Vietnam cottage industry designs paths to resilience

By Kieu Anh   November 18, 2020 | 07:45 pm GMT+7
Vietnam cottage industry designs paths to resilience
Workers make pottery products at a workshop in Bat Trang Ceramic Village in Hanoi. Photo by Shutterstock/thinh_TV.
Traditional craft villages are fighting to revitalize their business by developing new designs from traditional motifs and becoming part of the circular economy.

At a workshop on "Recycling Design and Craftsmanship" recently held in Hanoi, Nguyen Van Loi, a craftsman from the Bat Trang Ceramic Village in Hanoi, said he has always been longing to revive traditional motifs.

For instance, he has revived an old floral print by adding more patterns to it. "You can see this is an innovative floral design which virtually did not exist in the 14th-16th century. We like to spice up our decoration so that it has a trendy appearance for export," he said.

Le Ba Ngoc, Chairman of the Vietnam Handicraft Exporter Association (Vietcraft), said he has also experimented with several new ideas. For instance, he has collaborated with other craftsmen to create a combination of blown glass and rattan.

Ngoc said modern product design has acquired paramount importance now. "For handicrafts, in the past, it was all about who could offer the lowest deal. At present, it is a matter of quality and in the future, it’s going to be a game of novelty value. And that heart of that resides in product design."

Christian De Ruty, owner of craft jewelry and home decorations brand Hanoia, emphasized the close relationship between sales and design departments. "The duty of a store manager is to keenly observe and analyze trends and figure out appropriate prices, and present these in detail to designers."

Made from waste

Architect Pham Thanh Huy expressed his "overwhelming joy" over the space devoted to products completely by his brand, 282 Design.

Nothing is wasted, old concepts are being revived and there is a surge in creativity, he said.

For 282 Design, "all the materials that get discarded are in our good hands, even wood. A three-layer flooring only consists of solid wood from small trees on the top. The part under is made of wood shavings", said architect Huy. He said his establishment can be a workshop for everybody, especially students, to learn about recycling in carpentry.

Designer Vu Thao also expressed deep concern about huge fabric waste in the textiles industry. "The fashion industry is a highly wasteful one, with 15-30 percent of fabric being offcuts. Therefore, many fashion designers are thinking of collecting those from factories to recycle in creating new outfits.

"If we do nothing about it, textile waste and chemicals will pile up in no time and be a big culprit for our air pollution and water contamination,"she said.

The Vietnam Association of Craft Villages counts more than 5,000 craft villages in the country with various skills producing a wide range of products including bamboo and rattan weaving, ceramics, wood sculpting, lacquering, embroidery and metal work.

In 2019, the export turnover of Vietnam handcraft products reached $2.35 billion, led by ceramics with $539 million, and bamboo and rattan products with $484 million, according to the General Department of Vietnam Customs.

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