Transformation By the "Angel Wings"-Sunrise Driftwood Workshop
On social media, you can see friends posting pictures of Taitung Duoliang Station from time to time. The photo shows a person standing in front of a 3-meter wide, sliver chased “Angel Wings” artwork, alongside with "Taitung Blue" sea. To find the "Angel Wings", you just walk 300 meters down the slope from the station, and you will find it at Sunrise Driftwood Workshop Base.
Why is there has a Driftwood Workshop alongside the huge sea? After Typhoon Morakot in 2009, Professor Tseng Ching-hsien from Tsinghua Network Cultural and Educational Foundation initiated the Workshop. Prof. Tseng called from all sectors of the society to build the factory and equipment, Chairman Lee Yi-fa of CHANT Oil Co. Ltd. Provided the funds, and asked Cheng Han-wen, the Chairman of Taitung Original-Love Workshop Association and the current Principal of Wan-an Elementary School in Chishang Township, to in charge of the implementation of the Workshop. The former President of Catholic St. Joseph Technical High School, Hung Ching-tai, called on the teachers and students from the High School to assist in teaching, research, and development, and the current Advisor of the Workshop, Professor Hung Chun-chieh is one of them. With those excellent talents and resources, Sunrise Driftwood Workshop was born in August 2010.
Established To Assist the Tribesmen Employ in Their Hometown
The goal of establishing the Driftwood Workshop is to practice “leave the employment opportunities in the rural”. Over the past 8 years, with the support of Empowering Employment Program (EEP) of the Ministry of Labor, the Workshop has been able to recruit wood masters and employees. With the resources of the Forestry Bureau, the Workshop firms the capability step by step on the cape side.
Duoliang Village belongs to the Calavig Tribe of the Paiwan people, who mainly grow ginger, millet, pumpkin, and other crops. Due to there are not many job opportunities, most tribesmen have to leave their hometown to work. Now with the Driftwood Workshop, the tribesmen have an option to return to their hometown, have a job, learn a specialty, and receive a basic salary. Which has attracted many tribesmen to work in their hometown. In the past 10 years, many of the trainees have developed a skill and opened their own workshops to create their own craftworks and sell them at the cultural and creative market in Taitung.
After the Workshop was launched, with the popularity of Duoliang Village increasing, the Driftwood Workshop continue to establish a Food Workshop. The Food Workshop provides Calavig Flavored Meal, it sets up “Adidan Cultural Museum” (Adidan means “Friend of Land” in Paiwan) on the first floor. In addition to introducing local culture, the Food Workshop also sells coffee and woodworking works, including tabletop “Angel Wings” generation I and II, plates, wooden salad plates, trays, coasters, blocks, etc. It also offers guided tours and woodworking experience courses as products, and those are supported by the Empowering Employment Program (EEP).
The Influence is Like a Local Economic Locomotive
There are mostly male masters in the Driftwood Workshop and female masters in Food Workshop. In the past 3 to 4 years before the COVID-19 epidemic, the two Workshops grow together. Through the renovation of Duoliang Station, more and more visitors were attracted to the Station. The employees were happily busy working and have some operation profits left to the Elderly Meal Delivery Service. Some of the employees have learned skills at the Food Workshop and after they left the Workshop, they opened food booths inside the Train Station as an owner, creating local business opportunities together. In a small village with only a hundred villagers, the Sunrise Driftwood Workshop can be viewed as a local economic locomotive.
Over the years, Sunrise Driftwood Workshop has assisted more than 20 tribesmen to learn or improve their woodworking skills, and their confidence is naturally boosted when their works sold out. Two of the trainees have been awarded the Honorable Mention of Cultural and Creative Design Award, Mr. Yang Wei-lun is one of them, who is also a hearing-impaired person and has excellent wire cutting skills. Two trainees have become woodworking instructors at Bin-mao Junior High School in Taimali Township, and two employees of the Food Workshop have obtained Level C Technician for Chinese Culinary.
There are still 5 people who have become seed workers and continue to serve the tribe to promote woodworking skills. In 2019, to make the Driftwood Workshop and the Fabric Workshop financially independent, the successor Mr. Chuang Wen-yi has applied the establishment of the Taitung Aboriginal Township Angel Cultural and Creative Association so that the two workshops can strive more resources to the rural villages.
Mr. Chuang is a public art creator and community Building planner, the “Angel Wings” artwork is from him. He also teaches in the Department of Industrial Design at Taipei University of Technology and has invited his students to Duoliang work as interns for many years. They transformed the abandoned classroom of Duoliang Elementary School into a Paiwan-style Driftwood Workshop.
