A Greater Tainan artisan is making music with his own handmade instruments, while also putting recycled natural materials to good use, with his violins fashioned from the timber of storm-toppled trees and driftwood.
Chou Hui-tsang (周輝滄) has vast experience in woodworking with the unusual sources, making artworks and sculptures from a variety of natural discarded materials.
Together with fellow artisan Kuo Hsueh-tsung (郭學聰), Chou is exhibiting the artworks and woodwork creations at an education center in Greater Tainan’s Yungkang District (永康).
Made from driftwood and trees felled by storms, the 40 items on display are more than just artworks for aesthetic appreciation — they are also functional household tools or musical instruments.
Capturing the most attention is a unique violin creation made from camphor wood. It is unusual because most violins are produced from maple, spruce, ebony, boxwood or rosewood.
“During a typhoon some years ago, a camphor tree cultivated by a resident in Tainan’s Rende District (仁德) fell over. The tree was to be taken away,” Chou said. “I went over to pick up the tree and brought it home.”
“Because I have a passion for making musical instruments, the camphor tree began to take on the shape of a violin in my mind,” he said.
Chou worked on the timber for three months, carefully crafting the fine details and dimensions for the various parts of the violin.
When it was completed, the violin produced fine music.
“It gave new life to the toppled camphor tree,” Chou said.
In the past, Chou has made violins from aloeswood and red sandalwood, as well as other trees toppled by typhoons, for a total of six handmade violins.
In addition, he has made a Chinese erhu and a guitar from these discarded wood materials.
“Each one of them is a labor of love. The tendon on my right hand was inadvertently cut and badly injured by a knife when I was sculpting on one of the artworks. To this day, I still have to have physical therapy for my right hand,” Chou said. “Though the hand is inconvenienced temporarily, it has not diminished my passion for making new things. I will continue to put in the effort to create and inject new life into these woodwork products.”
Through Chou’s talented hands, the wood materials, looked upon as waste by most people, are transformed into musical instruments and artworks, bought by collectors.