Another pathway is by taking an apprenticeship with a bamboo master. This was the journey of artists Abe Motoshi and Watanabe Shochikusai II. Born in Beppu, after studying basket craft in high school, Motoshi apprenticed with Living National treasure, Master Shono Shounsai. Also after high school, Watanabe was sent to Beppu to learn basket craft. In Beppu he was introduced to his to-be master, Watanabe Shochikusai I. Watanabe became so close with his master that he eventually assumed his master’s artistic name. A third traditional pathway is enrolling in an Occupational School, such as Beppu.
Becoming a master in the art of bamboo craft is a long and arduous process. It takes humility, it takes concentration, it takes perseverance, and it, indeed, takes talent. To master just the basics of basket craft, it takes between five to ten years. After that an artist can begin to explore the possibility of individual style. And form can be whatever the mind can dream. Far beyond utilitarian forms of years past, 20th century forms can be elegant and functional, such as, Maeda Chikubosai II’s Flower basket, Hanakago
, sculptural forms such as Honda Syoryu’s Aurora
, or large architectural and immersive installations (both indoors and outdoors), such as the work of Ueno Massao.