Update: 09:10 | 21/06/2020
For three years, Nguyen Nhat Minh Phuong has been training people with disabilities to create paintings, jewelry and other souvenirs using copper wire.
Over the past three years, Phuong, at her free vocational training school in HCMC’s Go Vap District, has trained about 50 people and is training about 10 now. Each trainee gets paid between VND5-9 million ($214-386) per month.
Over the past three years, Phuong (second right), at her free vocational training school in HCMC’s Go Vap District, has trained about 50 people.
The 34-year-old teacher has been recognized by Guinness Vietnam as the first copper wire artist in Vietnam. She has been pursuing this art form since 2001.
"After seeing the challenges that people with disabilities face when I was doing volunteer work, I wanted to do something to help them. When my copper wire art career became widely known, there were many people who wanted to study it. But I refused and only taught people with disabilities," said the former preschool teacher.
Artists sketch out the design on a piece of paper and twist the wire to make the framework and fill it in with more twisted wires.
An art work worth VND150 million (around $6,400) features Empress Nam Phuong, the first wife of King Bao Dai, Vietnam’s last emperor, who reigned from 1926 to 1945. Phuong has sold half of the total of 70 art works created so far, each costing from a few dozen to hundreds of millions of dong (VND10 million = $430). She said that a beautiful copper wire picture requires usage of color, harmonious composition and soft movements. While all this is painstaking work, the toughest part is giving life to the eyes, she said.
At the end of May, the class completed artworks on the topic of Covid-19. Tran Van Tu, 27, one of the first students who is currently in charge of managing the classroom, can be seen combining two artworks together.
Suffering from mobility impairments that makes it difficult for him to move around, he said he was grateful to find a job where he can sit down to work. "Earlier, I worked at a food company and had to move around a lot, which was very challenging. I came across this class online and asked to enroll. Phuong was kind and taught me wholeheartedly. I plan to keep on following this and to perfect this profession," the Nghe An native said.
Le Huu Tai, 35, bends and twists copper wires to make a picture frame. "This is just a frame for one of the details. A complete picture requires a lot of frames like this. Copper wire must be hard and thick to make a solid frame," he said.
Tai, who suffers from motor impairment, used to work in information technology before. He has been attending the class for more than a year now. After some more training, he will he assigned to design tasks.
Duong Thi My Huyen of central Quang Ngai Province, suffers from muscle atrophy. Huyen studied pharmacology but could not find a job related to her degree. After more than a year of joining Phuong's class, she now knows how to make simple pictures and pieces of jewelry.
Phuong uses sign languages to communicate with some of her students. She said there were many talented students. However, even if they are quick learners, some find it difficult to perfect this art form since it requires lots of patience and training, she added.
Phuong said that the two most expensive works created at her center, worth VND300 million (around $12,860) each, are the "Reclining Buddha" and "Elephant for World Peace".
Several people with disabilities have managed to earn extra income by making jewelry and accessories after taking Phuong’s class. Others have stayed with Phuong to make art works for the training center to sell and raise funds.
Phuong said that the two most expensive works created at her center, worth VND300 million (around $12,860) each, are the "Reclining Buddha" and "Elephant for World Peace."
"These are my favorites, it took me nearly a month to complete. There are a few people who asked to buy them but I haven't sold them because I want to hold a copper wire art exhibition in the near future," Phuong said.
She said the copper wire art works are sold or auctioned in both domestic and foreign markets.