Standing quietly behind a variety of delicate, handmade owl-themed products displayed in her stall, Claire Wang (王惠娟) wears a smile so warm that few people realize that she is hearing-impaired.
Since her hearing was damaged when she was a child — thought to have been caused by overprescription to treat an illness — Wang has only been able to hear sounds as loud as thunder.
While some hearing-impaired people isolate themselves and experience feelings of inferiority as a result of congenital or acquired hearing loss, Wang has instead used her disability to create a tranquil environment where she can explore and develop her artistic talents to their fullest.
After graduating in 1996 from the Department of Visual Communication Design at the Tainan Junior College of Home Economics — the Tainan University of Technology’s predecessor — Wang quickly found a job designing window displays for a cosmetics company.
However, Wang’s reliance on paper and pen to communicate with colleagues impeded her interpersonal relations and work performance, forcing her to change jobs frequently.
After years of unstable employment, Wang started yearning for a stable space where she could cultivate her talent.
Encouraged by an acquaintance, Wang taught herself to create handcrafted items using information she found on the Internet and set up a workshop called Claire’s Handmade Workshop in April 2010.
Wang was fully aware that whatever compassion people would have for her because of her impairment would not translate into a competitive edge and, inspired by her preference to work at night, chose owls to be the main theme for her handicrafts.
In addition to designing cellphone bags and wallets featuring the nocturnal bird, Wang created owl-shaped handbags and decorated other items with owl-themed buttons.
Although Wang had to make her products as cost-effectively as possible to make ends meet, her handiwork was well-received by customers when she debuted them at a creative market at the former site of the Taichung Winery in Greater Taichung.
Over the past three years, Wang has exhibited her work at various creative markets across the nation.
While a cardboard sign in front of her stall informing people of her hearing impairment has turned off some customers, it has also earned her praise from other people, some of whom have formed a fan group for her products.
Wang said that she hoped to open a brick-and-mortar shop in the near future, with the hope of bringing more people into her world.