Life stories of embroidery artisans

  1. Mr. Chu Van Luong, Artisan
  2. Duc Vinh private company - a model of household business
  3. Mr. Vu Van Lam - President of the handicraft village association of Van Lam

1. Mr. Chu Van Luong, Artisan

On a fine morning, our group visited Mr. Chu Van Luong, an embroidery artisan of Van Lam Village. Despite the age of 80, he looked healthy and energetic. Ha was hard of hearing but he had a sonorous voice. He had four sons and three daughters. When we asked: "When could you embroider?", he replied: "I knew how to embroider since I was in my mother's womb." His answer revealed that he had the passion inherited from his mother for the embroidery work. He told us there was a time that he embroidered when doing field work. He was the chosen one to embroider the sophisticated patterns on the traditional flags in sacred places like temple and pagoda. Those patterns sometimes were the Ly dynasty dragon which was so difficult to embroider that no one could do it except him.

Moreover, he also embroidered the portray of President Ho Chi Minh. He participated in an embroidery competition in 1937 and won the prize and then was nominated to the position of nineth grade in the French system, as high as the position of a Minister at present. He also participated in the embroidery competition for the Northern part of the country. His works are not only found in Van Lam village but also in many other parts of the countries. His passion for the embroider career somehow is reflected in the parallel sentences in his house:

"My nghe van hoa truyen hau the
Tai hoa Cam Tu nguong tien sinh"

which means

"Art would be descended to the offsprings
Refined talent was inherited from the ancestors"

He was a true embroidery artisan with the real passion. He focused on creating new flower pattern like camelia, daisy and India chrysanthemum etc. with the love for embroidery career not for the financial purposes. Although he was an talented embroidery artisan, he lives a pure and upright life. There are only some simple wooden tables, bed and cabinet in his 25-m2 - brick-roof house. There is no modern furniture or home appliance. Many people wanted to buy his works and were willing to pay at a very high price but he said he would never sell them at any price. He is not only an embroidery talent but also a poet. He wrote:

" Nguoi khong biet co nghe gi
Lang thang khap chon khoe nghe tinh thong"

which means:

"Man cannot know about which career to follow
Wandering around to talk about his understanding"

He always wants to train and pass the embroidery career to his off springs though they are not interested in following his teaching. They said: "Following embroidery career, we cannot support ourselves even for the most simple demand". Mr. Luong is very sad towards the attitude of his off spring and he understands that they cannot live a pure life like the one he used to live in a modern society. We sympathize with him and understand his passion for maintaining the embroidery career through the eyes of sorrow.

Before saying goodbye to us, he shown us some of his book about embroidery in Vietnam and got our signatures in his small memorial book.

2. Duc Vinh private company - a model of household business

Mr. Duc Vinh was born in 1974 and grew up in an embroidery trade village. He got married to a teacher and now they have a 6 year old son. Like other ordinary people in his village, he knew how to embroider since he was a small child. With an idea and business mind, he started his own business by selling high quality embroidery goods produced in his home village to souvenir shops in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.

After studying the history of the embroider trade village, we followed the Head of Ninh Hai Commune to visit Duc Vinh company-a profitable business model in the locality. There are four main employees and all of them are Mr. Vinh's relatives. Seasonal employees would be recruited if they get more orders. Duc Vinh company was established in 2002 though Mr. Vinh and his family follow the embroidery career for quite a long time. Since 1991 he has been the embroidery goods suppliers to the shops of the Old Quarter. Then step by step he expanded to the southern market and sold his home village products to Ho Chi Minh City. With the desire to create more jobs for his village fellows to do in the spare time between crops, he established Duc Vinh Company. Now Duc Vinh is mature and has trade partners in European countries like France and Germany.

Duc Vinh Company is now faced with the shortage of qualified human resource who can work in the import-export field. He added that most of the qualified employers prefer to work in cities rather than in provinces. Now he found it quite difficult to do business with foreign partners as the language for communication is English. This problem somehow constrained his business.

Mr. Vinh explained that there were four reasons for him to establish Duc Vinh company:

  1. His family, siblings, relatives and the neighbours and all the village people are working in embroidery industry.
  2. He was born in an embroidery village, knew how to embroider since he was a small child. And he wanted to follow the embroidery career.
  3. He wanted the outside world know about him and about his village through his enterprise.

Mr. Vinh also has to face with the shortage of capitals, he sent application to many sources but received no reply. He wanted to introduce his products on the website but his knowledge about the IT field was limited. He hoped to have an employee with university degree. The salary offered is around 2 to 5 million per month, but up to now there is no one apply to his company.

Duc Vinh's company is a good model of small business. The owner hopes there will be more projects of the embroidery career maintenance and tourism development for his home village.

3. Mr. Vu Van Lam - president of the handicraft village association of Van Lam

Although Mr. Lam is not considered an artisan of the village, we see his passion for the embroidery profession. Born and growing up in a handicraft trade village, he understands that following the embroidery career is what fate arranged for him. He is the head of a small household workshop. With the love for embroidery career and a creative mind, he invented an embroidery pattern drawing machine. Thanks to his invention, the workers do not have to spend hours to draw thousand points of each pattern on the cloth before embroidering any more. The productivity of this machine is equal to the volume of work that three skilled workers can fulfill in one day. He and other members in the association are thinking about building up a logo for their handicraft village and the brand image for their products to identify their product in the market.