As a rush craftsman who embraced wicker weaving, Chang Hsien-ping is a leading artisan who has refined Taiwan's wicker crafts by using bamboo to create unconventional woven vessels. Chang's works have been collected by the National Palace Museum and featured at overseas museums. In his 70s now, Chang was awarded the 11th National Crafts Achievement Award in 2017.
Born to a family of rush weavers, Chang's family has been in the crafts business since his grandfather's generation. Chang inherited the business when he was 26, and changed the company's target audience to Japanese buyers due to declining domestic demand.
In 1973, Chang was commissioned by a Japanese client to search for wicker lampshade suppliers in Taiwan. When he couldn't find one that met the client's requirements, Chang decided to develop wicker products woven from bamboo by himself.
Chang spent two years acquiring traditional folk techniques of bamboo-weaving and gained a deeper understanding of the nature of such material. He then experimented and improved the functions of the machine used for splitting bamboo to enhance efficiency and material quality.
As a self-trained craftsman, Chang adapted techniques he has learned into wicker designs to create diverse patterns. Using locally grown giant timber bamboo from Miaoli and Hsinchu that has fine texture and flexibility, Chang incorporates rattan to decorate his finished wicker products.
Seeking to create crafts that are exquisite, firm, light in weight, and yet solid, Chang deftly utilizes the nature of bamboo and rattan in his creations. Also, Chang takes notes from nature - such as flowers, birds, and trees he observes in everyday life - as sources of inspiration.
Knowing first handedly of the difficulties of self-training and the adverse impact of technology, Chang began holding lessons and forums across Taiwan to pass down traditional craft techniques and cultivate craft talent since 1984. Moreover, he offered guidance to aboriginal communities to help improve their livelihoods through selling woven bamboo or rattan products.
Chang notes that creativity is the key to preserving and passing down such cultural heritage, and as a mentor he encourages students to think outside the box and create unique and innovative pieces. Chang's ultimate hope is to inspire more people to engage in and spread the knowledge of traditional Taiwanese crafts.