by Jincy IypeSep 21, 2020
Organic chairs moulded out of indigenous wood, wafer thin bamboo trays, oscillating mirrors and corset vases: delightful products like these and more feature in the concluding chapter of Made In:, a STIR original series that looks inward to celebrate native design from all over the world. We step into the proficient design landscape of Taiwan with Ben Chiu, Executive Director of Taiwan Designers’ Web, who selects for us designers who nurture purposeful design that stems from nature, at once, pragmatic, poetic, contemporary and rustic.
Founded in 2007, Taiwan Designers’ Web was established by a group of interdisciplinary, cross-company professionals with a hope to set up a platform for regional and international design activities in Taiwan. “I have had the honour to participate and lead Taiwan Designers’ Web since 2009, and have witnessed 10 great years of the design industry here, which has evolved with grace. We have always aimed to promote the local design scene, encouraging collaborations between designers and native craftsmen, and networking to increase visibility of smaller design studios,” shares Chiu.
Spanning exhibitions, workshops and interactive design talks, Taiwan Designers’ Week 2015 and 2016 focused on the theme of ‘Exploration’ and ‘Impact’ respectively, drawing in diverse and multidisciplinary designs from over 200 designers, welcoming 60,000 visitors each time. The Taiwan Designers’ Web’s latest initiative was an event hosted at The Place Taipei Hotel on October 3, 2020, which saw an intimate gathering of designers and a showcase of their understated yet powerful works, to boost potential sales and carve out future collaborations.
Taiwanese design is all inclusive; a balanced fusion that embraces multiple cultures and design styles. Ever evolving in its aesthetic and discourse, it demonstrates traditional perspectives and our indigenous nature in contemporary light. – Ben Chiu, Executive Director, Taiwan Designers’ Web
“In the past, design in Taiwan concentrated majorly on the tech and electronic industry. It has definitely evolved with time, and now includes the oriental and handmade, merging well with international industrial and product design standards. The highlighted designers approach design issues from fresh perspectives, inclusive of Taiwan’s traditional industries, indigenous culture, traditional bamboo craft, history, and our daily life,” remarks Chiu.
For Made in Taiwan, these handpicked designers and brands reveal their inspirations and modern production processes, whipping up a soft renaissance in their nature-inspired design narratives. In no exact order, we present designers and their works that represent the product design industry in Taiwan, works that balance functional design and a stripped down aesthetic, presenting confidence in a greener design industry.
Yihsien Lin ,Ting-wei Yeh, and Hsiao-chun Shih
Based in Taipei and Helsinki, KIMU is a wonderful home décor design studio formed by industrial designers Yeh, Lin and Shih that showcases a romantic, practical aesthetic, integrating eastern philosophies and traditional forms with the minimalism of the west. “We value natural materials, craftsmanship and the chemistry between a user and a product; a constant journey of discovering new souls in old living objects,” shares Shih. KIMU has exhibited in major international events such as M&O and Ambiente as well as won design awards including Reddot and imm cologne D3, ever since their inception in 2013.
“All three of us, with our creative confusions and artistic trajectories, want to create timeless objects that fit in diverse scenarios. We also love the touch of real materials like wood, brass, and leather which we use primarily in our objects - it warms up lives and sews together humans and the earth,” mentions Lin.
“Our products preserve a quiet strength in their appearance, a soulful partnering with space, nature, and people.”
The New Old Divider is KIMU’s first attempt at designing large-scale furniture, fusing in its fresh form, the traditional shape and function of an oriental paper lantern. Reaching a height of 1.6 m, the partition screen sits in a room as a classical piece in its black and beige variants, made with hollow ashwood, metal and brass frames, fitted with fabric that ‘fans’ open as decorative semi circles. In its rustic, deconstructed design, the New Old Vase sets a stage for flowers and plants to flourish in its volume-less form. Resembling a corset frame, the see-through vase comes in a metal or wooden body, with a copper or wooden container that holds the plants and water either inside or on top of it.
