Pocket Trumpets and Chicken-Feather Dusters

Innovations Shake Up Traditional Craft Industries

2019 / February

Esther Tseng /photos courtesy of Lin Min-hsuan /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

Should traditional crafts, crystallizations of our ancestors’ wisdom and technical mastery, be expected to die out as times change? Are they so easily replaced by the fresh and newfangled?

To promote brass instruments in Taiwan, Carol Brass (Hoxon Gakki Corporation) has shown great creativity in developing and marketing “mini pocket trumpets” and horns that amplify cell phone speakers. Their inventions have served to lengthen the reach of music. The designer Jiang Wen Zhong, meanwhile, has reduced the size of the traditional feather duster and added innovations to create a cleaning product that has found its therapeutic place on the desks of working professionals. Through their innovations, both are creatively working to extend the futures of traditional handicrafts.

In the film Brassed Off, members of a British colliery brass band are despondent as local mines close. Their fighting spirit and hopes rejuvenate when a woman cornet player joins their group. It’s moving film. In particular, the touching melody of the flugelhorn solo in “Concierto de Aranjuez” revives the players’ hopes and prompts audiences to ponder the deep mysteries evoked by brass instruments.

First experience with horns

Upon arriving at the Carol Brass Tourism Factory in Chiayi’s Dapumei Industrial Park, one’s ears are flooded by a steady stream of children’s laughter. “Ha, ha, ha! It’s so much fun!” When children blow into a trumpet and hear it sound for the first time, they can’t help but laugh out loud. Music teacher Wang Man Chu instructs and encourages them: “Shape your lips like an M: Imagine there’s a fish bone on the tip of your tongue and you need to blow it out to create a sound.” When she blows out a melody, the students gather round and exclaim, “Wow!” Experiencing the clear bright highs of a brass instrument is truly uplifting.

Customization and global marketing

The Carol Brass Tourism Factory was opened in 2015 by an established company with 30 years of experience making trumpets. For many visitors in their fifties and sixties, holding a trumpet and making a note with it for the first time realizes an unfulfilled musical dream from their childhoods.

In 1989, Carl K.A. Lee founded the company as an OEM producing horns—trumpets, trombones, flugelhorns and cornets—for foreign manufacturers. Although their quality was on par with large manufacturers, the profits were mostly taken by the trading company agents. In 2002 Lee decided to create his own brand—Carol—and to travel himself to trade fairs for orders. Then in 2011 the company redefined itself as Carol Brass.

In order to compete with major global manufacturers, Carol Brass has followed a strategy of emphasizing customization, allowing customers to make specifications about materials, mouthpieces, instrument bodies and even the thickness of the horn walls. 

With nimble production lines that allow the company to produce small quantities with great variety, Carol Brass is one of the few instrument manufacturers in Taiwan that handles the entire production process itself—from parts manufacture, to assembly, to marketing. A trumpet has more than 100 parts, requiring 240 standardized production processes. Through their precise designs and solder joints, the company’s engineers are able to create stably tuned instruments with beautiful color. 

Shrinking trumpets, amplifying sound

Carol Brass sells its products to more than 30 countries around the world, including the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. But it was always a regret of Lee’s that the number of Taiwanese buying Carol Brass instruments remained low. Consequently, he decided to open the tourism factory, giving more people an introduction to the company. Many of them walk away with merchandise related to brass instruments.

In order to increase the number of Taiwanese learning to play brass instruments, Lee thought long and hard and decided to work toward lowering the age required to learn these instruments. In 1998, Carol Brass specially released a special pocket trumpet for professional players that is about half the size of a regular trumpet, making it easy for musicians to carry a practice instrument with them when they travel. It is likewise well suited for lessons. Carol Brass then decided to “cause more trouble” by shrinking the trumpet still further. Such was the birth of the “mini pocket trumpet.”

