“We want to thank Leo for saying yes to so many things. Even he tried to say no, we didn’t want to listen to him so we just forced him to say yes. In the end, he did it and it’s beautiful.” ── Tanoti Crafts
“I want to build a young team, to pass down the cultural heritages of Kakawasan, just like Tanoti Crafts. I feel that they also have great traditions, yet they combine those with modern elements. This is one of our goals.”—Leo, artisan at Kakawasan
Designer and Craft Community
The weaver artisans of Tanoti specialize in songket or supplementary weft weaving. This boutique atelier, under founder and director, Jacqueline Fong, and designer, Ong Wan Fen, has pushed the boundaries in this craft, taking the textile beyond its use in just garments to home décor and artwork, whilst also experimenting with other materials such as leather and rattan. Tanoti has also brought the art of weaving into the art itself, featuring weavers in art installations and creating music from the sounds of weaving instruments. Tanoti’s work has further expanded beyond its weaving studio into the rainforests of Borneo, working with Penan communities renowned for their rattan crafts, connecting these indigenous artisans to the wider world, and bringing their skills into our contemporary lifestyles.
Located in the Taitung, Kakawasan is called by local Amis indigenous people, which means the place where holy and ancestral spirits gathered. Although it is under the jurisdiction of Taitung City, Kakawasan is harmonious and peaceful, it has a natural environment of mountains, rivers, and the seaside, as well as the lovely residents. It still retains the natural and simple scenery, as well as the warm and kind residents, as the proximity to the Zhi-Hang Military Air Base restricts the city’s development. Although the village has been moved several times in the past century, the optimistic villagers believe that the culture will be passed on as long as there are ancestral spirits in their hearts, the village will not be extinguished as long as the villagers are still united together. The people of Kakawasan are actively preserving the traditional Amis woodcraft and the shell ginger weaving, collecting the tribal memories and cultural lineage which bridge them from the past into the future.
In addition to coordinating the cooperation with the Penan community, Tanoti Crafts also has its own design team. Design Director Wan Fen, after gaining some basic knowledge on shell ginger leaves used by Kakawasan, decided to emphasize the material’s fragrant characteristic to make two hanging lights, so that the warmth of the lightbulb would enhance the fragrance, dispersing refreshing scent throughout the space.
Partnering artisan Leo is one of a few young people who have returned to work in tribal villages; a frank and straightforward guy, Leo was not originally from this village; he discovered his interest in shell ginger weaving on a part-time job during one summer break, and decided to come to the village to learn the craft after graduation, hoping to contribute to the passing down of cultural heritages. Compared to the more skilful senior artisans, Tanoti Crafts’ proposed designs were way too difficult for a “rookie” like Leo; he constantly said: “It’s too hard, I can’t do it!” Yet, with Wan Fen constantly encouraging him, Leo achieved everything he was asked to do.
FIBER CO-CREATED PRODUCTS
From learning the fragrance of shell ginger to making two large lights that disperse the fragrance. The first hanging light designed by Tanoti Crafts is in the shape of an infinity loop. With a total length of over 4 meters, the piece of woven shell ginger features small holes at the center created by the “tian” technique, through which light can shine through; on the edge, the weaving becomes finer and more delicate, posing a great challenge to the crafter, but Leo completed this demanding task in about a month. Another work is a lantern-shaped hanging light, and the openwork at the center is embedded with the signature rose weaving of Kakawasan. From every flower, every knot, to finishing up, the light is completely handmade.
Striving to create a wonderful and warm living environment, Tanoti Crafts hopes that these two lights can be placed in living rooms, becoming the warmest existences. The large sizes also expand the possibilities of these lights, as they can be placed in department stores or hotel lobbies to simultaneously disperse fragrance and create a warm ambience.
Hi! I am design Ong Wan Fen!
Hi! I am Leo, artisan at Kakawasan!