發掘對家的想像

全台最美木工學校懷德居
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2020 / 10月

文‧謝宜婷 圖‧莊坤儒


你的房子是你更大的軀殼。它在陽光下生長,在夜的寂靜中安歇,而它並非沒有夢想。你的房子不做夢嗎?它不曾夢想離開城市前往樹林或小山頂嗎?

紀伯倫《先知‧房子》


從房子環境與裡頭擺設,可以一瞥主人對家的想像。一張手工製胡桃木長桌,呈現美學的簡約風格,以及匠人的細膩工法。台灣的手工家具產業,原本已走向沒落,但是懷德居木工學校創立後,迄今14年的歲月,培養了許多新一代匠人,他們設計與藝術的背景,為國內的家具產業,帶來前所未有的突破。

木工「少林寺」

有些懷德居學生將學校比喻為「木工少林寺」,每次到林口校區上課,要先爬上山,繞過一圈圈的曲徑,最後在濃蔭蔽天的入口處,推門而入。偌大的教室裡,擺放著學生各式的家具作品,那是他們對家的想像。在這間學校,教學的目標是讓學生享受木工的樂趣,創造生活主張。

創辦人林東陽退休後,整理畢生收藏近千本的家具類書籍,於2004年在老家林口成立家具知識館。隔了兩年,一群有意學習木工的朋友,激勵了他創立木工學校,經過一番思考與搜索,最後改建老家的豬圈,並以古厝堂號「懷德居」作為校名。

懷德居的師資陣容堅強,森平房與林彥志皆畢業於公東高工,大學時期是林東陽的學生,一個是全國木工競賽金牌選手,一個是業界經驗超過十年的職人。他們從基礎的步驟:磨刀、刨木教起,經過每週一堂、為期十週的課程後,學生可以自行決定創作主題,而老師則會從旁協助,依學生進度給予建議。

林東陽以公東高工為目標,希望建立一間木工訓練紮實的師徒制學校,學生在老師引導下,做出屬於自己的獨特作品,而非如一般學校的木工勞作課,所有學生需統一完成指定作品。

「懷德居的文化不是強迫,而是讓學生從體驗中產生興趣,在同儕的互動中彼此學習。」林東陽表示,公東高工的訓練非常嚴謹,光是磨刀課就長達三個月,但是懷德居不是職業訓練所,於是,他將磨刀課縮短為四星期,學生先學習其他技巧,待學出興趣後,他們在第二學期會自動自發地精進磨刀技巧。

某一期,有位法國學生,鍾情於傳統木工,認真地與老師學習鑿刨鋸的技法,當他看見台灣學生操作機器時,疑惑地說:「你們來做木工,怎麼用機器呢?」從此之後,班上使用機器的人日益減少。「學生講的話比老師還有效果!」林東陽笑著說。

從體制內的大學教育,跨越到體制外的實驗學校,林東陽感嘆地說:「一般學校裡的木工課其實只是聊備一格,沒有長期紮實的訓練,因此過去台灣學生的手作能力都不太好。」為了鼓勵學生到懷德居,林東陽設立木工學習獎,只要作品獲選,就能得到懷德居學費全額或二分之一的減免。

為了讓更多人有機會接受木工教育,去(2019)年底,懷德居將校區拓展到大學校園,由台北大學提供550坪土地,本身募資3,500萬元,建立「木師基地」。林東陽努力的背後,除了希望台灣的木匠能走出「修復家具」之外的另一條路,也希望家具產業能珍惜得來不易的木料。「樹木是天然的材料,不該用工業大量生產的方式對待它。一棵100年的樹,應該好好被製造,讓它不在短期內損壞。」

路力家器具:設計出身的木匠

位於台中的路力家器具,創辦人陳奕夫,曾在懷德居學習兩年。大學就讀工業設計的他,畢業後擔任科技產品設計師,但心中仍對做木工懷有憧憬。某年到日本旅遊時,他對當地製作的椅子印象深刻,無論外型或坐起來的感覺,都是台灣無法媲美的。因此回台後,他開始尋找學習木工的單位。

陳奕夫平日上班,假日到懷德居學習,暫時放下鍵盤的他,跳脫螢幕的框架,透過雙眼與雙手接觸木料,在一刀一刀地刻劃中,了解木工與設計間細微的差異。「以前只要按一下滑鼠就可以產生模型,但學做木工之後,才知道轉角處要預留木料。」他認為實際動手做,更能幫助設計師了解成品製作的挑戰。

