Art and design students chosen by the Ministry of Education last year to study in the US and Japan have incorporated traditional Taiwanese elements into their designs, causing a sensation in the US design industry.
The ministry last year sent 16 students to the US and Japan for a year of further study.
The works they created during their year abroad as part of the ministry’s art and design elite overseas training project are now being exhibited in Taipei.
Among the pieces was work by Shih Chien University Institute of Fashion and Communication’s design student Liu Te-yu (劉得予), who said he has always been impressed by how hand puppeteers were able to play both male and female characters, and control multiple puppets at once.
After graduating from the National Chengchi University’s department of advertising, Liu worked for seven years before joining the Shih Chien University’s graduate school program.
“The puppeteers were like super humans to me,” Liu said.
While studying at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, under the ministry’s program, he designed a product, named Puppeteer, that has six arms and is capable of playing a suona — a type of instrument commonly played during puppet shows — while controlling three puppets.
The design was chosen to be exhibited at the Art Center Gallery and also received a silver medal in the international design award’s computer-generated character competition.
Liu also came up with the concept of an electronic sushi chef, which he said was inspired by Daisuke Terasawa’s Shouta no Sushi comic series.
After interning at Hettema Group, a company in charge of integrating Hollywood’s Universal Studios with the California Disney Land, Liu was asked to stay on as an employee, becoming the company’s first foreign worker.
Lai Wen-chien (賴文健), a student at the National Yunlin University of Technology and Science’s Department of Visual Communication Design, used the Eight Generals (八家將), one of the traditional zhen tou (陣頭) of Taiwanese temple gatherings, as the main characters of his animation clip.
According to traditional beliefs, eight divine generals were the guards of deities associated with the underworld, but gradually became the vanguard or personal guards of deities such as Matsu.
Lai’s animation shows how the eight generals fought from Heaven to Hell and back and was chosen for public viewing at the end of the semester.
Lai’s other work, an animation using watercolors, was entered for consideration in the One Minute Film Festival in Croatia.
Meanwhile, a student of National Cheng Kung University’s Institute of Industrial Design, Yen Cheng-ting (顏承亭), who spent a year at the Musashino Art University in Japan, designed an interactive toaster aimed at giving some comfort to latchkey children.
The term refers to children who regularly spend time with little or no supervision at home after school while their parents are away or at work.
“I was inspired by my younger cousin, who would be hungry when she got home from school, but had to wait until her parents got home from work,” she said.
All one has to do is to put a piece of toast in the device, which will then “print” a message sent from the parents’ phone onto the toast, Yen said, adding that it would not only satisfy a child’s hunger, but also offer them some comfort.