May 11, 2021
Despite his age, artisan Su still heads on his embroidery frame day by day to make lively paintings that glorify a traditional profession.
Artist Su was born in 1942, in Khoai Noi village, Thang Loi commune, Thuong Tin district, Hanoi, the cradle of traditional embroidery of over 400 years.
Growing in a handicraft family, Mr. Su has been attached to needles and thread since a child. At the age of 13, he started to study the craft to succeed the family tradition.
With passion and talented hands, at the age of 16, he was admitted to Hop Tien Embroidery Cooperative, as the youngest employee and soon became one of the best artisans there.
However, not until 1972 did the milestone of his career come. It was when former General Secretary of the Communist Party Le Duan visited the cooperative. His concern about the shortage of a portrait painting of President Ho Chi Minh in the collection of the cooperative inspired Mr. Su to make one.
Encouraged by the cooperative, Mr. Su took a painting course to improve his skills for it. After finishing the course, he focused on making the first embroidery portrait painting of President Ho Chi Minh, also his first ever.
The painting then received a lot of compliments not only from embroidery artisans but also painters. It depicted the close-up smiling face of President Ho Chi Minh with lively details, like a photograph. “It took me several months to finish the painting. Every night I dreamt about every feature on his face. It was hard work. Many times, I had to redo some parts.” he said.
The painting made him well-known in the embroidery artisan world. Since then, portrait paintings have become his specialized line, which always stand out for the accurate lines, beautiful details, harmonious colors and especially the spirit they embody. It requires other skills of painting and fine arts apart from embroidery that not all artisans have like Mr. Su, as he said.
Together with the portrait of President Ho Chi Minh, other portrait paintings such as “The Mona Lisa” and “The Indian God Brahma” are also his outstanding works that many people want but they are not for sale. His landscape embroidery paintings are also appreciated for the sophisticated work.
During more than 60 years of his career, artisan Su has sent many works to numerous competitions and exhibitions around the world, which have contributed to promote the beauty of Vietnamese people and culture. His painting of “President Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House” was awarded the “Youth Creation of Science and Technology” and the Lenin Medal by the former General Secretary L.I. Brezhnev of the former USSR Communist Party in an exhibition in Russia in 1980. He also received the Gold Medal at the Olympiad Science and Technology Competition in Vietnam in 1983. Recently, he was bestowed the title “Vietnam People’s Artist”.
Currently, he is the owner of Quoc Su Embroidery Joint Stock Company, a prestigious brand both in Vietnam and abroad. It exports many products to Japan, South Korea, and other countries.
Under the subsidized economy period before 1986, embroidery was the livelihood of most people in Khoai Noi village. Running an embroidery factory since 1975, Mr. Su has provided jobs for many workers in the village. However, in the market economy, like other traditional handicrafts, embroidery also faces difficulties when less and less young workers pursue it.
In recent years, Mr. Su and his family have made efforts to preserve the traditional trade. His company offers free training courses for those interested in the work. In addition, it also offers jobs and accommodation for those who want to work while studying.
Many generations of workers have been trained by him. Some work for him later while the others open their own factory. But the old craftsman still cares a lot about the future of the craft and strives to preserve it every day.
At the age of 79, he is still sitting by his familiar embroidery frame to work day by day. He needs a pair of glasses now but his hands are still fast for stitching accurate lines. He says that he will do the job until the end of his life.
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