在懷德居阿森老師的教導下,陳奕夫逐漸能了解木作家具的構造,生活中的桌椅、廚櫃都成了他觀察的對象。有次他在外婆家,發現一張「孔雀椅」,雖然結構上還算完整,但是在重量、外形方面,都還有再發揮的空間,後來在林東陽的鼓勵下,他著手改良孔雀椅,創作出「燕椅」。

2013年,陳奕夫與女友許家毓、幾位設計師好友,在台灣設計師週策劃主題展「兆」,陳列自己設計的居家用品。當時觀展者對他們的鼓勵,使他們有信心打造台灣原創家具品牌。正好同年年底,有朋友的木工工作室要出售,陳奕夫看著這個機會,心想:「如果現在不出來做,以後也不會出來了!」,於是他在許家毓支持下,接下工作室,並在隔年辭職,全心投入「路力家器具」。

營運初期,銷售狀況不如預期,陳奕夫與許家毓發現,雖然他們做的家具外型受顧客青睞,但是,顧客的居家空間未必能容納這麼大尺寸的家具。於是,他們轉向募資平台嘖嘖,並將「燕椅」放到指定店家,讓有興趣的消費者試坐。募資計畫推出後,意外在網路獲得廣大迴響,總共募得約336萬元。

「募資看起來很成功,但是那些訂單我們十個月才完成,讓客人等滿久的,而且一家工廠長時間在做同一件產品,其實不太健康。」陳奕夫反思。不過,許家毓認為在這次嘗試中,路力家藉此了解銷售過程,也因為訂單的量夠大,所以他們開始與工廠合作,進而認識不同的合作對象。

現在,路力家推出客製化訂單,在一定的規格下,接受顧客選擇不同的木料與尺寸。消費者也能於每週六下午,到路力家位於台中的工廠,觀看家具製作流程與成品。「當買的人與賣的人有接觸,買的東西才有意義。」許家毓認為當顧客看見家具是他們在高溫的環境下,慢慢地磨出來後,這張家具會被賦予記憶與感受;當路力家的員工看見顧客的樣貌,能夠想像這個家庭使用這張家具的畫面,製作時會有期待,而不是像機器人般不停生產。

陳奕夫表示,未來會專注在設計這方面,木工製作則交給師傅,如同丹麥的家具設計大師韋格納,兼有兩項專業的他,在時間成本的考量下,只會做出設計的打樣品,成品則交由木工師傅製作。

面對台灣偏重設計、輕木工的現況,陳奕夫認為:「兩方要彼此尊重,不能自傲。設計師要展現專業,清楚地告訴木工師傅設計理念,也要理解這塊木料與技術的極限。」他認為台灣的家具業,設計與木工長期以來缺乏彼此理解,現在年輕設計師與年紀較大的木工溝通時,總會有一些磨擦,但如果國內家具業要有突破,這勢必是一個要克服的挑戰。

even工作室:將生命經歷化為創作

創立even工作室的吳宜紋,在2010年台灣工藝競賽中,以「餅乾凳」獲得首獎,作品獨特的創意,立刻吸引大眾注意。問起她作品靈感來源,她靦腆地笑著說:「因為愛吃吧!」

珍惜木材的吳宜紋,習慣到舊木料行找需要的材料,有天當她在刨舊木料的表層時,發現散落的木屑就像餅乾屑,因此有了餅乾凳的想法。這件作品巧妙地將舊木料的缺點變成作品的一部分,木材上的切痕,就像是餅乾上的咬痕,自然而且生動。

「我的作品大概可以歸納成四類:小時候的記憶、環境保護、文字的立體作品、流行文化。」吳宜紋說,當她在台北教育大學就讀研究所時,在與教授討論的過程中,更清楚自己創作的脈絡,而藝術背景的涵養,讓她的木工作品更多元,除了架構之外,也重視背後的創作理念。

「餅乾凳其實跟我小時候的記憶有關。當時我在家裡不能吃餅乾,所以我到了學校會跟同學要來吃。現在想起來,那種感覺很討厭。」吳宜紋透過作品訴說生命故事,而另一件作品「小學生電視」,則源於童年對電視的迷戀,讓她經常忘記父親交待的差事,於是,現在她在電視機造型的櫃子上設計小黑板,使用者就可以將待辦事項寫在上面,象徵她對兒時難題的解決方式。

回想當初在懷德居的八年修練過程,她說:「那裏的功夫學不完。」當初大學畢業的她,雖然有一些木工底子,但是,對於研究所申請計畫目標:創立個人木作品牌,技術上仍有一些差距,於是,她騎著摩托車到林口,一探懷德居。林東陽一看到這位年紀輕輕的女孩來拜師學藝,馬上讓她進入學校,跟著阿志老師學木工。吳宜紋也沒有辜負老師們的用心,不斷自我要求,每兩年就會舉辦一次木工個展。