“Mainly it was a matter of changing how the tubing was wound, such that the instrument is only about a third of the size of a typical trumpet and weighs 800 grams less.” They started with 3D modeling on a computer, explains Lee. They then went on to manufacture test models and make adjustments. The mini pocket trumpet has been patented in four places, including the United States and the EU. Whereas children previously couldn’t start practicing the trumpet until they were in third or fourth grade, now, thanks to the instrument’s smaller size, they can start learning it in their second year of nursery school.

Great things do indeed sometimes come in small packages, and Carol Brass’s “mini” instruments have won OTOP product design awards from the Ministry of Economic Affairs for three years running. That’s a rare feat indeed.

Rebirth of old crafts via design

Designer Jiang Wen Zhong is also creatively bringing new vitality to traditional crafts with his chicken-­feather dusters and stands. Founder of the Hands craft studio, Jiang took the feather duster—a largely forgotten household item—and breathed new life into it by reducing it in size and turning it into a fluffy “healing utensil” that is installed in desktop stands and used for cleaning keyboards and wooden furniture.

The lead designer of Hands’ “Lucky Chicken” feather dusters, Jiang recalls attending a photographic exhibition and being moved by a photo of the master feather duster maker Chen Zhonglu in Changhua’s Puyan Township, together with his products. The sight of this nearly extinct household cleaning item brought back memories of childhood, when his grandmother would beat him with one. Later, when Jiang began to think about making culturally creative products, feather dusters once again floated into his mind. 

Jiang first looked for suitably grained and textured wood. Choosing beech and teak, he redesigned feather dusters’ handles, emphasizing comfortable holds. Then he reduced their size, choosing suitable feathers from hens’ bellies to create small “chickens.” Suited to dusting computer screens and keyboards, these fluffy little birds have given an old craft product a new lease on life.

To make the dusters easy to store, Jiang matches these “Lucky Chickens” with ceramic stands made by craftsmen in Yingge. Dusters matched with stands featuring gold inlaid beaks are known as “Gold Beaked Lucky Chickens.” These creative names put a fun spin on household items. In 2018 Hands’ Lucky Chickens won a Golden Pin Design Award.

Jiang persuaded Chen Zhonglu to make the feather dusters he had designed. Now, not even two years later, Chen has taken orders for more than 4000 of them, which are sold at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park and branches of Maji Food & Deli.

Applying design to bring a traditional handicraft back into our daily lives, Jiang says: “I have a long-term dream of bringing together traditional Taiwan crafts and resources in a manner akin to the Japanese retailer Muji, but featuring products that reflect Taiwan’s own unique lifestyle.”

His remark brings to mind a passage from “Records from Examination of Craftsmanship” in The Rites of Zhou: “Those with knowledge create. Those with skilled hands preserve those traditions. That is what we call craftsmanship.” Using design to give new life to a traditional craft is like blowing out a tune on a mini trumpet to herald a new direction for an industry, or dusting off a traditional handicraft with a chicken-feather duster to welcome a new spring.             

Relevant articles

Recent Articles

日本語 繁體



文・曾蘭淑 写真・林旻萱 翻訳・松本 幸子




























文‧曾蘭淑 圖‧林旻萱



電影《奏出新希望》(Brassed Off)裡的英國業餘銅管樂手們,在面臨礦區即將倒閉及人生失意的危機裡,因為一名女性短號手的加入,而重新燃起希望與鬥志的劇情,令人為之動容。尤其是女主角以富魯格號獨奏《阿蘭費茲協奏曲》,以動人心弦的弦律,重新挑起樂團成員對生命的盼望,令人想一探銅管樂器的奧秘。









也因為生產線靈活,能夠做到少量多樣,賀聲樂器是台灣少數從生產零件、組裝到品牌行銷,全數自己來的銅管樂器工廠。以小號為例,小號有一百多個零件,240道標準製程,設計工程師透過精巧的設計與準確的焊接點,維持管樂音色的柔美與音準的穩定度。國內外知名的樂手,例如曾獲葛萊美音樂獎的加拿大籍樂手Terry Townson,以及哥倫比亞的樂手Nelson Gómez,在YouTube的點擊率達到一百七十多萬次,他手上拿的就是賀聲的小號。



















X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!