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Artwork from Viet Nam

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  • Artwork from Viet Nam

    I haven't yet had a chance to scan my slides from my latest trip to share with you. However, I've always been amazed by the talent of the artists in VN. The mediums range from lacquer paintings to embroidered paintings to water color, oil, charcoal, pen and ink, not to mention weavings by the various ethnic minorities. I think I've bought some of each type at some point in my travels.

    Anyway, I just have to share with you an embroidered picture that I got this last trip. I bought it not so much for the scene but for the amazing artistry that went into it. I was not able to scan the entire picture - there's about another two inches of haystack on top and another 6 inches to the right with a cow. This is a picture of a grandfather helping his grandson with his homework. I've taken a couple areas and blown them up so that you can see the detail that went into this piece. I was told that it was made by an 80-year-old man and took over one month of full-time work to complete. (The actual piece measures 13"x19" and there isn't a blank piece of fabric that shows through anywhere.) I've watched people actually doing the embroidery, and they do not get "color by number" approach like we do in our kits here in the U.S. They have a basic sketch of the design on the fabric, then work from a 4x6" photo (usually - sometimes larger) and hold the various thread colors up to the photo to give them an idea of shading, etc. It is an amazing process to watch!!

    I'll try to share some of my other artwork as I find the time.

    Jeanie
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Oh my Lord, that is absolutely unbelievable! I see why you bought it. Even with paint that kind of detail is not easy but with thread, it's beyond imagination. Truly gifted artists. Thanks for showing us that Jeanie. It's a real treat to see.
    DJ

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    • #3
      Thank you for sharing that. The detail is extraordinary. Do the needleworkers work for themselves or are they employed by someone? I'd love to know more.
      Paulette

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      • #4
        DJ - My thoughts exactly! It's hard enough to paint people, but to stitch them and have them look "natural," I just can't imagine!

        Paulette - Unfortunately I don't know enough to answer your question. I have seen two "needlework workshops," but I'm not convinced that they are the norm. One workshop is definitely not - it's a place that the tourists busses stop on the way to Ha Long Bay and the province where it is located built the place to train handicapped people. It is actually a pretty neat place - certainly not like a tourist trap that you would find here in the US. There I was able to see about 25 young people (early 20's?) working over large pieces in various stages of completion. That's how I know that they use a photo as their guide.

        Another place I visited was what was called an "embroidery village" and I was lucky enough to hook a ride with someone who was going out there to look at import/export possibilities. We only visited one place and I don't know if there were more places like it in the village or not. But, the work done there was absolutely amazing. I remember about eight people working there. Most of the pieces made in that particular workshop were exported out of Viet Nam (meaning very high quality). Mostly to other Asian countries I believe. The owner of that place told me that a new design (i.e., new picture to work from) is first worked out by the senior workers to determine the colors and amounts of threads as well as the shading. Then others are taught how to do it as well. I also learned that I could have brought a photo of myself (or anyone) and they would work it into an embroidery for $250-300. (Don't know how long it would take, but I was pretty amazed that was even possible.) Most of the other pieces there ranged from $75-150 - cheaper because the design has already been worked out.

        These to places indicate that the workers do not work for themselves - that they work for someone else. But, with the picture that I shared here, I was told by the shop that sold it to me (one of the better ones in Hanoi) that it was done by an 80-year-old man and that he lived about 1/2 hour from Hanoi. So, I imagine him living out in the country in fairly poor living conditions. How his work ends up at the shop in Hanoi I don't know. I think there is a direct link between him and the shop, but I have no idea how much of what I paid for the piece the man actually sees. And I don't know if the man has sold pieces to other shops or not. I wish I knew more but I don't. I sure would like to be able to buy pieces directly from the people who work on them, but I have never been able to figure out how to do that.

        Jeanie

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        • #5
          Wow, Jeanie, that's an incredible piece of workmanship.

          The stitching does make them look rather hairy, though, doesn't it!

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          • #6
            Interesting you should say that Sam, because I never noticed it. Looking at the scan and looking at the real piece, I see why. The actual piece is made with silk thread - so it is somewhat "shiny". The scan doesn't pick up on that at all - just picks up on the tiniest of threads, so the scan does make them look "hairy", but I don't get that feeling from the real thing at all.
            Jeanie

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            • #7
              Next in my wide array of pieces from VN isn't really an "original" work, but another copy from a photo - this time a charcoal portrait. There are charcoal artists who will take a photo of a person (or persons) and make a charcoal drawing of whoever is requested. For the Vietnamese, these portraits are often done of the deceased and then put on their altars. However, many tourists have portraits done of themselves or family members. You can have two or more photos of different people and they can all be combined - for the price of about $12 per head.

              I wanted a portrait of my nephew done, so I asked my sister to e-mail me her favorite photos (while I was in Viet Nam). I've attached the photos my sister sent along with the resulting charcoal drawing. As you can see, the photo he used for the main portrait was cropped quite a bit, so he had to recreate quite a bit using the second photo as a guide. It took him less than two days to finish. I was just amazed at how well it turned out! (And my sister was very pleased. )

              Jeanie
              Attached Files

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              • #8
                My word Jeanie! You never fail to amaze me by your talent. That is so beautiful! You should put that one up in the gallery. How did your sister and nephew like it? I bet they were thrilled.
                DJ

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                • #9
                  DJ - Just to be clear, I did NOT make that charcoal drawing! My only role in this whole process was to hand the photos to the artist in Viet Nam, then carry the drawing back to the U.S. I don't begin to have the talent necessary to draw a picture like that. (However, I did scan it in and colorize it just to see what it would look like. I like the B&W better. )

                  Yes, my sister loved it! (As did all of the grandparents - they get scanned copies.)

                  Jeanie
                  Last edited by jeaniesa; 04-13-2002, 09:18 AM.

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                  • #10
                    OOPS Guess I missed a couple cruicial words in your previous post. I actually thought you had done it in Photoshop. Well, the talent it took to choose just the right artist is amazing. and you scanned it so well. I am sitting here laughing histerically. You have to forgive me, it's still before noon here. I don't really function until afternoon.
                    DJ

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                    • #11
                      Now I'm sitting here laughing! I had to go back and read my original post because I wrote it late last night - and I could have said anything! I didn't want to take credit away from the amazing artist who actually did the work though!

                      Jeanie

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                      • #12
                        Jeanie,

                        When the embroidery file began to open, I was looking for the embroidery in the picture -- thinking the man or boy would be holding it -- then realized that they WERE the embroidery! That is such a marvelous piece of artistic workmanship.

                        The charcoal drawing is such fine work also! Do these artists earn a good living compared to the pay scale there, or just subsistance level?

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