吳宜紋不停止學習,現在她除了接訂單外,還擔任懷德居木師基地的老師,帶領大學生從認識材料開始,一步步熟悉木材,進而用適合的方法製作。「我還帶學生成立讀書會討論。」她認為如同林東陽所言,一棵樹需要幾十年的時間,才能成為可用的木材,面對這些「年老的生命」,應該要抱持感恩。因此,當她完成一件作品,就會在工作室附近種下一棵樹苗。

通往懷德居的小徑兩旁,光臘樹綠蔭蓊鬱,很難想像當初凋萎垂死的狀態,林東陽打趣說:「這樹的生命力跟懷德居的名聲一樣啊!」經過近15年的時間,台灣家具產業開始注入年輕的活力,融入藝術與設計的元素,走出新的道路。而年輕的一代,也持續種下改變的種子,希望未來這片土地能夠有所不同。                                     

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EN

Reimagining the Home with Wood

HDG-NEWS, Taiwan’s Most Beautiful Woodworking School

Tina Xie /photos courtesy of Kent Chuang /tr. by Phil Newell

Your house is your larger body. It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night; and it is not dreamless. Does not your house dream? And dreaming, leave the city for a grove or hill-top?

—“On Houses,” from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran


 

You can get an inkling of a person’s ideas about how a home should be by looking at the environment of their ­residence, and its decor and furnishings. A long handmade walnut table expresses a clean, simple aesthetic, as well as the meticulous workmanship of its creator. Taiwan’s handmade furniture industry was in decline, but since the founding 14 years ago of the HDG Non-Profit Experimental Woodworking School (HDG-NEWS), the school has trained a new generation of craftsmen and craftswomen. Their skills in art and design have led to unprecedented breakthroughs for Taiwan’s furniture industry.

Woodworking’s Shaolin Temple

Some HDG-NEWS students call their school a “Shao­lin Temple of woodworking.” Each time they go to the campus in Linkou, they must first climb a hill by circuitous paths until they arrive at the entrance, where branches of dense foliage seem to blot out the sky. Then they push open the door to enter the huge classroom, where various furniture works by students are on display, revealing their imaginative ideas about homes. At this school the goal of instruction is to enable the students to enjoy the pleasure of woodworking and to actualize their ideas about life.

After his retirement, school founder Lin Tong Yang organized the nearly 1000 books on furniture that he had collected over the course of his life and in 2004 opened the “Furniture Bibliothēkē, HDG” at his old home in Linkou. Two years later, a group of friends interested in studying wood­working prompted him to found HDG-NEWS. After a period of reflection and explor­ing options, he ultimately converted the pigpens at the old house and set up the school there.

Lin took St. Joseph Technical Senior High School in Taitung as his model, hoping to establish a master‡­apprentice system with solid hands-on training in woodworking. Under the guidance of their instructors, students would produce unique works of their own creation. This differs from woodworking classes in most schools, in which all the students must produce ident­ical assigned objects.

“The culture at HDG-NEWS is not to compel students to do things, but to let them develop their interest through personal experience, and to learn through inter­actions with their peers.” Lin relates that the training at St. Joseph is very rigorous; for example, they spend three months on tool sharpening alone. But HDG-NEWS is not a professional training institute, so it has reduced the tool sharpen­ing course to four weeks. Students first study other skills, and when their learning leads to greater inter­est, they will take the initiative in the second semes­ter to refine their tool sharpening abilities.

Having crossed over from orthodox university teaching to an experimental school, Lin Tong Yang sighs: “In ordinary schools woodworking classes are barely up to the mark. There is no long-term solid hands-on training, which is why in the past the craftsmanship of Taiwan students was not too good.” To encourage students to come to HDG-NEWS, Lin set up a woodworking prize. Those whose works are selected can get a full or one-half reduction in tuition.

To give more people access to woodworking education, at the end of 2019 HDG-NEWS expanded its operations to a university campus. National Taipei Univer­sity provided some 1800 square meters of land on its Sanxia campus and Lin raised NT$35 million to build the “Woodworking Complex, HDG.” Underlying Lin’s efforts are the hopes that Taiwanese woodworkers can find new opportunities beyond furniture repair and restoration, and that the furniture industry will learn to treat hard-to-come-by lumber with greater respect.

