industrial designers in the premium toy industry and as academy teachers, we found this challenge to be an opportunity to revisit bamboo as a material and its opportunities. the bamboo plant has many outstanding features and qualities (see bamboo facts). as a material it has been ingeniously used for centuries by generations of artisans, toolmakers and architects. traveling to asia, one can easily notice many amazing structures, furniture and various other common applications utilizing this material.

currently, various contemporary creators are investigating the question of integrating bamboo into the mass production perception while meeting western standards."
the journey to china
the first part of the 'chinese experience' took place in the regions anji and yunhe, where the students visited the enormous bamboo forest known as 'bamboo ocean' and one of the locations for the movie 'crouching tiger, hidden dragon'. the group was exposed to the traditional
cultivation process of the raw material as well as to different finishing techniques. students stayed with anji farmers, learning about local culture and the importance of the bamboo in supplying everyday necessities from energy through clothing and medicine up to food and beverage. the modern wood-toy production line and toy-safety issues were studied during a visit to the new hape international factory in ningbo.

toy course
back in the shenkar academy, other design issues were questioned and explored. correctly integrating bamboo together with other materials, product appearance, and the visual language were some of the challenges the students addressed. moreover, comparison to other classic existing wood or plastic toys was inevitable and therefore we directed the students to create newer and even better bamboo dominated products.

eco play with bamboo conference
the project was concluded at a recent conference at shenkar. guests from germany, france, china and israel took part in this event, focusing on the bamboo issue and its integration into sustainable, well designed toys.
the list of guests included peter handstein, kristin lena schumann, guenther schumacher-loose, jonathan segal, erez stainberg and ran lichtner. the event included a two-week open display of final works together with a short movie and booklet documenting the project and the visit to china.

the shenkar toy course group together with HaPe’s hosts.

temple in the anji bamboo forest known as the 'bamboo ocean'

off-loading raw bamboo canes at zhejiang anji chunhui factory.

bamboo raw-material manual rinsing, prior to cultivation process at anji factory

drying bamboo canes in the anji zhejiang kuntong

bamboo profile drying process during summer season at anji bamboo factory

bamboo semi process material before turned into drinking cups

bamboo skewers for fruits, vegetable or meat at anji factory production line.
made mainly for the japanese market.

bamboo game-parts before being assembled.
as many other local tools and facilities, the basket is made of bamboo.

anji design workshop

parts of a bamboo construction play-set, designed by etay amir

assembled scooter model, made from a bamboo construction play-set.
designed by etay amir

assembled racing car model, made from a bamboo construction play-set. designed by etay amir

assembled front loader model, made from a bamboo construction play-set. designed by etay amir

bamboo domino-race game, designed by gili keinan

set of bamboo outdoor sand-toys, designed by itay binyamini

bamboo dump truck, part of a sand vehicle-play-set. designed by yehonatan tishler

bamboo metropolis play-set, designed by michal zohar

push-pull rolling toy, designed by ella dekel

peddles bicycle, designed by omri bar zeev

bamboo rocking horse, designed by moran peleg

bamboo and felt turtle-doll, designed by nir siegel

bamboo and felt turtle-doll in a balled position, designed by nir siegel

testing usability of turtle-doll prototype at the local anji 600-child kindergarten

testing usability of toy prototypes at the local anji 600-child kindergarten

final project presentation to hape at shenkar college

b a m b o o f a c t s
- bamboo grows more rapidly than any other (woody)plant on earth.
- larger species can grow over 1 meter per day.
- bamboo stands release 35% more oxygen than equivalent stands of trees.
- unlike most trees proper harvesting does not kill the bamboo plant.
- in chinese the bamboo is known as 'zhu'.
- thomas edison successfully used a carbonized bamboo filament in his experiment with the first light bulb.
- bamboo related industries provide income, food and housing to over 2.2 billion people worldwide.
- anji is china’s largest bamboo forest, covering an area of more than '600 mu' or '40 hectares'.
- there are around 1,500 species of bamboo thriving in diverse terrain from sea level to 12,000 feet on every continent except antarctica.

+related links+

project direction,and text:
yoav ziv and assaf eshet

all images © copyright:
assaf eshet, yoav ziv, bruce xu and ran plotzky

HaPe international ltd. together with shenkar college of engineering and design own jointly all IP rights of displayed works.