November 28th, 2015 / posted by paularath
A Vietnamese embroiderer hones her craft.

A Vietnamese embroiderer hones her craft.

Vietnam is a place where many crafts are still created in the old manner. Our group visited several cooperatives where crafts were being made.

Embroidery is among the crafts the country has become known for. Couture, and even haute couture designers in New York, Paris, London and Milan often seek out Vietnamese embroiderers to stitch their magic into exquisite custom designs.

We visited an artisans’ coop where row after row of embroiderers bent over their work. They were embroidering images from photos and some of their interpretations of the light, shadow and textures were really beautiful. They are treated as art and framed.

 

Ceramic kilns.

Ceramic kilns.

We visited a ceramic studio where I think the kilns are the same ones that have been used for centuries. They stoke the fires with wood which is piled all around them. We saw a man removing bricks from one kiln, so it’s a painstaking process of building and breaking down bricks each time a grouping is fired.

Clay molds are used for many of the designs.

Clay molds are used for many of the designs.

Jerry puts his marks on a clay plate.

Jerry puts his marks on a clay plate.

Our tour guide, Wannee,  knew that Jerry and I are artists, so she encouraged us to sit down with the ceramic artists and paint a little plate.

The professionals were painting Ha Long Bay, so we did the same.

As usual, I took a rather abstract view of Ha Long Bay.

As usual, I took a rather abstract view of Ha Long Bay.

The brushes and paints feel much like Japanese sumie brushes and inks.

Thank goodness we didn’t have to tackle a teapot, holding it in our hands the way the real artisans did it!

We made a trip to Hoi An, which is famous as the “Silk Village” of Vietnam. They are known for producing fine silks – from silk worms to spinning to weaving and, finally, making clothes overnight for visitors to nearby Danang.

The silk worms looked healthy and well fed with mulberry leaves.

The silk worms looked healthy and well fed with mulberry leaves. When Jerry was growing silk worms for Akihiko Izukura we had to import leaves from the Big Island, a real challenge!

Silk cocoons can be either white or yellow; these are a bright healthy yellow.

Silk cocoons can be either white or yellow.

Above, the silk cocoons are spun into silk threads for weaving.

We only saw one loom, so most of the weaving is clearly done elsewhere.

We only saw one loom, so most of the weaving is clearly done elsewhere.

Hoi An is known for the lovely silk lanterns they string across the streets. It must be beautiful at night. Unfortunately, it poured rain while we were there so we couldn’t get the full effect.

A view from the Japanese bridge in Hoi An. You can see a few of the lanterns off in the distance.

A view from the Japanese bridge in Hoi An. You can see a few of the lanterns off in the distance.

An artisan fashions the bamboo skeleton of a silk lantern.

An artisan fashions the bamboo skeleton of a silk lantern.

Other artisans wrap the bamboo in silk, working carefully with small sections and stretching it just right.

Other artisans wrap the bamboo in silk, working carefully with small sections and stretching it just right.

Our group was offered a chance to make our own silk lanterns. I embraced the opportunity and had a bit of struggle working with the fragile bamboo. I also made a mess with the glue!

We chose a style of lantern we wanted to make, and the fabrics and colors we preferred, and went to work.

Trying my hand at making a silk lantern.

Ruthanne Fuller and I trying our hands at making a silk lantern.

 

Ruthanne and I with our lanterns, which will adorn our homes in Hawaii and Massachusetts.

Ruthanne and I with our lanterns, which will adorn our homes in Hawaii and Massachusetts. Mine is purple and turquoise but looks quite different in this photo.

 

Hoi An hedgehogs

There’s really no reason for this photo except that I had never seen a hedgehog in person before and I thought were adorable.

It’s interesting how few dogs and cats we saw in the cities in Vietnam, but we saw quite a few in the country. Pets just don’t seem to be desired in the crowded cities.

More soon on Danang, Ho Chi Minh City, Angkor Wat  and and the monkeys!

– Paula Rath

 

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