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May 25, 2021 / 05:24

Disabled people’s hands turn trash into art

Scrap fabric of tailors in Van Phuc silk village (Ha Dong district, Hanoi) have been turned into colorful folk paintings, thanks to the diligent skillful hands of people with disabilities.

Visiting the Van Phuc Silk Conservation and Development Center in Van Phuc craft village, many people are attracted by colorful folk paintings made of pieces of cloth. This is Vun (Scrap) Art Cooperative where people with disabilities create these paintings and other unique products from silk fabric scraps.

Each product made by disabled artisans at Vun Art is unique, resembling no others, which even surprises its creators after finishing. Photo: Vun Art

Art from “trash”

Vun Art Cooperative was founded in 2017 by Le Viet Cuong, Chairman of Ha Dong District Disabled People's Association.

As a person with disabilities, Cuong understands the difficulties facing others like him when looking for a job. Used to be the owner of an enterprise producing cuddly toys with disabled employees.

The idea of making use of scrap material in a combination with Vietnamese folk art flashed to Cuong. He was determined to materialize it with the dream of providing people with disabilities stable jobs and income. 

Le Viet Cuong, Manager of Vun Art Cooperative, Chairman of Ha Dong District Disabled People's Association. Photo: Kinh te & Do thi

Hiring workers for Vun Art Cooperative in its early days was not an easy task.  Cuong tried hard to persuade people with disabilities to participate in his project. Then together, they divide the work into stages each of which is under the responsibility of a person, depending on his/her abilities.

Gradually, pieces of fabric scraps have been assembled together to make impressive paintings. Each product is unique, resembling no others, which even surprises its creators after finishing, according to Cuong.

Along with folk art patterns like famous Dong Ho paintings, mosaic cloth paintings of Vun Art Cooperative also depict children theme, countryside landscape, and others. Besides paintings, the business also makes t-shirts, tote bags, wallets and cards, which enjoy great acceptance from clients.

Assembling dreams

Folk art patterns like famous Dong Ho paintings on Vun Art's products have won the heart of its clients. Photo: Vun Art

Since its establishment, Vun Art Cooperative has been a place not only for Cuong to make his dream but also that of other disabled pieces of life come true.

One of them, 21-year-old Thuy An from Central Nghe An Province came to Hanoi with a hope of a better life. Suffering from trembling hands, she had to put a great deal of effort to learn the job at Vun Art Cooperative. Now she works as a designer there. “I have to practice a lot to cut the pieces of fabric with precision as it is very challenging for my trembling hands,” she said, “when I do it right, I’m very happy to see beautiful bags and t-shirts that I can make.”

Another member of the Vun Art Cooperative, Anh Minh, suffers from cerebral palsy but sits by her computer eight hours a day to design unique models.

A beautiful artwork made from useless pieces of cloth. Photo: Vun Art

After four years of development, Vun Art Cooperative has received a lot of support from the community as well as social organizations. Last year, it exported thousands of t-shirts made with silk fabric scraps to the US market. Its products are also ordered by the embassies of the US and Canada in Hanoi, among other foreign representations.

Now Vun Art Cooperative also provides workshops for young people, students, and both domestic and foreign tourists to learn about folk painting and practice making fabric paintings and bags. Many tourists, especially foreigners, appreciate the creativity of the business for not only promoting traditional culture but also contributing to environmental protection.

A workshop on making a painting from cloth at Vun Art. Photo: Vun Art

In 2019, UNESCO praised Vun Art Cooperative as a sustainable creative model in terms of culture and product development, as well as sustainable job creation for disadvantaged groups. Vun Art Cooperative’s creative and quality works are also certified as a four-star OCOP product (One commune – One product National Program).

Now Vun Art Cooperative is trying to put into practice a model of helping people with disabilities make products at home, working with domestic fashion brands as well as researching new products for not only contributing to vocational training for people with disabilities but also enriching tourism products of the capital.