Wood craftsman with a design background

Chen Ifu, founder and director of Taichung-based Lo Lat Furniture and Objects, trained for two years at HDG-NEWS. Chen studied industrial design at university, and worked designing tech products after graduation. But in his heart he yearned to work with wood. One year, while traveling in Japan, he was deeply impressed by ­locally manufactured chairs, which were unrivaled in both appear­ance and comfort by anything made in Taiwan. As a result, after returning to Taiwan he sought out an organ­iza­tion where he could study woodworking.

Under the guidance of HDG-NEWS instructor Sen Pingfang, Chen gradually came to understand the structure of wooden furniture, and in everyday life he began to examine the tables, chairs, and kitchen cabinets around him. Once, at his grandmother’s house, he discovered a “peacock chair,” which was structurally sound but left something to be desired in terms of weight and shape. Later, encouraged by Lin Tong Yang, Chen set his hand to improving the peacock chair and created the “hirundo  chair” (“swallow chair”).

In 2013 Chen, his girlfriend Hsu Chia Yu, and several designer friends exhibited home products they had designed themselves at the Taiwan Designers’ Week expo “Omen.” The encouragement they received from expo visitors gave them the confidence to found an original ­furniture brand in Taiwan. Coincidentally, at the end of that year a friend of Chen’s wanted to sell his ­woodworking studio, and with support from Hsu, Chen took it over. The following year he resigned from his job to devote himself completely to Lo Lat Furniture and ­Objects.

Currently Lo Lat takes customized orders, with custom­ers choosing which types of wood and the dimensions they want within a given set of specifications. Consumers can also visit Lo Lat’s factory in Taichung on Saturday after­noons to observe the furniture-making process and see finished products. “When buyers meet producers, bought objects have a greater meaning.” Hsu Chia Yu believes that when customers see how Lo Lat slowly crafts their furniture in a hot environment, the individual piece of furniture will be endowed with memories and feelings. And when the workers at Lo Lat see the faces of customers, they will be able to imagine the family using this piece of furniture, and will feel a sense of purpose in what they are doing, rather than simply working away like robots.

even studio

Even Wu, founder of “even studio,” won first prize in the 2010 Taiwan Craft Com­peti­tion with her own design for a “cookie stool.” People were immediately attracted to the work’s unique creativity. Asked where her inspiration came from, she replies with a bashful smile, “I love to eat!”

Wu hates using wood wastefully, and is in the habit of finding the material she needs at old lumber stores. One day, while planing off the surface of some old wood, she noticed that the shavings being scattered around were like cookie crumbs, which is where she got the idea for cookie stools. In making these, she deftly in­corpor­ates defects in the old wood into the finished product, so that holes in the wood are like bite marks on a cookie; the result is natural and lively.

“My works can mostly be divided into four cat­egories: memories from childhood, environmental protection, 3D text, and pop culture.” Wu relates that when she was in graduate school at National Taipei University of Education, her discussions with professors clarified her creative direction, and her background in art has also diversified her wood creations. Besides structure, she also emphasizes the underlying creative concept.

Thinking back on her eight years of training at HDG-NEWS, she says, “You could never completely learn everything that place has to teach.” When she graduated from university, although she had some ­basic knowledge of woodworking, she was still a considerable distance from attaining the skill level required to reach the goal that she outlined in applying to graduate school: founding her own wood products brand. That is why she rode her scooter to Linkou to check out HDG-NEWS. When Lin Tong Yang saw this young woman who had come so far to seek out teachers and learn new skills, he immediately admitted her to the school, to study under instructor Lin Yanzhi. And Wu didn’t let her teacher down, continually making demands on herself and holding a solo exhibition of her creations every two years.

Wu has never ceased to learn, and she currently not only accepts orders to make wood objects, but also teaches at the Woodworking Complex. She starts by guiding students to learn about wood step by step, after which they use appropriate methods to shape it into objects. “I even got the students to form a study group to discuss relevant issues.” She agrees with Lin Tong Yang’s remark that a tree requires decades to grow to become useable wood, so people should have a sense of gratitude when dealing with these “aged lives.” This is why she always plants a sapling near her studio whenever she completes a work.

On both sides of the small path leading to HDG-NEWS there are luxuriant Formosan ash trees, and it is hard to imagine that early on they were withered and on the verge of dying. Lin says with a laugh, “The vitality of these trees has been like the reputa­tion of HDG-NEWS.” After 15 years, a new generation is bringing the energy of youth to Taiwan’s furniture industry, blending in elements of art and design to forge a new way ahead. The younger generation continues to sow the seeds of change, in hopes that in the future they will make a difference in this land.       

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