Striking a creative balance of form and essential function is the Pose Table Mirror from KIMU’s Autumn Festival collection, which “as its name suggests, strikes different poses and creates myriad ways of seeing it as an object and a sculpture,” informs Yeh. Inspired from a Taiwanese traditional latch, Pose has a fine mirror glass that is held inside a frame of powder coated metal, perched finely on top of a thin, brass hexagonal shaft that balances itself on a cylindrical base with three possible axis, providing endless positioning.
Cheng Tsung Feng
The 33-year-old designer and artist mentions that he has “an old soul in his body, ever curious to explore the wisdom condensed out of time, hidden in traditional utensils”. Feng is renowned for his reinterpretation of local Taiwanese bamboo, his material of choice, moulding and bending and fashioning it into modish, almost elastic pieces of furniture, utensils, lighting, sculptural installations, temporary architecture and other home décor products. “I want my works to breathe, to be ‘alive’. It has taught me so much about myself, my limits and my craft; it’s truly incredible what one can do with green materials such as this,” says Feng.
Using century-old bamboo weaving techniques, he continues to inherit ancient Taiwanese and Chinese craftsmanship in his works, playfully unfixed between the dimensions of art, handicraft and architecture. Feng has exhibited in various events and festivals internationally, including Révélations at Grand Palais (Paris, France, 2019) and Milan Design Week at La Triennale di Milano (Milan, Italy, 2013).
“Bamboo for me is alive, versatile and steady, promising seen and unseen possibilities, compelling me to keep working hard to be friends with it.”
Feng displays an incredible command over this natural material and the many ways to style it – his sculptural Flow chair and lamp embody the flow of nature and life – “For me, being alive is a movement and a powerful exchange of energy – Flow’s form represents the forces, aesthetics and atmosphere of living, like billowing wind, the ebb of a river, people dancing in a trance, an eagle taking flight, the framework of veins and arteries…,” he shares. Made in collaboration with local craftsmen, the Flow chair is formed of ribbons of treated bamboo that rest interlaced on bamboo wheels, while a similar bamboo frame wraps around two light sources forming the spangled suspension lamp.
Feng’s wafer like Turtle Plate three piece set is inspired by the form of an old-style rice planting tool made of bamboo tubes, which farmers wear to protect their thumbs. “I applied the tool’s shape to the design of the trays, which are made of five different varieties of local Taiwanese bamboo. They seem paper thin but are very strong; these can be used as plates for small food items, holding chopsticks or as simple table decorations,” Feng remarks. A bamboo silk-pattern covers the back of the Circle bamboo mirror that uses bamboo’s flexibility to its advantage, to achieve a clean, contemporary look processed with heat moulding. “The main feature is the special shape that has been carved into the base tube, that not only prevents the bamboo from breaking, but also gives it an elegant appearance,” adds Feng. This crevice in the cylinder can also be used to hang small pieces of jewellery or hair clips.
Ifu Chen and Chia Yu Hsu
Founded in 2014 by industrial designers and makers Chen and Hsu, Lo Lat Furniture & Objects is a design studio that creates high quality handmade products ranging from hardwood furniture to porcelain and stone tableware. “With a passion for wood and furniture design, we aim to reveal the essential beauty of material by merging traditional techniques and modern technology,” Hsu describes. “Being thoughtful results in simplicity and genuineness, and that’s what we try to imbibe in our processes. We are ever grateful to our team's time and efforts, inspiring the brand name ‘Lo Lat’, which is derived from a Taiwanese dialect meaning ‘thank you for your effort,” reveals Chen.
“Wood is our mentor, a timeless, magical material. We seek to immortalise its subtle beauty and uniqueness in our works.”
Solid wood (maple, ash, white oak, black ash and walnut) is the main material employed by Lo Lat, owing to its durability. “We use a steady mix of traditional techniques and modern technology to improve and treat our wood,” says Chen. “Joints, such as rabbet, mortise and tenon, and some customised ones, are crucial in the making for all our furniture,” Hsu continues.
