Called a ‘village ofartisans’, it is home to more than 4,000 craftsmen who earn their livingwith their skilful hands. Hundreds of the artisans are between 26 and40 years old, and many of them own busy shops with a large number ofskilled workers. In a bid to keep the tradition of their ancestorsalive, they have assumed a strong sense of responsibility in preservingand upholding the village’s brand name. They have improved theirworkmanship while learning from the experience of veteran artisans.
In 2011, a group of artisans proposed the establishment of theAssociation of Son Dong Fine Arts Village, whose mission is to bringtogether all craft businesses in the village to preserve the village’sessence and enhance their connection for mutual development. Theassociation was also assigned to create more jobs for local residents toreduce poverty and eliminate poverty in the locality.
“We have applied technologies to diversify our products and meetcustomers’ demand. For example, wooden sculpted products are not limitedin the shapes of Buddha, sacred objects and deities as they used to bein the past but they are developed into home decoration,” said NguyenDanh Son, a Son Dong artisan.
Years ago, Son Dongfaced the risk of losing its crafts. For decades, the people werequitting traditional crafts and turning to farming, scrap-iron purchase,lacquer production and embroidery. In addition, fierce marketcompetition and changing demands by customers gradually pushed thevillage’s products out of favour. Fortunately, there were still a numberof artisans who quietly preserved their crafts and handed them down toyounger generations. After their study at school, children learned thecraft from their fathers and grandfathers.
It hasbeen said that it is difficult to highlight the ‘spirit’ of a statue.So, handing down the professionalism of the crafts is teaching youngergenerations how to ‘carve’ their soul, love and passion for theoccupation into their products.
“The selling of eachkind of product depends on the customers’ financial situation. If theirmoney is scant, they prefer budget products to expensive ones. On thosedays, despite declining number of customers, I still followed the craftand cherished the hope that our products would get big orders in thenear future,” recalled Nguyen Trung Vu, another Son Dong artisan.
Their love for the profession and their unceasing efforts to overcomethese challenges were finally rewarded. Ten years later, the economicsituation in the village improved, as their products were acknowledgednationwide.
In 2007, Nguyen Binh Hiep, owner of LocPhat company, received an order from the Vietnamese Embassy in theUnited States for a set of ritual objects and lacquered board forworship to introduce elements of Vietnamese culture to foreign friends.
Following that success, the village’s artisans havetaken their products abroad, presenting them in Thailand and theUS , as well as in European and ASEAN countries, drawing great interestfrom customers.
At the outset of the integrationprocess, young artisans in the thousand-year-old village set a target ofdeveloping their products in the domestic market while achieving aposition in the abroad market.
“We produce spiritualproducts, which are highly appreciated by overseas Vietnamesecommunities, so we aim to export more than 12 percent of ourproduction,” said artisan Tran Quang Hung.
Since thebeginning of this year, the Son Dong Fine Arts Village Association hasorganised a number of training courses on international trade andrelations for the village’s artisanal enterprises. It also plans toorganise workshops for its members to exchange experiences on effectivebusiness models to help them earn more contracts.
The prestige and exquisite talent of Son Dong artisans can be seen inmany places around the country. Their participation in the constructionand decoration of Truc Lam pagoda in Kharkov city, Ukraine , andOne-Pillar pagoda in France is also clear evidence of their value.-VNA
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