I’m always interested in products made using traditional craft skills, and recently learned about a small line of handwoven rush grass accessories through my friend Kathy’s blog, Tricky Taipei. The women who weave these products are in their 60’s; I wonder if their children or grandchildren have also acquired these skills or will this be a craft tradition that fades away with the “Grandma” generation?
Fortunately for us, the design firm A.M. Ideas is showing how traditional craft can be paired with products designed for the modern world. Thanks to Kathy Cheng for allowing me to share her original post below.
The Taiwanese Craft of Rush Grass Weaving
My friends Helen Chen and Wanshan Lin run a Taipei-based design studio, A.M. Ideas. In addition to taking freelance product design projects for local clients, they produce a small line of lifestyle products that incorporate the traditional craft of rush grass weaving.
Being an ignoramus, I didn’t know about rush grass weaving until I learned about it from them. It’s an interesting part of Taiwanese craft culture that’s in danger of extinction, so it’s admirable that Helen and Wanshan are shining the spotlight on rush grass weaving through their products. Let’s learn about rush grass weaving, shall we…
What’s rush grass weaving?
The artisanal craft of rush grass weaving was first recorded in Taiwan 300 years ago. It experienced its heyday in the 1930s, during which rush grass products were the third most exported item (after rice and sugar). Most rush grass products were exported to Japan.
Who’s still doing it today?
The lovely little town of Yuan Li (苑里), in the middle of Taiwan, is where the grass is grown and woven. This cultural heritage has been passed down from mothers to daughters through the generations.
Currently there are no machines capable of replicating the sophisticated gestures of a skilled artisan. Today it is processed and woven purely by hand using simple tools — by highly skilled grandmothers — just as it’s always been for 300 years.
What products can be made from rush grass?
Helen and Wanshan’s products use rush grass in clean, modern applications — bringing this old craft into the modern era and introducing it to a new generation. Their line focuses on lifestyle and fashion accessories, plus homewares. You can visit their online store here.
Photo Credit: A.M. Ideas