Gerard Dauplay and Bamboo - A Successful Expatriate Combination

Gerard Dauplay can certainly be considered a successful expatriate. After a long career in road engineering, in 1991, at 50 years old, he retired in Chiang Mai. Once Gerard settled into his new Chiang Mai home, he started expressing his artistic imagination by creating bamboo lamps, picture frames and furniture.

His younger brother Jean had just opened an antique shop nearby and asked Gerard to help decorate the interior of the new store. It was not long before Jean’s customers started showing interest in Gerard’s creations adorning the walls of the new premises.

Born in 1940, to a French/Lao father and a Vietnamese mother, Dauplay, starting when he was 18, spent three years in the French army in the war in Algiers. After the war, with $90 in his pocket, Gerard ended up in Montreal, Canada. He studied English at an adult night school and stayed in Canada for 23 years, building roads, a skill he learned while in the army. Gerard then went to Mexico as part of a Canadian sponsored team to build roads throughout Mexico. From Mexico, he moved on to San Lucia Island, again, to build roads and an airport in a place he called “paradise.”  He spent three years in Haiti, lived “like a king” for 12 years in Nigeria, went back to Haiti for a time, then under the reign of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.

My own interest in bamboo brought me in contact with Gerard Dauplay. In 2007, while in Chiang Mai, I requested an interview, which he graciously granted. He spent much of an afternoon with me, recounting some of his past, explaining why he likes bamboo, why he choose to retire in Chiang Mai, and showing me around his factory.

Gerard likes bamboo because “it’s an amazing plant, natural, with simple lines. And it grows so quickly.” Gerard called Colombian bamboo the “King of Bamboo,” but because Chiang Mai gets a bit colder, the bamboo here grows thinner, but larger. Gerard says he plants his bamboo after Songkran, cuts the bamboo in the dry season and it takes five months to dry before he then dries it completely in his specially manufactured kiln.

Mr. Dauplay patented, # US 6,722, 093 B2, his method of using bamboo in furniture making. Bamboo must be dried, cut into strips about ½ inch wide and then, through a process of gluing and pressing, formed into sheets, not unlike plywood,  that can be used in chair seats, chair backs, table tops, show and book cases. Bamboo lamps and chair and table frames do not need this patented process, but can be used as is after the special kiln drying, which prevents cracking, is completed. 

Giogrio Armani contracted with Gerard to design and build the interior of his previous yacht, the 163 foot 540 ton “Maria,” and some of the interior of his New York residence. Armani also sold many of Gerard’s designs throughout the United States.

It took courage for young Gerard, when only 22 years old, he set out for Canada with less than $100 in his pocket. Look where that courage took him - several countries, "living like a king," for a time, "living in paradise" and now a famous creative bamboo furniture artist.

Who can guess what kind of life your courage to leave your present situation will take you? There is only one way to find out, isn't there?

Dauplay’s manufacturing site is located at 126 Moo 3, Maejo New Road, T.Nongjom Sansai, Chiang Mai. The Gerard Collection is located at 6/23-24 Nimmanhhaemin Road, Chiang Mai 50200 Tel # (6653) 220604


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