Students turn waste in to works of art
Three students are creating murals from cast-off materials and are selling it nationally to interior designers. Vu Lan Dung reports
|Finding their niche: Students (from left) Tran Huyen Chi, Nguyen Hoang Quan and Nguyen Thu Thao stand beside two of their pictures. — Photos courtesy ofourwayshop.com|
Egg shells, wood chips, straw, shredded paper and other waste means nothing to most painters but everything to three final-year students in Ha Noi. They use these unlikely materials to make unique and beautiful art.
Tran Huyen Chi, a student at the Ha Noi Foreign Trade University, felt moved by a picture hanging on a wall during her visit to Nguyen Hoang Quan's house. This picture, named When Being in Love, showcased the half faces of a man and a woman to express harmony in love. Quan had gotten the idea for this art piece on a trip to Bat Trang pottery village. He made it from egg shells, wood chips, sesame seeds and millet to complete an assignment at Ha Noi Open University.
Chi and Quan soon decided to collaborate in making art together and invited Nguyen Thu Thao, Chi's friend at her university, to join their group. They named their group "Our Way" with the hope of creating something different from other painters and designers.
"At first, we wanted to use only materials that could be found in daily life. As we did more research, we realised it would be better if our work could bring in any useful items in society. So we decided to choose things that people often consider rubbish and give them new value through art," Thao said.
"In this way, our group is also helping to protect the environment", Chi added.
Our Way's materials are collected from many sources.
"When you're constantly thinking about materials, your mind is awake to them and just finds them everywhere," she said.
They walk along pastures to find suitable grass for making art; they take scraps of fabric from garment factories, or wood chips from wood factories. The materials from nature take about one week to brine and dry in order to keep them durable.
The most difficult step in making art is in the inception of an idea. Each picture needs to have its own meaning to make both artists and viewers interested. Normally, Quan is in charge of finding ideas, then designing and gluing materials to make the piece. He said: "Because I spend time learning, thinking and searching for inspiration, my ideas are new and creative. Once I've got an idea, I will do the remaining steps to express it in the right way."
Thao and Chi are responsible for marketing and researching interior design to orient composition and size of the products. And, they sometimes help Quan make the art.
They described their first days as nightmares because they glued and then removed materials many times.
"Although we repeated the process a thousand times, we were still unsatisfied. Some pictures, nearly finished, had a few bad parts that we could not remove. So at that time, we had to start all over," Thao recalled.
However, they did not feel discouraged after remaking those products.
"We knew that whatever you do, you always face difficulties. We once lost our sense of direction because we were pressured by a lack of funds and increased demand for output of product; eventually our studying at university was affected," Thao said.
A 50x70cm size piece, from preparation to completion, takes them an average of three to four days. Meanwhile, they will spend a whole month completing other pieces of larger sizes (60x80cm and 1.2x1.4m).
There are six main themes of Our Way's art including Ha Noi's Old Quarter, mountains, traditional, abstract, feng shui, and paintings for children. With each distinct piece, a different material and style is used to reach the finished product.
"The Hanoian Old Quarter is well-known for its quiet space. Therefore, we use bark for ancient tree trunks, egg shells for roads and new walls, wood chips and wool to create lines of houses, coconut fibre and scraps of fabric for old walls. Besides, Quanmind shapes a lot of interesting combinations during the art-making process," Thao said.
The group intends to expand the themes of their art in the future.
"The material pictures are limited by their specific characteristics, which means they are coupled by pieces. But thanks to the material combination and the method of creating, we can follow other themes expressed in popular kinds of pictures such as oil paintings and watercolour paintings," Thao said.
They decided to open an online shop at www.ourwayshop.com to appeal to more customers. Their business project, Our Way Shop, received the courage award in Kawai Business Start-up contest in 2009 and the first prize in Beginning a Career competition in 2010.
At present, they focus on national customers because, "interior design art is new and has a lot of potential in Viet Nam".
"We have a solid foundation. It is friendship. This work aims to satisfy the hobbies of its group members. Profit is important but it is not a top priority," Chi added with a smile. — VNS