Written by Chii Nguyen
Images provided by Le Viet Cuong, VỤN Art
Graphics by Nguyen The An
Translated into English by Dinh Vu Nhat Hong
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VỤN Art is a social enterprise run by people with disabilities. Specialising in craft products made from Van Phuc silk – they join Vietnam Festival of Creativity & Design 2020 with the workshop series: Assemble folk paintings from recycled fabrics. We sat down with Le Viet Cuong – the founder of VỤN Art to learn more about his vision and creative approach to sustainability.
Le Viet Cuong & VỤN Art
Le Viet Cuong’s only wish is for people with disabilities to have stable jobs.
With this in mind, in 2017, he founded VỤN Art, a social enterprise whose employees are people with disability, as well as their relatives.
They should be able to live like normal people and to feel that they are useful.
For those who have never heard of it, Run by those with disabilities, VỤN ART is a handicraft workshop whose main product-line consists of fabric collages inspired by folk paintings. Through an R&D process undertaken by the organisation on its own, , these days VỤN Art also makes t-shirts, tote bags, wallets, and plenty of other cute things . VỤN Art aims to design and produce – again, by itself – rarely-seen, creative arty products utilising the Van Phuc silk – a traditional material seemingly unable to compete with the current waves of low-cost, low-quality goods coming from China.
VỤN Art also hosts a number of other activities, such as the Workshop: Assembling folk paintings from recycled fabrics and Visiting Van Phuc Silk Village. Through this event, VỤN Art introduces to the participants Vietnam’s folk culture, Vạn Phúc Village’s traditional silk products, and the talents of members of VỤN Art.
According to UNICEF Vietnam, a majority of families whose members are people of disability tend to have lower income; their children are less likely to go to school, and job opportunities also appear to be scarcer for them. This is the issue Le Viet Cuong is trying to alleviate. For people with disability to join VỤN Art, he had knocked on doors after doors to persuade and motivate every single family. If they have no experience, he would either teach them or invite people to do so. The perspective that he shares with supporters of VỤN Art is such that:
For people with disabilities – if they still have good health, then they need to work to improve their own life themselves. Instead of charity work, we need to provide them with orientation in producing competitive goods and services that are able to thrive on the market. Only then will their livelihood become stable and sustainable.
Create to be, create to grow sustainably
When I first started, I only thought of providing jobs for people with disability and was never aware that it was a creative idea.
VỤN Art is the first handicraft business in Vietnam to develop a technique to create silk collages on fabric and turn them into works of art on t-shirts, wallet and tote bags. In Cuong’s opinion, the most important thing is to be different, thus the products and the business model must be fresh and distinguishable from what have already existed. That is exactly how VỤN Art has been able to attract attention. Many people could not help but be amazed at their works. Hardly anyone could imagine that these are silk sewn onto totes and t-shirts, or turned into a complete art piece. What is even more special is that these silk works could be washed like any normal fabric product. It is for those distinctive creations that VỤN Art has made a place for itself in the industry.
If VỤN Art had followed the existing business models, they would have never been able to develop their own products and create sustainable jobs for people with disability, Cuong shared with us.
In this era of technological development, handicraft products still have their place, so I think if we find an innovative way to do it, we still can thrive.
In 2019, UNESCO praised VỤN Art as a sustainable creative model in terms of culture, product development in Van Phuc Village, as well as sustainable job creation for disadvantaged groups. VỤN Art’s creative and quality works are also certified a 4-star OCOP product (One commune – One product National Programme), and the only thing missing is some packaging to bring it to the 5-star status.
|Vietnam Festival of Creativity & Design|