Life - May 28, 2018 | 12:38 am PT

Vietnamese artisan goes big on miniatures

The graphic designer by trade narrows focus for 'pastime' work.

An exhibition of miniatures by a Russian craftsman got Tran Giang Nam hooked to the art in 2005, and he has been pursuing it with undiminished zeal ever since.

Nam has turned a room in his house in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 11 into a private workshop where he demands absolute quiet. "I want my office to be very quiet without any distraction. I don’t even turn on the fan to keep these tiny things from being blown off."

His office is also a museum of miniatures – there are life-sized fire ants, aircraft models, antique scooters and several other works. These super-small models are made of synthetic materials like composite, metal, and fiberglass.

The materials used for making these models are bought at the Nhat Tao electronics market in District 10, the only market for used electronic devices in Saigon.

The patience, meticulousness and dexterity that this work demands have taken his toll. "I constantly suffer from a feeling of tiredness, sore eyes and calloused hands," said the 39-year-old graphic designer.

Among his favorite and heavily-invested miniatures are the fire ants, which took almost three years to finish.

An old bike made of copper and composite materials measures less than a centimeter.

An antique vespa less than one centimeter, crafted with gold, is the apple of his eye.

It took three weeks to make this elaborately detailed 1.5 centimeter sailboat.

Colorful aircraft

Models of the One Pillar Pagoda (R) in Hanoi and the Thien Mu Pagoda in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue, two to three centimeters in size, were shaped with copper.

So far, Nam has a collection of over 300 miniatures, but he is not inclined to make money with them. As he pursues his passion, he does sell some miniatures occasionally to foreign visitors from Europe for a "reasonable price," but "I never consider this a job to earn my living. This is just my pastime."

Thanh Nguyen