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Handmade products highlight declining industries

TAIPEI--A company that specializes in handmade products made with materials from Taiwan's declining industries showcased some unique soaps at the Taiwan International Cultural and Creative Industry Expo yesterday.

Besides soaps, Yuan Workshop Co. Ltd., which has annual sales of over NT$600 million (US$20.5 million), displayed innovative products manufactured from bamboo, wood and cloth — all made in cooperation with people involved in the declining local industries, providing hope and employment for many families.

The entrance to the company's booth was decorated to look like a rocky road to symbolize the efforts and many steps the company took in the past, according to Chiang Jung-yuan, who established the company in 2005.

Chiang said his company, which has stores in Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, makes 80,000 handmade soaps a month.

“Each soap is full of humanity because every hand that shaped one was different,” he said .

“I hope my company will become like Taiwan's Muji one day,” he added, referring to the Japanese retail company that places great emphasis on recycling and avoidance of waste in the production and packaging of a variety of products.

Yuan Workshop, which this year won a Ministry of Culture award for its cultural and creative business, plans to open a store in England in November before penetrating the markets in Switzerland, Finland and Norway in December.

The company's products from body and facial care creams to toothpaste and Chinese teas.

Chen Chi-wei, 23, who came to the expo with her colleague, said in the past she often thought of cultural and creative products as either being overpriced or having cheesy designs, such as a cup printed with a whole painting, for example.

However, she said she was able to find products with affordable prices and beautiful designs.

Mathilde Yang, 65, said she “felt the vitality of Taiwan's young people” at the expo.

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