The exhibition (held June 29 to July 4) featured furniture, tableware and stationery inspired by Taiwanese tradition and past memories, without a motherboard or semiconductor in sight.

Jerry CY Lu’s simple and modern vases, which feature typically Chinese bamboo, are an example. “When I saw many Chinese-style designs at an exhibition in Frankfurt a few years ago, I thought we should do it ourselves,” he said.

Lu’s other designs include a set of coffee cups and saucers in three different sizes – for espresso, cappuccino and latte – in the shape of a comma. “A comma signifies a break in a sentence,” he explained. “These cups remind us to take a break and have a coffee.” The tail of the comma forms the handle of the cup, which is designed for both right and left-handers.

Simple but stylish lines are also visible in a set of three differently shaped plates, called Petals. The idea for these struck Lu when he was at a coffee shop and saw a rose petal floating on water. “You can pile them up any way you want, so they take a different form each time,” he said.

Lu finds design ideas in his daily life, from things around him and from his memories. He says he likes to share his experiences with customers through design.

For example, Lu’s soap dish and toothbrush stand, reminiscent of different shaped stones, were inspired by childhood memories. “I used to play with stones in the river near my house,” he recalled.

Many other designers were also inspired by personal memories, especially those with work in the Bench collection, one of the thematic exhibitions. It included modern reworkings of traditional Chinese benches, from thirty-five designers.

The bench is an icon of Chinese culture, according to Jabez Lin, one of the coordinators of the collection and senior designer at ndd design group.

“Although we don’t see many of the old benches any more, we all still remember what they were like,” he said. “One designer, Liu Ying-lung, created a bench with wheels, because he remembered doing his homework on a bench in a courtyard as a child and carrying the bench around to stay in the shade.”

Although it has a modern look, a bench designed by Chen Yen-hao was also inspired by the past. “In the old days, farmers would sit on benches to take a break from work or to chat with their neighbours,” said Chen. “They also used the space under the bench to store things. That’s where I got the idea from.”

Chen’s bench uses a plastic box for storage underneath a solid wooden board, which doubles as the lid of the box and a place to sit. The plastic box also features diagonal lines referencing the shape of traditional bench legs. “I wanted my product to be something that brings back old memories,” said Chen.

Another bench had its seat and arms covered in cloth featuring traditional Taiwanese designs. The bright floral motifs have recently been making a come back with well-known artists such as Michael Lin.

The designer of the bench, Yang Ya-ping, said she used the cloth as a symbol of Taiwanese culture, recalling how it was used in days gone by. The bright, ‘Taiwan red’ colour of the cloth is considered auspicious, and traditionally was used for presents at weddings and births.

Influences from Taiwanese culture were seen in many of the products at the exhibition. Aside from the traditional benches, there was also an exhibition of Chinese paper cutting and a section with products made from loofah, a local vegetable.

“We wanted to give young designers a chance to explore not only materials from within their own generation, but to also find things from history, to find something that’s inside themselves, because that’s what differentiates us from other designers in the global market,” said Lin, one of the event coordinators.

It was Hsu Yulin, event coordinator and associate manager of the MID industrial design department at ASUS, who first thought of an exhibition of loofah products. Loofah is a common vegetable used in local dishes, and in its dried form is used in many other ways, including for sponges.

“The project was about letting designers be inspired,” said Hsu. “We weren't too worried about the finished product.”

“It was all about trying,” said Jason Lau, who designed a curtain using dried loofah. “We were given this raw material, and I tried putting it in water to make it soft, bending it in different shapes and slicing it into pieces.

"After doing that, it looked like silk, and each piece was actually quite different. Then, I found out that light could pass through it. So I put the pieces together and they formed an interesting pattern.”

Trying something new was exactly the aim of Taiwan’s first Designers’ Week. “Many Taiwanese designers working with big manufacturers would like to design something original but have little chance to express themselves,” said Lin. “That’s why we had this event – to see what happens when we get rid of the limits put on designers.”

This was the reason why the designers’ names, but not the names of the companies they work for, were disclosed at the exhibition, Hsu explained.

And the outcome? Lin was quick to reply: “It was impressive.”  

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