by Minh Thu
|Trawling for bargains: A handicrafts stall at Mintown Fair attracts many female customers. — VNS Photos Ngan Ha
(VNS) As she knits the final fabric flower onto her latest self-sewn dress, Cong Bich Ngoc cannot help but let the biggest smile stretch across her face.
For Ha Noi-based Ngoc, making souvenirs and all sorts of accessories by hand has been a long-time hobby, but now the 20-year-old is finding her favourite pastime to be quite profitable.
Ngoc is among many who get beside themselves over cute hand-made articles, which help them satisfy their passion, express themselves, give their beloved ones unique presents and, now, earn money by selling them.
Ngoc has loved hand-made articles ever since she was a young girl. Being the only child in the family and with her parents having divorced when she was little, she spent most of her time playing on her own. Fed up with watching cartoons and inventing conversations with teddy bears, she started making greeting cards for her friends, sewing dresses for dolls and making simple jewellery for herself.
Some of her happiest times came when she successfully completed one of her hand-made projects – happier certainly, than when she was given a toy as a gift, and the things she did make by hand were, to her, an absolute treasure. She felt proud and wanted to share them with her friends.
"On special occasions, I designed and gave bracelets and cards to my friends," Ngoc said. "I was excited but shy because I didn't know what they would think of my gifts. But they loved them! People said the hand-made gifts I gave them were so nice and they especially loved the fact that they were made by hand."
Despite being repeatedly complained by her parent because her room was always a mess, she still loved making things with her own hands.
Now, Ngoc finds it easy to learn how to make handicrafts as she and other girls who share the same hobby exchange ideas and tips over the internet. It did not take long for her to realise the passion she had for fabric buttons and found endless sources of inspiration to produce hand-made things from buttons.
"Making colourful buttons is not difficult; I just collect scraps of fabric and wrap them tightly on buttons using a machine," Ngoc said. "In my opinion, the purpose of a button is not just to fasten two pieces of fabric together. Fabric buttons are pretty, colourful and have various sizes."
Ngoc said she used fabric buttons to make hundreds of things. She combined them with other materials like fabric and beads to decorate dresses, hair-bands, hairpins, brooches, earrings and bracelets.
Accessories made from fabric buttons are not a strange concept among fashionistas but Ngoc realises that they often buy them in shops in the Old Quarters at a very high price or at souvenirs shops where the number of unique and sophisticated products is low. She thus decided to design accessories using fabric buttons then sell them via her online shop.
"I hardly ever make two identical products so my shop draws quite a lot of attention from young people," she said. "They're satisfied when they can buy pretty accessories for affordable prices and I in turn have a small income to keep my passion alive.
"Money is not my purpose but I confess that in selling hand-made things, I have a responsibility to produce them to meet demand. Previously I just made them when I had some free time, but now I do it everyday and I have a lot of fun doing it."
On top of the products decorated with fabric buttons, Ngoc also sells buttons to supply material for other girls who share a similar passion for making hand-made things.
Ngoc and a few others were offered to partake in a festival where they could trade and exchange their hand-made products at the Mintown Special Event – Creative World in Ha Noi last month, which drew thousands of visitors. Van Ha, who also brought her hand-made products to the Mintown Fair, founded a shop that has been selling Amigurumi, woollen products made in a Japanese style, on Kim Nguu Street, Ha Noi since 2008 and is satisfied with her business.
Ha weaves colourful woollen yarn to cover silk cotton and create various plushies (stuffed toys) which became one of the most popular products at the Mintown Fair for visitors.
"It's easy to find woollen products on the market but most of them are imported from China," said Ha. "At such low prices, customers can buy mass-produced things which are not unique and don't have a high quality.
"Imported products that are nice and unique cost a lot. But the materials used to make these products are not expensive or hard to find, so I try to give a lower price."
She said most of her customers are students who do not have much money. But by spending a small amount of money, they can still be the proud owners of lovely, unique and decorative objects made from wool.
After the Mintown Fair, the close-knit community of lovers of all things hand-made gathered to set up forums and groups, and committed to organising other fairs and offline meetings to exchange, share experiences and trade their products.
Visitors will be taken aback when they stand in front of the stalls where they can find anything and everything made by hand such as jewellery, decorative objects, dresses, souvenirs, paintings, cakes and cosmetics.
While accessories and souvenirs are available on the market in various styles and types, more and more young people, especially girls, tend to do it themselves to express their characteristics and dextrous hands. Hand-made things are wonderful gifts, which help them send special messages to their beloved people, Ngoc said. — VNS