Reused bamboo kayak build

Bamboo kayak: from firewood to floating!


Danshan Chishui, Siming Mountains, Ningbo China


This isn’t a step- by- step guide to building a bamboo kayak, as if anyone wants to build one, you can basically make it up as you go along- that’s what we did!

We had a couple of temporary bamboo structures to dismantle (click here for Bamboo Pod #1 and Bamboo Pod #2 coverage), which had been a design and build exercise for students. This left us with a lot of weathered bamboo to play with, so we decided to make a kayak.

Dismantling Bamboo Pod #2
Dismantling Bamboo Pod #2’s base

Video: cleaning dismantled materials

When bamboo has been exposed to nearly a year of rain, snow, sun and wind, it becomes very hard but quite brittle. For the curves we needed for the kayak however, it was fine. There are numerous ways of making the joints- peg and dowel, hemp/ plant-based epoxy lugs, etc. but time was a factor for us and this was only a prototype, so we used plastic zip ties, insulation tape and steel fencing wire.

Cleaned dismantled materials ready to be re-used
The upside- down kayak- in progress
Taping sharp edges
Final shape of the frame
Hung frame ready to be wrapped

The skin, again for expedience, was cling film (aka Saran wrap). This is cheap, lightweight, and self-amalgamating to a degree so all we had to do was wrap the whole thing a few times, then cut a hole in the deck to get into the kayak. It was a quick and relatively easy process. We hung the frame between two trees and just span the whole frame to wrap it. We’d estimate the total amount of plastic in this build to be in the order of 100 grams or so, so it’s not ideal but not too extreme.

Video: wrapping the skin

Wrapped kayak, ready to be tested


A more sustainable build would be to use the joining methods outlined above and a natural covering- our version 2 will be skinned with hemp cloth, which is of course not even slightly waterproof, impregnated with epoxy for waterproofing. The native Americans would use birch bark, which we don’t have access to, and the Inuit would use animal skins (which we’re not convinced of the sustainability of in our context, since we have different constraints).

First trial on the water, bamboo paddle was yet to be made

We’re not kayak specialists by any means, and we’ve never made one before, so naturally enough- mistakes were made and lessons were learned. With Matt’s 86kg+ (ahem!) weight, the freeboard was too low, about 40-50mm (this is the height from the waterline to the top of the deck, where water could slosh in). The next one will be taller and more voluminous. However, it was stable, tracked straight (despite the deck being a bit warped), and light to paddle.

Ben tested it with the bamboo paddle. Pic courtesy of Milly

Video: Milly had a try. Video courtesy of Ben

Big thanks to Cai-cai, Lucky and the Persimmon team whom always welcome and facilitate our crazy ideas. Persimmon in Danshan Chishui is our second home in China. We cycle/hike/camp often around this area, it is 60km away from the University of Nottingham Ningbo China where our China home is. Easily accessible on our bikes.


KALA was founded by Mia and Elza Tedjosaputro, in May 2020. KALA provides high quality stylish home decor and accessories that highlight a few simple attainable changes towards an eco-friendly lifestyle. There is always an Indonesian touch ensuring we empower our craftsmen and promote Indonesian culture and craftsmanship. KALA’s specific design language is the use of natural materials and artisanal, with a sense of play of texture and product functionality. We are based in Indonesia and China.

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Merry Christmas 2020!

How time flies! Aksen and KALA (our product design line) would like to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. What a year been for Aksen, through the ups and downs. But we maintain a high spirit in this festive season. I hope you are spending it with your loved ones, and have a fantastic 2021!

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Aksen Tiny House: Questionnaire

In Aksen’s design practice we are questioning a lot of what we know as ways of living in Indonesia. We look at customisable first houses, in the spirit of tiny houses. Most suited for individuals (but not limited to) between 20-30 years old. When maximising limited space takes priority. Personal preferences can be your design parameters which we are building an understanding systematically. If you have 10 minutes to spare, please contribute to our survey (only for Indonesians).

Update: on behalf of Aksen, I would like to say massive thank you for those who spent time on answering our questionnaire. We hit our target (and more) in less than two days. This would not happen without help of the community. We now close the data collection earlier than we planned. A sincere thank you from Jessica and myself.


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KALA: Sept and October 2020 Events

I am pleased to report that KALA had busy couple of months 🙂 We joined two markets in September and two markets (including one virtual market) in October. KALA products are also in semi permanent display in Shanghai, in Eco Pop Up Shop @Upbund and the Eco Pop Up Shop @Daning, taking part of Eco Design Fair China’s community.

The Indonesia Fair (22-24 September 2020) was a memorable one as KALA was invited along with 8 other big Indonesian brands, those I grew up knowing about them. Such as Indomie, Kapal Api, etc. The event was organised by the Indonesian Consulate in Shanghai and ITPC (Indonesia Trade Promotion Centre) Shanghai.

KALA was also at the Health and Wellness Festival in Shanghai, the two-days home decor virtual market and the Eco Market @UpBund.

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ReLabs interview

I got a chance to visit Darren O Connell’s weekend sanctuary in Qingshan Village, an hour away by car from Hangzhou. A beautiful village where Darren envisages a unique experience of workout with fitness equipment made out of bamboo. Of course we did the bamboo workout!

Link to interview can be found here:

Darren documents active interviews with entrepreneurs and inspiring people (and me). Here is a bit of me and my fascination with bamboo 🎋 Did the interview a few days ago at Qingshan Village. Head to ReLabs Wechat account to have a read at the rest of interviews.

This village is also home to an amazing architecture firm Pinwu. Check out their Rongsheji Design Library, full of catalogs of craftsmanship.

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KALA at Jing’an Courtyard Festival, Shanghai

KALA is here this weekend with Boomi eco-platform, come by if you are in the vicinity. We want to hear about our design and your feedback on them. Designed and produced by our team of artisans.

5% goes to Boomi’s scheme to plant trees in Tongliao city in Inner Mongolia, they have planted 2000 trees in February 2020. Still a long way to go!


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Superjury 2020

Truly honoured to be re-connected with familiar faces and reminiscing old times in Petra Christian University, Indonesia. One proud alumna, indeed. Remembering when I was one of the nominee for the same exercise (architectural final theses) many moons ago. These best of the best students will be presenting their design and am excited to learn from them.

Schedule as follows:

Superjury presentation.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Time: 12:00 (GMT +7)

Google Meet link :;
Live Streaming link (if you cannot get in to G-Meet) :

Guest lecture and winners announcement

Monday, 10 August 2020

Time: 10:30 (GMT +7)

Edo and I will be sharing our wee experiences, particularly I will be sharing my views of Digital Craftsmanship. Links-TBC.

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KALA in Eco Pop Up Shanghai

KALA is our in house home decor and accessories dual brands. We are in Life Hub, Shanghai until 9 August. If you are around, please pop by! Otherwise you can also follow us in Wechat Official Account: kala_artisanal or IG: @kalaartdecor . Design and made in Indonesia.

These are our favourites: the bamboo coffee filter and bamboo tea strainer.

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