Following the NAP sales event in December of last year our website and Facebook page started receiving a growing amount of interest from Taiwanese visitors. Up till then neither of us really knew much about this small island nation. In our studies of textiles the three East Asian countries with the most dominating influence on our aesthetics were Japan, China and Korea and unfortunately for us Taiwan was hardly ever mentioned in our discussions. As we looked through the public photo albums of Taiwan-based textile and craft studios we were struck by the awesome beauty and eventually could not resist taking a short trip to see it for ourselves. Something about the work resonated an elegant sort of power and a particular “flavor” which we hadn’t quite seen before. Maybe it had something to do with the abundance of lush green mountains, shrouded in mist and dripping with life across the island. Or the rich cultural history with the native populations, Chinese, Dutch, Spanish and Japanese all making their influence felt across time. Whatever it was it lent a quiet strength to a lot of the good work which we saw. It was this aspect, this quiet strength, which as a mostly introverted person I found to be immediately appealing.
Getting around the island of Taiwan is a fairly straightforward process. We found a lot of the infrastructure to be on par with Japan with enough English signs to take us where we needed to go. Of particular interest to those interested in all things hand-crafted is the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute which has an excellent website (available in English) complete with a map of the entire country showing the location, contact details and description of the many individual artisans and their studios. As well as hosting annual craft achievement awards and providing valuable information to the public the institute does an excellent job in supporting the industry while continuing to keep the work at a high standard. Their main centre is located in Nantou with several branches spread out across the country and we were able to visit the Taipei branch. Coincidentally there was a textile exhibition being held there on one of the upper floors. It was all very good and a great deal of it was astoundingly impressive.
It makes us so happy to know that an organization like this exists. It’s a crucial organ in keeping the craft culture alive and healthy and is likely a big contributor to the beauty and uniqueness of Taiwanese crafts.