Takes 3 years To Train a Woodworker but Difficult to Retain Because of Low Salary
In fact, the Driftwood Workshop has been operating in a difficult situation. For example, the logistics costs are particularly high since the Workshop is far from the city. A large table can cost NT$5,000 in shipping, which takes most of the profits. However, if the shipping cost is borne by the customer, the price is not competitive.
The bigger challenge is in the woodworker training. Mr. Chung said It takes 3 years to train a woodworker, however, some of the new trainees were lack competition or did not suitable in the job market. For example, they could be lack of motivation to work, alcoholism, or have a physical weakness. There had about 20 trainees fail in the halfway of the training. The population of Taitung is small and the number of young people who are willing to stay in a rural village is even smaller, which results in a high turnover of employees lost and the unstable quality and quantity of the manpower.
Another challenge is the large difference between the basic salary offered by the Workshop and the Woodworking Market, so the successful woodworks turn to work in general wood factories or start their own business.
"But we are optimistic." Mr. Chuang still looks at it positively. Because the original purpose of establishing the Driftwood Workshop was to enable the tribesmen to start their own business and to live self-sufficiently and with dignity.
Transformed To Be Self-reliance and Expanse the Business Ambition
According to the March 2021 Taiwan Indigenous household registration data, 45.94% of the indigenous people over the age of 15 are registered in non-indigenous areas. This reflects the long period of lacking job opportunities for the rural tribes in Taiwan, resulting in the majority of young people leaving to work or even leaving their hometown permanently. Some of the tribesmen are unable to work due to personal problems, family factors, or are alcoholics due to various unsatisfactory living conditions to become a burden to their communities and families. It might bring “Negative” values to society.
But a crisis can sometimes be an opportunity for change. Mr. Chuang use the opportunity to adjust the business models of the Driftwood Workshop. While thinking about the transformation of the Workshop, he also organizes exhibitions actively for future development. “Although the Association is a social enterprise and earning profits is not the main goal, but it cannot sustainably operate without business strategy”.
Mr. Chuang pointed out that the Driftwood Workshop has transformed twice and now is in the third stage. The first stage was using driftwoods to make rough-shaped furniture or products, laying the foundation for the Workshop. In the second stage, the Workshop began to produce more sophisticated wooden plates, coasters, and other daily necessities to develop local cultural tourism to be self-sufficient.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Driftwood Workshop has been transformed into the third stage, focusing on the 3 key points:
1. Positioned as a refined wood workshop, began to make tables and chairs, the large furniture, to enter to the small amount and various types medium to higher price market, or accepting customer orders.
2. Go out of the studio to undertake interior carpentry, decoration, or public art projects.
3. The aim is to become the woodworking promotion and exchange center of talents and design information in eastern Taiwan.
“The service targets in the future are not only the nearby villages of Duoliang but also think a bigger business ambition for the Workshop's future.” Despite the financial pressure of the Workshop in front of him, Mr. Chuang still carries it on determined and not forgetting its original goal: To serve more Taitung tribesmen settle down in their hometown so that they can have more self-confidence and discover the characteristics here.
Lile a bear hawk flapping its “Angel Wings”, Taitung Indigenous Township Angel Cultural and Creative Association takes Sunrise Driftwood Workshop off with a clear goal, facing the rising east and setting off again.
TaitungIndigenous Township Angel Cultural and Creative Association Facebook Page: Indigenous Township Angel Cultural and Creative Association 原鄉天使文創協會.
▲Sunrise Driftwood Workshop has undertaken Public Art Projects in recent years. The Forest Game Marble Wall at Jhihben Nature Center is full of creativity and fun.
▲The large fine furniture is one of the key transformation points of Sunrise Driftwood Workshop.
▲The goal of establishing the Driftwood Workshop is to enable the locals to learn a skill and keep the employment opportunities in their hometown.
▲The front courtyard of Sunrise Driftwood Workshop is the best place to see the sea, which attracts visitors lingering.
▲Chairman Chuang Wen-yi and the two generations of "Angel Wings" he created are the most beautiful scenery on the table. [Picture Provide: Taitung Indigenous Township Angel Cultural and Creative Association (Sunrise Driftwood Workshop)]
Case story: Multi-Employment Promotion and Empowering Employment Program
Interviewee: Taitung Indigenous Township Angel Cultural and Creative Association (Sunrise Driftwood Workshop)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please attribute this article to “Workforce Development Agency, Ministry of Labor.”