Disabled Artists Transform Fabric Scraps into New Creations

The artwork of Dong Ho and Hang Trong, crafted from silk fabric scraps to create stunning folk paintings, is a mesmerising sight to behold. Even more remarkable is the fact that these artworks are created by people with disabilities, showcasing their immense talent.

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Nguyen Thuy Linh meticulously selects silk fabric scraps in complementary colors to bring her landscape collage to life. Using scissors, glue, and her skilled hands, she puts the pieces together like a painter puts paint to canvas – making something beautiful out of seemingly unrelated parts. Her creation is both unique and captivating, transforming scraps into a work of art.

Linh was a disabled and disheartened woman before she found Vun Art, a cooperative for people with disabilities. Working here gave her a sense of purpose and community, providing her with the motivation to overcome her mental and physical disabilities. Through the cooperative, she was able to learn new skills, develop her talents, and find a place of belonging. The supportive environment of Vun Art enabled her to take back control of her life and find strength in her own abilities. Now, Linh is an empowered and confident individual, proud of her achievements and the progress she has made.

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While working as a kindergarten teacher, she suffered a bone ailment that rendered her unable to walk. Her marriage also ended at the same time. Becoming a disabled person and unable to continue with her old job, she felt bored. Her life was almost deadlocked as she had to raise a child alone while her parents were old and frail. She had locked herself at home for four years.

 Members of Vun Art are people with disabilities. Photo: Ngo Minh/The Hanoi Times

Linh learned about Vun Art while watching the Viec tu te (Good work) program on the VTV3 channel. On the show, she discovered the traditional art of Vun, which has been practiced for generations in Vietnam. Vun is an intricate craft that involves applying multiple layers of rice paper to wood and then carving out intricate designs. The final pieces are beautiful works of art that can be used for home décor, jewelry, and more. Linh was fascinated by the skill and dedication that goes into creating these masterpieces and she was inspired to try her hand at Vun for herself.

It was established with the goal of creating jobs for people with disabilities and helping them to have better lives.

Vun Art Cooperative was founded in 2018 by Le Viet Cuong, a person with a mobility disability. Located in Van Phuc Silk Village, Ha Dong District, close to Linh’s house, the co-operative was established with the aim of providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and helping them to achieve a better quality of life.

Linh was inspired by the incredible work done by Vun Art. Not only did Vun Art preserve and introduce traditional culture, but it also created jobs for people with disabilities and reused spare materials in the production process to protect the environment. Moreover, silk scraps were even revived and used in the artworks produced by Vun Art. This remarkable achievement truly made a lasting impression on Linh.

She applied for an apprenticeship at Vun Art and, at first, Linh was overwhelmed by her timidity and lack of confidence. She was unsure that she would be able to fit in and be successful in such an environment. However, the care, support, and dedication of the experienced individuals at Vun Art soon helped her to overcome her doubts. The joy she felt upon realizing that she was capable of contributing to their team was palpable. She was no longer helpless and could be productive and creative again.

 Nguyen Thuy Linh shares her story at the exhibition. Photo: Ngo Minh/The Hanoi Times

As Linh’s skill grows, she confidently helps newbies, tackling increasingly difficult challenges. She has become so confident that she can stand before a crowd and tell her story without fear.

“Just as scraps of fabric are brought to life on canvas, I too find my spirit invigorated when I work at Vun Art. Our individual lives may seem to be mere scraps of fabric, but when we work together, we can create a stunningly beautiful and functional image of life,” said Linh.

Inspiring Work – Everyone needs a little bit of inspiration to stay motivated and productive. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a student, or an employee, it’s important to have something that drives you to stay focused and energized. Inspiring work can come in many forms, from a creative project to a difficult task. It can even be something as simple as taking a few moments to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. No matter what it is, inspiring work is a great way to stay motivated and productive.

Being a person with a disability, Director Le Viet Cuong connected with many painters in order to learn the art and establish the Vun Art Cooperative. He was driven by his compassion for those in similar circumstances as him, particularly in the challenge of finding employment. As a result, Vun Art Cooperative has become a nurturing home, providing jobs and a reliable source of income for those who are vulnerable.

 A collage entitled Dragon in the collection of 12 zodiac animals. Photo: Ngo Minh/The Hanoi Times

In Vun Art products, traditional Vietnamese folk paintings like Hang Trong, Dong Ho, and Kim Hoang have been seamlessly adapted to create stunning works of art on silk fabrics. Not only that, but the Vun Art Cooperative has also added modern themes to their product line, including tote bags, wallets, shirts, and postcards that have been decorated with the works of renowned artists like Bui Xuan Phai and Le Huy Van.

“This work is not easy even for the most capable of people, so those unfortunate enough to have disabilities need an immense amount of patience. To create a product, they must go through a variety of detailed stages, requiring the artisan to possess all of the necessary skills, techniques, a good artistic eye, and dexterous hands,” said Cuong.

The textile and garment industry in Vietnam is booming, bringing great economic prosperity to the country. However, the handling of industrial waste from these factories has been inadequate, with limited collection and disposal methods, posing a serious threat to the surrounding environment.

Realizing the positive impact that Vun Art has on the environment, many garment factories have started sending their scraps and waste materials to the organization. This has provided artisans with a plentiful supply of materials to recycle and repurpose, helping to reduce the amount of waste that would otherwise end up in landfills. By using these resources, Vun Art is able to create unique, handcrafted pieces that are both beautiful and eco-friendly.

On the occasion of the Vietnam Day of Persons with Disabilities (April 18), the Hanoi Museum, in cooperation with the Vun Art Co-operative, organized an inspiring exhibition called Nhung Manh Vun (Fabric Scraps). This exhibition was intended to spread positive values such as perseverance and strong will to overcome difficulties among people with disabilities. It was a great success and provided an opportunity for the public to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by those living with a disability. The exhibition also highlighted the importance of lending a helping hand to those in need. It was a powerful reminder that we can all make a difference if we work together.

Sharing about the exhibition, Dang Minh Ve, Deputy Director of the Hanoi Museum, said that silk scrap collage is an art form that requires meticulousness, care, a delicate artistic eye, and an ability to skillfully blend the fabric pieces together.

 Visitors at the exhibition. Photo: Ngo Minh/The Hanoi Times

“The luxurious silk scraps crafted by Vun Art craftsmen are brought to life and transformed into one-of-a-kind, exquisite works of art,” said Dang Minh Ve with admiration.

Tran Thi Van Anh, the Deputy Director of Hanoi’s Department of Culture and Sports, highlighted the versatility and practicality of Vun Art’s products. She commented that they could be used in a variety of areas of life.

“The exhibition will help foster positive values, promote creative thinking and artistic expression among the public, preserve and share traditional culture, provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and utilize fashion production waste to protect the environment,” she said.

Van Anh also had an inspiring message: “A tiny scrap of fabric can create a beautiful piece of artwork if placed in the right spot. Similarly, someone with a disability can create their own unique value and make their life more beautiful if they find the right place to put it.”

The Nhung Manh Vun exhibition at the Hanoi Museum is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. Until October 2023, visitors can explore the museum’s collection of silk scraps and experience the unique craft of making collages and souvenirs through a weekend workshop. Don’t miss out on this amazing cultural experience!