Photos:(1) Modern adaption of Shimanawa created with rice straw wattles for Little Tokyo Design Week LA 2011 photographed by Redteam, (2) Shimanawa at Izumo Taisha shintō shrine by Takashi Ueki from wikipedia.org

Some call it ecologic or getting closer to nature, others name it revitalizing long-lost traditions.
But most interesting about products out of rice straw or any other vegetable material is that their manufacturing techniques do not require tools. They only need to be bound or plated together.
These objects also are always already symbolically laden. More “nature” than “culture”, “good” protecting against “evil”or “handmade” instead of “massproduced”. The “shimanawa”, a braided rice straw rope, for example protects Japanese Shinto shrines against evil spirits. Challenging the gap between design and crafts, different sorts of chairs out of rice straw were made during the past two years:

Photos from: (1)  beeeen.com by Pyoung Wha Han, (2) flickr.com by Elisabeth Buecher, (3) web66.com.tw, (4)(5) huntingandcollecting.com

Korean designer Been Kim‘s chair (1) got selected as top 9 discovery of design newcomers by designboom for Parisian design fair “maison et objet” in Fall 2011. Basically the same chair was made by Jan Rytir one year before and was exhibited at the Designersblock Show at the Milan Furniture Fair (2). Gina Hsu and Nagaaki Shaw from Taiwan worked on serveral objects out of rice straw. These were exposed at the “The Beauty of Handmade Craft” exhibition at Taiwan’s Lanyang Museum. For the top of their “straw stool” they used epoxy resin  to make it more durable (3). Another Korean designer, Kwang Ho Lee used heavy duty conveyor belts to bundle rice straw together which resulted in his stools called “zip” (4)(5).