Taiwanese artists are making technology work for them.
Franz Collection, a brand of high-end porcelain ware created by Taiwan-based Seagull Decor, is employing rapid prototyping technology to produce one-of-a-kind items with zero defects, Franz Collection founder Francis Chen said yesterday.
"We adopted this technology from the automotive and aviation industries. It has cost us quite a lot - US$1 million - but it's money well spent," Chen said.
"This tool has enabled us to experiment with and produce porcelain prototypes in various shapes and sizes. We're talking about porcelain ware that would have had been impossible to create thousands of years ago."
Franz Collection designers are employing computer-aided design and stenolithography technologies during the product development process, a report prepared by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council said. Those systems enable the porcelain maker to gauge the thickness or thinness of its materials during and after the heating process. A porcelain container is "cooked" at temperatures ranging from 1,200 to 1,350 degrees Centigrade, Franz Collection said.
Seagull Decor, a rec0ipient of the 2005 National Gold Award of Excellence and the parent company of Franz Collection, markets mid-range to premium porcelain products in over 4,000 retail stores worldwide. Catering to the OEM and ODM gift industry in the last 30 years, the company generates US$35 million in revenues annually, TAITRA said.
"We're taking this Taiwan brand globally," Franz Collection's Francis Chen said. The brand was born in 2002.
"Yes, we are using the latest technologies to upgrade our product quality but it's really the craftsmanship that goes into every piece that differentiates us from other premium porcelain suppliers."
At a product launch at the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei yesterday, Franz Collection artist Jennifer Hsu painstakingly painted a "Papillon" or butterfly porcelain pot. The entire painting and glazing process could take up to 42 hours, Hsu said.
Carrying a retail price of close to NT$10,000, the exquisite bowls will be packaged with the Lunar New Year takeouts - braised shark's fin soup with Gin Hwa select ham, free-range hen, scallops, and shark's fin - prepared by Grand Formosa Regent Executive Chef Huang Laifa. Only a hundred of those packages, priced at NT$18,000 each, will be sold from December 15 to January 25, 2006. The pick-up date is on January 28, 2006, Lunar New Year's Eve.
"This is the most expensive Lunar New Year takeout in Taiwan history-ons officer Beth Tsai.
A similar package produced last year by the Regent and Franz Collection sold like hotcakes, Chen said.
"This latest 'Papillon' line will be sold worldwide following our Regent campaign," he continued.
Franz Collection's design studio and operations headquarters are based in Taiwan.
Additional sculpting and design centers have been set up in China, Europe, and the U.S., the company said.
One of its most popular items, the Ladybug Design Exquisite Porcelain series, outshone 746 products this year to win one of the only six National Gold Awards of Excellence conferred by TAITRA and the Ministry of Economic Affairs to local manufacturers.
Frederick Rickmann, CEO and design director for Denmark-based Designnord and a member of the judging panel, said, "I think it was very brave of the judges to award porcelain with the gold."
"The company's design process puts Seagull Decor way ahead of other global competitors," Rickmann said.
In 2005, Franz Collection added 70 new pieces in a number of product categories.
Franz products retail from US$12.50 for simple porcelain spoons to US$500 for exquisite vases.