With unwavering determination at the age of 63, Viet has devoted her life to the art of flower embalming in the north-central region of Thanh Hoa Province.
The woman skillfully preserves and embalms flowers with precision, ensuring their longevity as exquisite works of art.
Viet has dedicated the past decade to honing her skills, relying solely on her perseverance and trial-and-error approach to master her craft.
In her home, nestled in Trung Thanh Commune, Nong Cong District, the woman now operates a workshop. Here, she and her skilled staff painstakingly create and market their exquisite ‘eternal’ flowers.
Flowers undergo a meticulous preservation process known as embalming, where individual components such as leaves, stems, and petals are immersed in chemicals for an extended period before being subjected to heat treatment. This method ensures that the blossoms maintain their vibrant hues for an impressive duration of 15-20 years.
The ‘eternal’ flowers, artfully displayed in elegant boxes or vases, are an exceptional choice for gifting, and their popularity continues to grow.
Viet has always been intrigued by flower embalming, a craft that has been popular in other countries for years. When she first discovered it in the early 2000s, she saw it as an unexplored field that she felt drawn to.
Dream Blossoms to Reality
In 2001, Viet departed from her impoverished neighborhood and ventured to Thailand. There, she sought day labor as a means to alleviate her family’s financial burdens caused by the failure of their farming enterprise.
After initially working as a factory worker, she transitioned into roles as a domestic helper and babysitter for Thai couples residing in Phuket.
Viet made the decision to venture into the flower embalming industry while providing services for a young businesswoman and her husband.
She fondly reminisced about a fortuitous meeting, she recalled.
After the toddlers she had been caring for started kindergarten, she found herself with extra time on her hands. She suggested to her employer, a young Thai woman, that they collaborate on a project to make use of this newfound free time.
The Thai entrepreneur, who also operated her own business, discovered the art of flower embalming through media sources.
Viet and her employer were new to the trade of preserving blossoms, which originated in Japan and was still relatively unknown in Thailand at the time. As they were both beginners, it took Vietnam some time to master the art of preserving blossoms.
She initially conducted trials with roses, however, encountered repeated failures resulting in petal decay or the failure to attain the desired color tone.
After numerous attempts, the duo finally achieved success in their endeavor to preserve the flowers.
Viet faced the subsequent task of arranging the meticulously processed flowers in elegant glass vases. She faced this challenge with determination, analyzing the reasons for previous failures and resolving to avoid repeating them.
“We collaborated to develop a method for preserving flower petals, ensuring their long-lasting freshness. Our goal was to transform these preserved petals into visually captivating objects that would captivate our clients.”
Viet prepared the flowers with meticulous preservation and artful arrangement, fully primed to create stunning artworks that would captivate Thai enthusiasts.
The Vietnamese woman stated that being an entrepreneur herself, she has the ability to help her employer find suitable markets for the innovative products throughout Thailand.
As the business experienced rapid growth, Viet’s employer decided to expand their workforce by hiring approximately 10 female workers who are all of Vietnamese nationality. Viet made this hiring decision to accommodate the increasing demand for their services.
After a successful five-year stint in Thailand, Viet made the difficult decision to leave her job and return to her home country. Despite her employer’s request for her to remain and continue caring for her children and managing the flourishing flower embalming workshop, Viet decided it was time to move on.
Before transferring ownership, she diligently ensured that the business was entrusted to an individual who possessed the capabilities and determination to elevate it to new heights of triumph.
Viet has made multiple visits to her former employer for consultation whenever difficulties arise.
Empowering women to take control of their careers
In 2005, Viet returned to her hometown in Thanh Hoa Province, with a determination to fully utilize her newly-acquired craft and achieve great success.
|Le Thi Viet (center) has passed on her flower embalming skills and provided jobs for local residents in Thanh Hoa Province, Vietnam. Photo: Tam Le / Tuoi Tre|
At the age of 50, the woman made a bold decision to utilize a significant portion of her savings to establish a flower embalming start-up, following the successful payoff of her family’s debts. With the support of her husband, she took a chance that many may not be willing to undertake.
Viet utilized an abundance of petals, sourced exclusively from her personal garden, for her initial embalmment endeavors.
One of the biggest challenges lies in the preservation process, not just in maintaining the flowers. The procurement of necessary preserving ingredients and high-quality, transparent vases poses a significant hurdle, often requiring imports from countries such as Thailand.
Due to the small-sized petals of roses from her hometown, she had to procure supplies from both Hanoi and the renowned ‘flower city’ of Da Lat City in the Central Highlands, Vietnam.
Embalming flowers requires a significant amount of time and energy.
Viet explained that the process begins with carefully selecting high-quality flowers. These flowers are then placed in a box filled with a special type of sand and covered for a duration of seven days. Finally, the flowers are artistically arranged in glass vases.
According to this experienced craftswoman, the lids for the glass vases must be promptly placed on and securely sealed with clean glue to achieve a perfect fit and maintain a vacuum seal inside.
The individual experienced increased financial strain due to the escalating cost of her merchandise.
Unfortunately, due to the substantial investments made by the homeowner and her spouse, as well as the use of imported materials, the prices of the properties have become unaffordable for a significant portion of the local community.
The workshop, which is composed of a team of five staff members, specializes in sourcing items that range in price from several hundred dong to a few million dong (VND1 million = US$43) each.
The customers failed to recognize the value of her exceptional products; instead, they solely focused on the price tag and dismissed them as overpriced.
The senior woman has shown great determination and resilience in pursuing her chosen path. She strongly believes that it is through hard work that we can overcome any obstacles that come our way.
In 2008, our company successfully delivered its initial collection of products to customers, which marked a significant milestone. Since then, our sales numbers have shown consistent growth, particularly during Women’s Days and Lunar New Year holidays.
Viet’s workshop has experienced significant success, allowing her to sustain herself and create employment opportunities for members of the local community.
Le Thi Hue, one of Viet’s fellow villagers, has been with him for five years. She expresses her satisfaction by stating, “The workload is significantly lighter, and the job offers a higher income compared to working in a footwear factory.” Le Thi Hue earns VND150,000 ($6.5) for an eight-hour working day at the workshop.
Over the years, through hard work and ingenuity, the ambitious woman has expanded her enterprise to include Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and various other provinces.
Customers from all over the nation place orders for our exquisite embalmed rose arrangements. These unique floral creations consist of 100 roses carefully arranged in the shape of a heart. We take pride in meeting the needs of all customers, no matter their budget.
Several individuals have even requested Viet to embalm lotuses, a task that presents a fresh and unique challenge.
Viet, an experienced florist, is determined to master the art of preserving lotus flowers, despite her previous focus on roses, orchids, and daisies. With her expertise and passion for flowers, she is confident in her ability to succeed in this new endeavor.
Viet, a former grassroots agriculture officer, has set her sights on expanding production in the future. She also plans to pass on her knowledge and experience to young individuals, empowering them in the field of agriculture.