Thu, Jan 20, 2011 - Page 14 News List

Mixing it up

Designer Chen I-shan, owner of Blah Blah Blah, finds odds and ends from as far away as Canada and Japan to sell at her boutique

By Catherine Shu  /  Staff reporter

Most of Blah Blah Blah’s offbeat items are handmade by owner Chen I-shan and her friends.

Photo: Catherine Shu, Taipei Times

Blah Blah Blah is a curiosity shop filled with the weird and wonderful: vintage clothing, handmade accessories and indie zines.

Watches turn out to bracelets with tiny, hand-embroidered clock faces, bags made out of fuzzy fake fur are embellished with portraits of dignified looking cats, and colorful beetles crawl up necklaces.

Blah Blah Blah was founded in 2005 by designer Chen I-shan (陳怡珊) while she was working part time at different boutiques. In her spare time, Chen, whose mother and grandmother taught her how to crochet and sew when she was a girl, stitched bags and clothing for herself. Her friends saw her creations and asked her to make things for them, too.

Encouraged, Chen began selling her totes at artists’ markets and at stores in Taipei City. She opened her own store near the corner of Zhongxiao East Road and Dunhua South Road three years ago.

Chen says she chose the name Blah Blah Blah because “I’m not very good at using words to express myself.”

“I didn’t go to design school, so I think my style is more free-spirited,” says Chen, who used to sew clothing for her Barbies by hand. “I like combining different materials in new ways and mixing up colors and patterns.”

Blah Blah Blah’s signature items are reversible totes and handbags sewn from lively printed fabric and made with handles and frames of raw, undyed leather. Some of the cloth used is vintage, like a bright psychedelic print from a Canadian flea market and a modish floral pattern found in an old fabric store Chen stumbled upon while exploring Taitung.

One of Chen’s favorite pastimes is searching for odds and ends to use in her creations. Some pendants are made from vintage shoe buttons, while other necklaces are strung from tiny cube-shaped beads in primary colors imported from Japan.


WHAT: Blah Blah Blah

WHEN: Open daily from 3pm to 10pm

WHERE: 6, Ln 160, Dunhua S Rd, Taipei City (台北市敦化南路一段160巷6號), tel: (02) 2779-0608


Another jewelry series features odd-looking pendants made from tree branch slices that are studded with brass nails like the pegs in a pinball machine.

Blah Blah Blah also carries a colorful assortment of vintage clothing from Japan and Taiwan and a treasure trove of quirky items: ABC practice notebooks from Hong Kong, elaborately beaded bags from the 1950s and 1960s, handmade zines by artist Son (兒子) and colorful rubber toys shaped like letters and numbers that Chen found at the Fuhe Bridge Flea Market (福和橋跳蚤市場).

“I save a lot of little things that I have no idea what to do with at first,” Chen says.

Some of the handicrafts are inspired by children’s toys and books, including Alice in Wonderland. Soft ornaments are sewn from fabric printed with images of clocks and keys and a series of necklaces have pendants made from John Tenniel’s classic illustrations. Sewn from fleece with crocheted heads, “sable” scarves look like cute stuffed animals at first glance, but with leather buttons for eyes and tiny x’s for pupils, the accessories are both whimsical and a little creepy.

One series of necklaces called Toy Chips was inspired by small plastic pendants called wangzaixian (尪仔仙) that were collected by Taiwanese children in the 1950s and 1960s. Chen cast the original pieces, which she found in a friend’s collection of vintage playthings, in sterling silver and bronze; the shapes include a parrot, a bat and a qilin (麒麟), or Chinese unicorn.

“It’s hard to say exactly where my design inspiration comes from because it’s always different,” Chen says. “I just like to make things that are unexpected.”

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