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The Beauty of Fine Craftsmanship: Peter Shinbach Bamboo Art

Photo by Jonathan Ley

“It’s intriguing. I was intrigued.”

Peter Shinbach’s interest in Japanese art and culture started in high school. In college, he took every eastern Asian studies course available. He learned how to speak some Japanese while in the Navy and has always been interested in fiction and movies from Japan.

But, it wasn’t until he was killing time waiting for a train in New York City that he walked into the Asia Society building and discovered his true passion: bamboo art. When Shinbach describes Japanese sculptures and baskets, his infatuation for the art and his thirst to share it with others quickly becomes apparent. “Have you seen these pieces? Just seeing these artists do this and the amount of training they have – that’s when I really got intrigued.”

Photo by Jonathan Ley

Soon after that day 25 years ago, Shinbach started collecting bamboo art. There are baskets and sculptures all over his house. “Mostly in the living room,” he laughed. Now, he is up to about 50 pieces in his personal collection which represents works created from the late 19th Century to the present; from baskets created primarily for flower arrangements used in Japanese tea ceremonies to very contemporary sculptural pieces. His collection includes several items created by 20th and 21st Century Living National Treasures.

“Because if you see some of these pieces, particularly the sculptural pieces – you think ‘obviously the artists had to draw it out and use a model,’ right? But, most of them don’t. It’s that level of intuitive knowledge,” he said.

Shinbach, a longtime tour guide and volunteer at the Portland Japanese Garden is sharing his bamboo art collection with the public so he can share his passion with others.

“I want others to see how artists can get such varied designs from something so simple as a big stalk of grass. And, how the Japanese have taken something which was originally another culture’s and they have, as they do with so many other things – turned it into something that is so uniquely Japanese.”

Tewaza no Bi: Bamboo Art from the Collection of Peter Shinbach

This summer, the Garden’s new Tanabe Gallery will host an exhibition of Japanese Bamboo baskets on loan from long-time Garden member and local collector, Peter Shinbach.

Learn more about the event

Photo by Jonathan Ley

Today, the basket weavers of Japan make everything from fish traps to flower baskets to fine art, and the private collection of Garden member Peter Shinbach celebrates a wide range of bamboo basketry with an emphasis on creative possibilities of bamboo as a material for contemporary art.

The objects in his collection include bamboo sculpture woven with unparalleled skill whether they are abstract objects or delicate hanakago containers for flowers displayed in the tea ceremony.

This exhibition represents only a third of the Shinbach collection which will be shown as part of a new series of future exhibitions under the title Tewaza no Bi (The Beauty of Fine Craftsmanship) to be featured in our beautiful new Tanabe Gallery in the coming years.

From June 17 – July 16 Shinbach’s collection of bamboo art will be on display during Garden hours in the new Tanabe Gallery.

Photo by Jonathan Ley