I visited Vietnam a couple of years ago, and I had no idea what incredibly beautiful pieces of artistry I would encounter there. I made so many memories in this beautiful country, but there are a couple of them that I live with. One of them is a lacquered wine bottle holder, and the other is an embroidered shoe bag that I take with me when I travel.
Embroidery and lacquer, it turns out, are two of the crafts that the Vietnamese excel in. The skills needed to create beautiful objects out of thread or tree sap are not learned in art schools, seminars, or workshops, but are ingrained in village culture. Different villages specialize in different crafts, and these crafts are passed on in unending streams that have been gushing forth for many hundreds of years.
And the world has gladly embraced these fruits of Vietnamese creativity. Anybody can partake of this bounty, whether with a budget of a few dollars or a few hundred.
From afar they look like paintings, and it is only when one draws near that the texture of the thread becomes visible. The skill and intricacy of these museum-worthy works are heart-stopping and thrilling.
Sometimes the embroidery is done on sheer silk, and the transparency of the material gives the piece a wondrous ethereal quality.
If framed art pieces are too much commitment, there are a lot of functional objects that are embellished with lovely hand embroidery — tablecloths, table runners bed covers, handbags, underwear travel pouches and shoe bags, just to name a few.
The Vietnamese artisans also express their skills in the “high-brow” and “low-brow”, with the ones that venture into the realm of fine art definitely take more time, skill, and artistry, and therefore cost quite a bit more.
And Vietnam has beautiful lacquer products whose functionality do not diminish their status as beautiful art.
For more about lacquerware, check out Midori’s post from the previous month.