Thursday, December 8 2016

VietNamNews

Huế sees surprising blacksmithing revival

Update: October, 01/2016 - 09:00
Tiến pauses for an afterschool photo in his blacksmith’s workshop. — Photo cand.com.vn
Viet Nam News

THỪA THIÊN - HUẾ — Men who grew up in rural areas usually seek office jobs, avoiding the hard manual work their parents did.

But Huỳnh Thế Tiến does not want to turn his back on the traditional blacksmithing work of his father.

His strong will and focussed effort have helped to save the blacksmiths of Cầu Vực Village in central Thừa Thiên - Huế Province.

47-year-old man Tiến always felt a kinship with blacksmiths. He helped his father every day during his childhood. Eventually, he attended college and later became a primary school teacher.

But seeing the craft of blacksmithing dying in his village made him feel bad.

Products made by blacksmith artisans in his home village could not compete with the cheap industrial products overwhelming the market. As a result, almost every artisan in the village quit his job to find other ways to earn a living.

“I felt pity. Fewer families in the village continued with blacksmithing since they could not sell their products since the 2000s,” Tiến told local newspapers. He decided to do something before the blacksmithing craft of his ancestors dies out completely.

Tiến loved the blacksmithing craft, especially the skills he learned from his father. In 2008, he set up a project to nurture a comeback of blacksmithing in the village.

First, he opened a blacksmith’s workshop at home with loans from local banks. He purchased modern equipment to make sharper and nicer products, compared with those produced by traditional tools.

“I decided to buy industrial equipment, like machine knives and machine hammers, which produces stronger pressure and is sharper than tools using hand power."

Industrial welding also replaced coal burning in some steps of blacksmithing. New designs were created. Gradually products from the Tiến workshop began to sell well in the local market.

Then, Tiến gave his designs to others in the village and worked as an agent to import high quality steel for blacksmiths, encouraging fellow blacksmiths to adapt to meet the needs of modern times.

Tiến’s efforts inspired locals and brought about a resurgence of blacksmiths and blacksmithing in his village.

By  2014, there were 20 households running family blacksmithing workshops in the village. This led the Thừa Thiên - Huế Province People’s Committee to recognise the community as a Craft Village.

Now Tiến works with three apprentices every night at the workshop after he finishes teaching at Thủy Lương Primary School. Today some of his products are found throughout the country, including a multi-function shovel, a ‘smart’ kitchen knife, and other agricultural and fishing tools.

Earlier this month, the committee awarded Tiến the title of “Blacksmith Artisan” and listed him as a local craft artisan. — VNS

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