It was a sunny Friday afternoon but there was only one shopper in sight at the Taiwan Culture Point (好文化創意空間). A lone woman attended the counter. It seemed very forlorn for an established intended to promote the products of local designers and artists.
As part of the government-funded National Cultural Association's (文化總會) effort to boost the local creative industry and promote local cultural and art works, the recently opened gallery, situated on the second floor of the association's building, houses a colorful array of high-end gift items that blend traditional cultural elements with modern designs from 15 local brands, studios and individual artists.
“Our aim is to become a platform for local designers, give support and visibility to local brands in the nascent phase (of product development) and bridge the gap between the artists and the public,” said Hsieh Mo-chin (謝孟瑾), the young woman in charge of the display area.
Unfortunately, there seems to be some discrepancy between intention and operation, for while Taiwan Culture Point offers many handcrafted items that would be perfect as gifts, the venue has received very little publicity and few people know of its existence.
It's point of departure is a simple idea: offering a space for designers who welcome a spot to sell their things.
“Since we are a nonprofit organization, all the profits from sold items belong to the artists and studios. We only charge them a nominal rental fee: NT$2,000 for a glass showcase and NT$3,000 for a cupboard display,” Hsieh said. As some of Taiwan's most innovative designers and studios have rented space here, this makes Taiwan Culture Point a great place to check out for quality gifts. Most of the items found here cannot be easily found elsewhere in Taipei.
Flower vases and tea sets from the wood-fired ceramic studio Hwataoyao (華陶窯) in Miaoli County can be purchased at Taiwan Culture Point. These wood fired products, using local Taiwanese acacia, a native of the region, gives the pieces a distinctive golden coloring. “Different woods create different-colored glazes, and the golden hue is peculiar to the acacia. Ash from the wood falls scatters onto the pottery during firing, creating a unique dappled look,” Hsieh explained.
While the proud tradition of weaving of the Taroko tribe (太魯閣族) sees its modern revival in Yuli Taki's (連美惠) handbags and purses adorned with the rhombus totem -- standing for the eye of the tribal ancient spirit -- Taiwan's ceramic art will find its rainbow-colored representation in the koji figures made by a koji family in Yunlin (雲林) that adheres strictly to the teaching of the koji master Yei Wang (業王) in Chiayi (嘉義), the birthplace of Taiwan's koji ceramics.
Glove puppets from the Hsiao Hsiao-yuan (小西園) glove puppet theater are favorites as gift, as long as you are not scared off by the NT$5,000 price tag. Entirely handmade, the wooden puppets are attired in embroidered garment created with amazing attention to details. Once you lay your eyes on the art works of the traditional craft, you will be less willing to settle for a plastic puppet in machine-made costumes that cost half the price and are more readily available.
A perfect blend of the old and the new can be seen in the creations of designer Chen Chun-liang (陳俊良) from the Freeimage (自由落體設計公司) label. Injecting a minimalist look into his series of tableware, the artist draws his inspirations from ancient copper coins and ingeniously embellishes the modern design with a nostalgic stamp.