NTCRI preserves and promotes Taiwan’s vibrant handicraft traditions

Works by the the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute are on display in Taipei through Sept. 9

An artisan showcases indigo dyeing works at the Nat. Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute in Nantou (Image from Taiwan Today)

An artisan showcases indigo dyeing works at the Nat. Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute in Nantou (Image from Taiwan Today)

TAIPEI (Taiwan Today) -- From April 14 to June 3, innovative jewelry creations by 17 Taiwan artisans were displayed at the Museum of Arts and Crafts, Itami in Hyogo prefecture, Japan. Titled the “Taiwan Contemporary Jewelry Exhibition,” the event was co-organized by the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute in the central county of Nantou. The featured items are now on show at NTCRI’s branch in Taipei City through Sept. 9.

The institute regularly arranges for local artisans and design studios to attend overseas exhibitions. In March last year, it sent a delegation to the International Furniture Fair Singapore, where the Watersource Cultural and Educational Foundation—an indigo dyeing studio in central Taiwan’s Taichung City—won the Best Decor Award. Such efforts are fostering international awareness of the nation’s rich handicraft culture.

Tracing its origins back to 1954 and overseen by the Ministry of Culture, NTCRI is the nation’s foremost center for the preservation and promotion of traditional crafts. It hosts exhibition venues and residency studios, organizes training courses in disciplines such as ceramics and stone carving, and conducts research and marketing.

NTCRI hosts regular handicraft exhibitions (Image from Taiwan Today)

The decision to base NTCRI in Nantou was not coincidental. The central county has long been renowned for its vibrant handicraft culture. In particular, it is a major hub of bamboo weaving, lacquer art and pottery.

“Nantou is the handicraft capital of Taiwan,” said Lin Rong-sen, director-general of the local government’s Cultural Bureau. These traditions and NTCRI are integral to the landlocked county’s cultural appeal, he added.

Innovative furniture designs are displayed at NTCRI (Image from Taiwan Today)

To date, the MOC has designated 30 individuals and organizations around Taiwan as important preservers of traditional crafts and performing arts. With four, Nantou boasts more recipients of this title than any other region.

Three of the county’s honorees teach at NTCRI: Wang Ching-shuang, Huang Tu-shan and Li Rong-lie. Wang and Huang are celebrated for their achievements in lacquer art and bamboo crafts, respectively. Li is celebrated for his pioneering role in reviving a discipline combining bamboo basket weaving with lacquer painting.

The presence of such talents makes the institute a mecca for design and handicraft students from around the country. “Artisans who have received training here typically emphasize the experience on their resumes,” said Hsu Keng-hsiu, the institute’s director. (E) (By Oscar Chung)

Write to Taiwan Today at ttonline@mofa.gov.tw

NTCRI is a major draw for handicraft students and aficionados (Image from Taiwan Today)

(This article is adapted from the story Intangible Beauty in the July/August 2017 issue of Taiwan Review. The Taiwan Review archives dating to 1951 are available online.)