NTCRI exhibits contemporary objects from traditional Taiwanese crafts

‘design, the silent ambassador of Taiwan’ by Cyril Zammit.

I hope you will forgive me for paraphrasing Paul Rand for the title of this column. but there are few places where you immediately feel comfortable as soon as you step off a plane and Taiwan is clearly one of them. the island and its nation are a permanent voyage of discovery. of course someone like me who loves design will take taiwan like a new home with lots of great friends to meet and learn.

all images courtesy of Taiwan National Handicrafts Research and Development Institute

the most important point for me when I think of Taiwan is how it has brilliantly succeeded in advancing centuries of craft traditions in contemporary society. I love the way young designers respect and perpetuate traditional customs or techniques in their creations.

I have had the good fortune to visit Taiwan several times. I visited taipei of course but also I had the best guide ben chiu bringing me to the southern part of the island to discover the national institute of research and craft development of Taiwan, it amazed me to see dedicated professionals eager to share their expertise and maintain a kind of signature when you think of Taiwan as a design hub.

NTCRI exhibits contemporary objects from traditional Taiwanese crafts

NTCRI exhibits contemporary objects from traditional Taiwanese crafts

in 2015, i hosted a selection of design pieces at design days dubai a few months before the opening of the world design capital taipei celebrations a year later. everyone was amazed but I was not surprised to discover the beautiful quality of the creations, the attention to detail in the presentation of the objects and the creativity of the pieces presented.

one of the aspects presented at the exhibition “beyond creativity and craftsmanship” is how the objects can be simple and seamless. this is for me the key to a successful design: hiding the complexity behind the simplicity. the design must please the eyes, provide a solution to a problem or simply revisit an everyday object in a new and innovative way. this is why ben chiu qualifies designers as “interpreters” with their skills to understand the needs of the public and translate it into a practical and if possible sympathetic object.

NTCRI exhibits contemporary objects from traditional Taiwanese crafts

I’m not a fan of ‘design-art’ because if you put an object on a pedestal and don’t use it, it loses its functionality and therefore its essence as a design object. I like it when design allows new functions, opens new doors and new perspectives.

design is also the ideal playground for experimenting and testing alliances of materials that would never meet otherwise. when wood meets metal, ceramic meets brass or when traditional weaving methods are applied to new materials.

Taiwanese craftsmanship is ingenious and demonstrates the nation’s ability to meet challenges, create its own path and constantly mark its difference with a true identity. “Free spirit, free creation” could in a way be the motto of the island.

NTCRI exhibits contemporary objects from traditional Taiwanese crafts

and if you play with the emotions, naming an exhibition “the neo-Taiwanese craftsmanship” in French will of course resonate with my French ears. the modern type of bicycle was invented by a frenchman, alexandre mercier, in 1843. cradle of the tour de france for over 100 years, the world famous cycling race is one of the most popular events in france and around the world , with stunning landscapes and a great mix of team and individual effort.

what impressed me the most about this exhibition is the taiwan craft bike project which unveils new production methods. against all odds, the countries of Western Europe are (re) discovering the bicycle as an economical and interesting alternative to public transport.

NTCRI exhibits contemporary objects from traditional Taiwanese crafts

former French President Jacques Chirac once said: ‘mobility and stability are not mutually exclusive: a cyclist is only stable on his bike when he is moving forward.“There is no doubt that we could apply it to Taiwanese design which demonstrates its ability to move forward with solid foundations drawn from its heritage.

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