Lacquer art and dishware are some of Vietnam’s signature exports. Here’s a look at Hanoi’s Thu Hương Lacquer Arts factory and how artisans there undertake the painstaking, time-consuming process to make wall paintings, plates and vases
A typical wall painting takes three months from start to finish and larger items even longer. Each project starts with a base hardwood that is sanded and shaped. Artists come up with a sketch of the design and decide what materials – from duck eggshells to Mother of Pearl – will be needed.
Each station at Thu Hương carries out a specific task. Some cut the Mother of Pearl with a hacksaw. Others use X-acto knives to cut small slices of eggshell and shape them into figures of people, hats and trees.
The glittering surface of water or sparkling stars are recreated with Mother of Pearl. All the art is then glued to the wood and it goes to a painter’s station to lay on the remainder of the design. Or, in some cases, the paint goes on first and the 3-D objects afterward.
Each piece is then covered in lacquer, which can be clear or colored. It can take a week for the coating to completely dry, after which two more coats are applied, explaining why the entire process takes so long.
Once it is dry, the artwork is washed and smoothed before being placed in the showroom or exported.
The showroom is a beautiful gallery of handicrafts, but it is not cheap. Even the smallest jar costs US$18, with room dividers and large paintings running into the hundreds of dollars.