本 [hon] is the kanji for “book”. This character is seen in the kanji for the word meaning “Japanese language”.
This book stand is a physical manifestation of how I see Japanese language. Being inadequately fluent, I don’t see the written language—hiragana, katakana, and mostly kanji—to represent a word or have an obvious translation. More so, I see a balanced visual structure of elements arranged to create positive and negative space. I’ve come to realize that language is much more than clarity of communication—it is an image to be dissected and interpreted.
I constructed this book stand in the order in which the character is written. There are five strokes and I used five respective, forgotten scraps of bamboo. The dimensions of this design could vary but these predetermined dimensions are based on remaining pieces I found.
The three front pieces are slabs of bamboo that have been really sanded down—based on it’s flatness, most would assume that it is wood. By stripping down the bamboo to make the material basically unrecognizable, I’m telling the story of how a material can lose its identity to serve a new purpose—like how a book is paper made from trees but that is not obvious.
The flexible, narrow strips of bamboo that are used to support the weight of the structure are much more obviously bamboo since they retain their raw, green surface and rougher edges. These strips—the more delicate elements—show the natural power of the material. This proves that materials in their natural form are more beautiful than when morphed into a more generic form.
立本 is not meant to be perfect—in fact, it is quite flawed. It is crooked, unstable, and inharmonious. It is a somewhat functional object whose meaning outshines the beauty and practicality. The most curved part is already tearing and could easily break if too much pressure is applied. This shows the true character of the material. One thing I’ve appreciated from Japanese arts is the hesitancy to cover up what most would consider a flaw, especially if it is a part of the nature of the material.
All five pieces of this book stand may seem jumbled together, but that was intended as it mimics how I see Japanese language. All these supposed imperfections represent my level of mastery of Japanese language—that being very low and a rough start.
A book stand is usually a forgotten object that gets outshined by what it supports. With this book stand, I encourage observers to think about the layered, hidden meanings.