Lo Lat’s first furniture design series, the sturdy and graceful ‘Y series’ gets its name from the ‘Y structure’ that provides overall support for the table held together by a double mortise and tenon joint used between its legs and beams. Inspired by the folk craft from late 40s in Taiwan, Lo Lat’s Hirundo Chair is handmade with traditional joints with a minimal, open back, slight curves and slim legs, “a new chair that bridges old stories in modern design”. The L Series professes “the power of simplicity” in its classic walnut table and bench, designed without unnecessary lines and details. “An attractive curvature smoothly connects its tilted surfaces and flows down to the handcrafted leg, creating delicate details of sight and touch,” shares Lo Lat studio.
Tipus Hafay, Yun Fan Chang and Shane Liu
Together with indigenous culture researcher Hafay, industrial designers Chang and Liu founded Kamaro’an in 2013, progressing as a brand two years later, inspired by Taiwanese native culture and nature, and aiming to “explore pure craftsmanship through clean design”. The name Kamaro’an originates from pangcah, (one of the ethnicities living along the east coast of Taiwan), which means “the place to live; each of our products is hand woven in our studio by indigenous craftsman, and we appreciate the handcrafts of everyday objects that reflect pangcah’s way of living in harmony with nature. We are obsessed with the non-fancy and the magical, practical weaving techniques that turn into objects of function and beauty,” shares Chang.
“Kamaro’an celebrates the uniqueness, timelessness and precision that hands can bring to life.”
Their products, all made in collaboration with Taiwanese indigenous craftsmen, rest in a calm and meditative state, following their ethos – “Be slow, be true and be kind,” as Hafay states. This is evident in the Riyar lights from Kamaro’an’s Umbrella Sedge series – Riyar means ocean, and the flowy, geometric form of the umbrella sedge that frames an incandescent bulb fixed to a brass socket, is woven in ‘rolling waves’, making the light look splendid from every angle. With its back fashioned from Italian vegetable tanned leather, the Woven Pebble Mirror is hand woven in the studio, and can be hung via a mountain ridge braided strap fixed to its top. “Following the ancient pangcah wisdom of living in harmony with earth, shapes of mountains and ocean waves are personified in Sapud Kacaw's lively furniture,” says Liu. The dynamic Sapud Chair fashioned out of light coloured local wood, finished with traditional techniques fits seamlessly in a home, a museum or a garden.
Design Director of Taipei-based NakNak design studio and brand, Yenwen Tseng believes in bare simplicity, function and beauty; in connecting ideas, cities and designers. The brand's name is inspired by the motion of knocking on doors, (‘knock knock’), and its aim to ‘knock on people’s aim to ‘knock on people’s mental doors and gently bring about organisation to their daily lives.’ “Also, ‘knock’ is an action often seen in metal work, and represents the skilled touch of the craftsmen we work alongside. Our vision is to become a distinctive brand that creates imaginative products for the home and office, to simplify modern lifestyles,” says the industrial designer.
“NakNak brings organisation to life.”
Stepping slightly away from the rest of the selection in terms of material and design inspiration, NakNak focuses on wire bending and metal sheet folding techniques to form their minimal, quirky and joyful products designed in collaboration with various local and international designers and studios. Made with powder coated aluminium and available in salmon pink, matte black and white, their modern KNOCK KNOCK door knocker designed by TAF Studio also functions as a hook to hang accessories and items. “It is also a play on the origin and the sound of the company’s brand name!” shares Tseng. Mika Tolvanen is a Finnish product designer who designed HOOP, a modern take on an antique umbrella stand that he saw at a flea market. A slender oval wire suspended above a cast iron base offers stable storage for up to eight umbrellas in its compact footprint.
WIRE NUMBER made by designers Kyuhyung Cho and Erik Olovsson is a solid coloured, funky numeral system for outdoor and indoor entrances, inspired by the beauty of customised door numbers on old streets and downtown neon lights. Harri Koskinen’s FLOORWALL is a lightweight, multi-functional piece of furniture that combines a large mirror and a coat rack to store clothes and accessories. “It’s possible to use either as a single freestanding unit or as two wall-mounted items. The freestanding unit is easy to use and light enough to move at any time,” concludes Tseng.
Curated by Amit Gupta and Pramiti Madhavji, STIR X Script presents Made In: an original series that features curated selections of product designers across countries, showcasing modern, sustainable, homegrown design.
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