2015 / 4月
工藝中心遴選國內7家自創品牌公司，包括天晴設計、吉力科技、巷弄國際、凌晨工作室、鏨品文創、寶象陶瓷藝術坊，以及協助身心障礙者和二度就業中年婦女從事工藝生產的非營利組織財團法人水源地文教基金會，共組今年泰國國際工藝創新展「In Taiwan In Design」（潮台灣，潮設計）台灣館，一共展出50件MIT工藝精品，把「台灣工藝」當作國家品牌加以行銷。
許耿修表示，本次泰國展台灣館以「In Taiwan In Design」之名，所要分享的，就是經由設計所提煉出來的生活感動與價值，也就是「以營造生活氛圍，傳達台灣工藝之美。」。
Sam Ju /photos courtesy of courtesy of NTCRI /tr. by Chris Nelson
For the cultural and creative industries to grow, they need to go international. In March, Taiwanese craft makers, led by the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute, took part in the 4th International Innovative Craft Fair in Bangkok. This is the industry’s first venture into expanding its market into Southeast Asia, following successes in Europe, America, Japan and mainland China.
The 4th International Innovative Craft Fair (IICF 2015), themed “Thailand–ASEAN & International Craft Connectivity,” was held March 19–22 at the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre. It was the first time that Taiwan has taken part in this event. Going forward, Bangkok will continue to serve as a base for Taiwanese craft makers to seek business opportunities and expand their cultural influence in the Southeast Asian market.ASEAN: A promising market
More than 30 countries participated at IICF 2015, up from around 20 at the first exhibition in 2012. Over the same period, the number of exhibiting companies grew from 181 to 300, and the visitor count increased from 7,000 to 20,000. Over these four years, both the crowds and the amount of business conducted have continued to grow year after year, proof positive that the economies of the Southeast Asian countries are rushing back to life. Development of crafts products and the crafts consumer market are quickly taking off, and are expected to continue rising.
Thanks to the careful planning of the Thai government, Bangkok has in recent years become a key city in Southeast Asia for exhibiting aesthetic designs and innovative products. The IICF, which started in 2012, played an important role in nurturing Thailand’s crafts design industry, and in building a platform that matches local businesses with international opportunities (especially with ASEAN countries). Taken together, the ten ASEAN countries comprise the world’s seventh largest economic body, behind the United States, mainland China, Japan, Germany, France and the UK. Their economic prowess should not be underestimated.Western trade fairs lead global distribution
“Taiwan ranks among the top five countries in the world in terms of crafts,” remarks National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute director Hsu Keng-hsiu confidently on the topic of innovation in Taiwanese craft design. It is precisely because of Taiwan’s excellent soft power in this industry that the IICF organizers extended their invitation to Taiwanese craft makers three years ago. After evaluating the potential of the Southeast Asian market, the NTCRI assembled a group of exhibitors to participate this year.
“Crafts are rooted in the land. They are closely connected to the soil, the climate and people’s way of life,” says Hsu, noting the contributing factors of the soft power of crafts. That is to say, each country’s crafts are unique due to different raw materials and crafting techniques, and the quality varies greatly among them.
“Europeans love Taiwan bamboo. This is because the local climate and high-elevation growing areas impart an especially fine quality to Taiwan bamboo,” says Hsu. This represents an inherent advantage of Taiwan bamboo crafts.
According to Hsu, Taiwanese craft sales entered the international market around the year 2000, driven by bamboo crafts. They first entered Europe through exhibitions in cultural, artistic and commercial centers such as Paris, Milan and Frankfurt. This year, Berlin is slated to be added as a European base for further market expansion.
As for exhibitions in the US, Hsu mentions that Taiwanese crafts have already been shown in Las Vegas and Miami. The American market is particularly fond of Taiwanese pottery, porcelain and metal craft work.Japan and mainland China as vanguards for Asia
For the Northeast Asian market, Taiwan has taken part in exhibitions in Tokyo for four years in a row, and in the second half of 2015 will seek to expand its Northeast Asian domain via South Korea.
