So, you probably didn't know that Taiwan has a marble/stone industry. Well, neither did we. But that's the best part about rediscovery. At the Hualien International Stone Workshop Exhibition, not only were we surprised by the large amount of modern interpretations of marble designs - altogether 15 designers & brands resulting in over 20 pieces - but also the variety in the final results, ranging from furniture to kitchen ware and home accessories.
Held last summer over six days, the sophomore Hualien International Stone Workshop's main focus was to have a dialogue between stone design, connection between design and industry and market value. Hence, it has illuminated local designers & brands to the future of Taiwan's stone industry by stirring away from the stereotypical usage of building construction and artistic sculpture.
Workshop lecturer Moreno Ratti made a video appearance, together with Shikai Tseng.
As a matter of fact, the quality of Hualien's stone can even rival to the most famous Carrara marble of Italy, hinted by one of the workshop's lecturers, Italian marble designer Moreno Ratti. With experience and knowledge of marbles around the world, Ratti was the perfect person to challenge participants to have a more of hands-on approach to the materials rather than just imaging it via sketches or drawing.
Also, by designating six local stone factory to guide the production process, local designer and curator of the exhibition, Shikai Tseng hoped to create a 'Hualien stone industry' brand that's clearly lacking in Taiwan. "The establishment of a brand does not meant to be just establishing a company, create a logo and sell, sell, sell. On the contrary, an image of 'Hualien has a strong stone industry' must come first before we can start the commercailization process, wherether it is locally or globally," he explained.
At the inauguration of the exhibition held in Song Shan's transpark gallery, we talked more to Shikai about his involvement with the project and its future.
How did your involvement with this workshop come about?
The workshop was founded in 2016 by SRDC (Stone & Resource Industry R&D Center) and a young design documentary studio - Blancor, and one of the co-founders from Blancor is my senior from college. I was fascinated by the project and tended to join the program as a designer. But in the end, I have to take a rain check since I was invited to curate and in charge of the Taiwan Pavillion of London Design Biennale.
At the beginning of 2017, I received an email from SRDC. They would like to talk about the workshop of 2017 since Blancor was disbanded. I saw the potential of the stone industry in Taiwan, and think it's worthy to be polished and presented to the world. So I was honoured to be appointed as the person to do it, together with wonderful partners and teams.
Why is Moreno the best man for this teaching opportunity?
Moreno has been the mentor since last year. There are very very few designers that ONLY focus on one material and Moreno is one of them, not to mention he's from Carrara as well. So he has seen the problems of the marble industry there, and many of them also happened here in Taiwan. I admire his devotion in trying to save the industry in Carrara with designs.
Touch Marble by AND WE: A collection of dimmable Lighting pieces, works as a tray for rest your personal belongings.
Switch Table Lamp by Pistacchi Design: By rotating the mushroom-like top part, the lights lit
up and revealed its function.
Sometimes, design workshops might not yield any significant results. Were you worried about that?
To be honest, I'm really worried about it. (Laughs) Our initial plan for this workshop is to have it be a platform to bridge the gap between local stone manufacturers with other Taiwanese brands. We also would like to push it to the international level in the future. To achieve that, we do need some good results from the workshop, and all the participants understand it. I believed we are all in the same direction.
Moreno and I are experienced in creating good works, but the invited brands, in particular, do know their customers and market. What we did in the workshop was tried to help them with their designs but at the same time figure out their manufacturability. Well, sometimes we also shared a little advise too.
If you were to choose, which design(s) presented excites you the most?
I do love ChiHong's Stand by me. It's a brilliant side table with really neat looking form. Marble played a key role in his work, and the proportion of its volume and weight balanced out the rest of the parts.
I also love Wuba Yong's Aroma Stone from JIA. She used the offcut stone which was useless initially and turned it into adorable caps for essential oil bottle. The gentle concave in matte finish allowed the marble to absorb and diffuse the aroma of the essential oil. I think it's going to be a hit piece!
Stand By Me Table by ChiHong: marble used as a supportive element for a table.
Day & Night #10 Vase by Gallery Chuan (L) transformed iconic artworks of CHEN Ting-Shih into artistic home accessories, Primitive Tray by Kuan-Hsueh Huang for TOAST (R) used rush texture to brings the nature of marble to home.
What's the biggest advantage of Hualien's marble compared with Italian Carrara? And how can Taiwan designers take advantage of this?
Well, we both have white marble, but Hualien also has serpentine (i.e. stone with greenish, brownish, or spotted minerals) which Carrara doesn't (but in other provinces in Italy).
Also, I would say it's the cost. Not only Hualien has its mining area (hence low transportation cost), but production is also quite efficient. From Moreno's own words, the manufacturers here have more flexibilities and willing to try new things. In Italy, the same work would probably take you a month, but only a week in Taiwan, which is really amazing.
I also believe that we should consume products from nearby areas. It's more eco-friendly and cost-friendly. Hualien has the potential to become the stone manufacturing centre in East Asia, but it hasn't realised it yet!
Marble Weaving Tables by Pili Wu & Chiu Yen: A series of low tables made of off-cut materials from normal stone processes.
Lastly, what hopes do you have for this workshop/exhibition?
Again, the goal of this workshop is creating a platform reintroduce Hualien's stone industry to the world. To achieve that, we still have a long way to go. But I truly hope the works created will be successful in the market. Only with that results can this project be sustainable and beneficial to the Hualien stone industry. Also only then we can start our phase 2.
Hualien International Stone Workshop Exhibition is on show now at Taipei's Transpark Gallery until 5th November.
More info visit here.
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
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