Film student's real passion is ribbon painting

Update: November, 29/2015 - 18:49
Labour of love: Vu Hai Linh forgets everything while making ribbon paintings. She often spends a month finishing one painting.

Though she's working for a master's degree in film, Vu Hai Linh spends hours per day creating elaborate, beaded ribbon paintings - and she's started displaying them at exhibitions around the city. Minh Thu reports.

For Vu Hai Linh, the most relaxed time during the day is two hours before bedtime, when she is completely wrapped up in ribbon paintings.

Under her hands, colourful ribbons that vary in size and length are embroidered with paintings of foliage and still life.

Linh, 27, is busy doing a master's degree in film. However, she still tries to spend two hours a day embroidering ribbon paintings, a passion she has nurtured for many years.

Linh was inspired to embroider by her mother, who is very talented in traditional hand-embroidery.

At first, she learned from her the technique of embroidering with colourful threads. Then when she grew up and had a chance to read foreign books, she realised that ribbon embroidery was more interesting and inspired her.

She began to order books in Russian, English and German on Amazon and learnt to make ribbon embroidery by herself.

"I don't understand Russian and German but most of these books contain many photos," she said. "When I mastered the technique of ribbon painting, I began creating art in my own way."

Snowflakes: None of her paintings are the same. Each one is a new discovery and experience for her with colourful ribbons, beads, cotton and threads.

Linh uses needles to combine ribbon with cotton, beads and threads to make lively flower paintings. In Autumn Fruits and Flowers, she stuffed cotton into ribbon to make little strawberries that create a lively element.

"The soft ribbons and their glossy colours are most suitable for making paintings of flowers," said Linh. "Fortunately, I love flowers. Although I have tried to embroider ribbon paintings of landscape and animals, flower paintings still inspire me most. Looking at the paintings, you may feel that the flowers are quivering and their scent pervades the air."

Linh said there are many ways to embroider ribbons, for example there are four basic techniques to make a ribbon rose. Meanwhile, she always tries to imagine and embroider creatively.

Flora: Ribbon paintings with the theme of foliage always inspire her to create.

She bought rough drafts from abroad and embroidered on that canvas or paper. She never creates one painting exactly the same as others. Each painting is a new discovery and experience of tone values and embroidery technique.

The smallest painting is 40cm by 50cm while the big ones can reach to 1.1m by 1.9m. With two-hour working a day, it takes one month from her to finish the smallest one.

When a painting is finished, it will be framed and covered by glass to protect the foliage from weather. It's not necessary to use glass frame if the painting is sent abroad. "Without glass, the paintings look more true to life," she said.

A small business of trading ribbon paintings helps Linh make friends with many art lovers. All regular customers then become her friends including Mai Ly, the owner of a flower shop in Ha Noi.

Ly said she was impressed by Linh's paintings when she saw them at an exhibition held at the Ha Noi-based Women's Museum in March this year.

"These paintings are colourful and lively," she said. "It's hard to explain how beautiful ribbon flowers are. They are unique, just unique. The paintings bring a delightful and comfortable feeling, especially when I display them at my flower shop. Fresh flowers will fade soon, so I decided to give my old teacher a ribbon painting of flowers on the occasion of Teachers' Day. She was so moved."

The exhibition held at the museum also brought another friend to Linh, a businessman.

That was the first time Linh showcased her artwork in public. She enthusiastically displayed her debut piece, titled Spring Flowers. But it wasn't for sale – she wanted to keep it.

The shop assistant didn't know that. When the man expressed his interest in the artwork, she sold it to him.

When Linh came back, she panicked about losing the painting forever. She gathered her wits and tried to ask people around about the man. Luckily, one officer at the museum knew how to contact him.

"I felt so ashamed telling him that I wanted to take the painting back," said Linh.

"I explained that I would never sell the first painting I created. I promised to make another one, which would be similar but not the exact same. I would never make two things as alike as two peas."

Still life: In this painting, Autumn Fruits and Flowers, she stuffs cotton into ribbon to make the strawberries look real.

Finally, he agreed. The second version of Spring Flowers is currently on display at his office.

Linh taught her 20-year-old cousin, who has autism, to embroider. The young woman often sits down with her arms clasping her knees, talking to no one. It took several months for her to learn to sew.

"I'm so happy that embroidery can inspire her and make her feel better," Linh said. "She expresses her joy when she makes embroidered paintings."

For Linh, cinematography is her career, but embroidery is a passion that always brings her happiness and inspiration.

She will premiere her second exhibition on December 12 at Cofflower Coffee Shop, 31 Tue Tinh Street, Ha Noi. — VNS