“Taiwanese crafts are on par with Japanese crafts,” says Hsu, pointing out the Japanese fondness for small and exquisite designs. This being the strength of Japanese craft design, Taiwanese craft makers select such products for the exhibitions in Tokyo, including earrings, necklaces and rings fashioned of silver and gold, mostly designed with the extremely simple lines of the Bauhaus style.
Tableware and tea utensils made of porcelain and enamel-glaze pottery are an inseparable part of Japanese tea art and dining culture. “Taiwan and Japan are interlinked in this lifestyle culture, so Japan is very open to our design ideas,” says Hsu, explaining the suitability of these Taiwanese crafts for the Japanese market.
According to the NTCRI, orders from Tokyo grew from around NT$3 million three years ago to over NT$5 million last year thanks to Taiwanese craft makers exhibiting their products in Japan.
“Mainland China is another prime market in Asia,” says Hsu. “Craft sales there totaled RMB600 billion in 2012. Such a huge market is worthy of our craft makers’ effort.”
Over the past three years, Xiamen (in Fujian), Jinan (in Shandong) and Dongyang (in Zhejiang) have all hosted exhibitions in which NTCRI-organized groups have taken part. This year, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Xi’an will be added to the roster. According to Hsu, orders taken at their first exhibition in Xiamen in 2013 totaled over NT$68 million. The following year, this figure reached more than NT$416 million, underscoring the great market competitiveness of Taiwanese crafts in China.
“In our effort to expand Taiwanese crafts globally, the exhibition in Bangkok serves as our outpost for distribution in Southeast Asia,” says Hsu, pointing out the importance of the exhibition in Thailand this March.Selling lifestyle crafts in Southeast Asia
The NTCRI selected seven Taiwanese brand companies to take part in IICF 2015, under the name “In Taiwan In Design.” Fifty fine Taiwan-made craft products, sold under the national brand “Taiwan Crafts,” were divided into three categories: tableware, home decorations, and office accessories.
In tableware, the company Afterain Design featured its CiCHi series, designed in collaboration with master seal carver Ko Shih-an. The Feng Cha teaware set, the Twins Dish made of two joined porcelain plates, and the chopstick rest with a double happiness symbol all incorporate the art of seal carving.
Zan Design presented a series of bowls decorated with enamel glaze. Among them is a series of tea jars and containers called Lake Scene. A glaze layering technique is employed to create a swirling ink-wash effect. And Bao Xiang Ceramic Art Studio, which recently transformed from a maker of large chinaware to producing small, fine bowls, introduced sets of basket-shaped teapots and cups with a strong rustic flavor to the Southeast Asian crafts market.
As for home decorations, the firm A.M. Ideas incorporates the rushwork tradition of Yuanli, Miaoli County, to fashion woven sedge bowties that give off a slight vegetal scent and emanate a low-key sense of fashion. And the Watersource Culture Foundation has delved into the art of Hakka indigo dyeing, showcasing such fabric products as indigo-dyed throw pillows, tablecloths, curtains and coasters. Says Hsu, indigo dyeing is also practiced in Southeast Asia, but the raw material quality and dyeing techniques are not as refined. Thus Taiwan’s fine indigo-dyed crafts are at a distinct advantage in the Southeast Asian market.
The importance of wood and bamboo in Taiwanese crafts can be seen in the office accessories exhibited. The company GTT Invent has developed a set of business card holders made of bamboo segments, retaining the aesthetic design and strong yet flexible properties of bamboo. In addition, the firm makes wearable items from Taiwan bamboo, sanding bamboo bark—lissome, flexible and resistant to cracking—into cool and fashionable bracelets that can be worn around the office.
Wood, however, is denser and sturdier than bamboo. Taking advantage of this trait, the design firm Moissue displayed wooden paperweights that break free from traditional simple and functional designs and elevate them from a boring office item to a level of cultured taste, adding a human touch to the office setting.
Hsu says that the name “In Taiwan In Design” used at the Thailand exhibition intends to convey the emotions and value of life distilled through design. In other words, it is “conveying the beauty of Taiwanese crafts by building up the atmosphere in which we live.”
In 2015, fashionable Taiwanese crafts will start being seen in Southeast Asia, radiating out from Bangkok.