Thursday, October 27 2016


Paper dolls convey Vietnamese culture

Update: December, 20/2015 - 04:12

Different faces: Paper dolls depict Vietnamese culture and are a popular gift.

by Do Thuy

Handmade paper dolls have become intriguing gifts for tourists in Viet Nam. Pham Tuyet Huong, 30, creates some of these dolls depicting unique Vietnamese cultures.

Since she was in grade 11, she wanted to be a screenwriter. However, at that time in HCM City, there was not a school for training screenwriters, so she decided to enroll at the HCM City University of Social Science and Humanities as a journalism major.

"I thought that a screenwriter needed many experiences, and journalism was a job that would bring me experiences, so I decided to choose this major," said Huong.

After graduating from the university, she became a reporter at Muc Tim (Purple Ink), a newspaper for teenagers and worked there for six years, but the passion for screenwriting still dominated her heart, so in 2013, she quit her reporting job to follow her dream.

"Screenwriting is one of my biggest passions. If I could not make my dream come true, I would feel sorry for the rest of my life," Huong confided.

As a screenwriter, she wants her first screenplay to leave a mark on the audience, so she needs a unique topic. Handmade products came to her mind.

"There are many famous dolls in the world, including Russian and Japanese ones, but there have been no Vietnamese-brand dolls, so I wanted to make paper dolls in the hope of introducing them to people in the country as well as internationals through my first film titled Bup Be Giay (Paper Dolls)," Huong said.

This was easier said than done. She asked her friends to help but none of them could make paper dolls. She decided to create them on her own despite having never made dolls before.

"Without paper dolls I can have no films, so I decided to bring them from the screenplay to real life by myself," she said.

Under the encouragement of Huong's older sister, paper dolls of a bride and groom hand in hand were finished to present to her sister on her wedding day.

"It was a big surprise to me when I saw Huong's gift, which moved me. The dolls look like me in real life, and all the guests praised my sister's talent," Pham Tuyet Nhung, Huong's older sister, said.

"From inanimate paper, Huong created lively and flexible dolls. I'm very proud of her and happily recall the first time my sister and I tried to make paper dolls."

Doll-like: Pham Tuyet Huong has a passion for handmade products, especially paper dolls. — Photos courtesy of Pham Tuyet Huong

Huong is responsible for all the work, including designing models, choosing clothes, creating hair styles and drawing the dolls' faces.

Each step has its own challenge. Sometimes, she burns her hands when she uses hot glue to stick different body parts and decorations together. For her the most difficult part is drawing faces which is the last phrase of making a doll. If this step fails, every effort before was wasted.

"Drawing the face of the doll is different to drawing a picture. You need to hold the doll in your hand, not put it on the table," said Huong.

"The eyes show the soul of dolls, so when drawing them, I need to be really happy and comfortable".

Huong is skilled at sewing and embroidery, one of her hobbies, helping her step by step complete some of the most difficult details. She used to be a fashion designer for a club at the Muc Tim newspaper, which helps her design clothes for the dolls.

Quach Huu Loi, one of Huong's customers, visited her house to see her making dolls.

"I find her works so lively. I am surprised at some of her dolls because they look similar to real people," Loi said on VTC14 channel.

"I know that these toys are made from her heart because the doll has very small things such as footwear, hats, clothes, so she must be patient, hard-working and meticulous to be able to make such soulful dolls".

"I choose paper among many materials because I want something Vietnamese. Moreover, I use a special type of paper which is elastic, not too soft and not too tough," she said.

For her film, Huong learnt about making traditional toys which require her to learn about Vietnamese culture as well as ethnic costumes.

"I have to learn about Vietnamese culture and costumes. The patterns on Vietnamese ethnic groups are various but unique: some show power, others are lissom and colourful," she said.

Apart from traditional dolls, Huong also makes modern ones such as Snow White, Cinderella, Little Mermaid, etc. Many customers commission her to make dolls of their relatives or idols such as famous singers My Tam and Cam Ly.

Paper doll lovers can commission at her fan page: bupbegiay.phamtuyethuong at the price of VND150,000-200,000 (about US$7-9) .

Huong used to think that she could not make handmade products, now she can do everything.

"It seems that when I touch the dolls, a creative world opens in front of my eyes. It is like a key to open a hidden drawer, so I feel really happy," Huong said.

Through these dolls, Huong wants to send a message to the youth.

"When you have a passion, try to follow it. Youth does not wait for you, so don't waste it but use it to make your dream come true."

At present, Huong is not only a screenwriter, doll maker, reporter but also a writer. She has just finished the draft for her second book for Kim Dong Publishing House. On September 2015, she published a book about handmade products.

Apart from paper dolls, she also makes other handmade products such as clay figures, stuffed toys and embroidered ribbons.

The phrase "jack of all trades" and "master of none" doesn't apply to Huong. She is confident she can master all trades provided she has a passion for them.

"Each job brings me different feelings and experiences, so when I am tired of writing screenplays, I will stop to make some handmade products or write a piece of news. It helps me reduce stress," she said.

Huong has many plans for the future, including developing paper dolls in not only domestic but also foreign markets such as Japan and France, completing her first screenplay about paper dolls and writing book on handmade products made from recycled materials next year.

She also set up a Bo Cong Anh (dandelion) charity club which gives 50 to 100kg of rice to the poor per month. In the past six years, she and other volunteers have also presented many scholarships to the needy students in many provinces. — VNS

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