HCM City workshops help bring out the inner artists in people

March 26, 2023 - 08:10
In recent years many workshops have sprung up in HCM City to help young people give vent to their creativity and artistry: They teach them how to make craft items such as scented candles, soaps and pottery.
A soap making class at The Greenery Art in HCM City, where customers enjoy the process of making their own artistic product. VNS Photo Việt Dũng

Many workshops have sprung up in HCM City in recent years to help young people give vent to their creativity and artistry: They teach them how to make craft items such as scented candles, soaps and pottery.

Phan Hạnh Thủy Tiên, 10, and her mother visited a soap making class at The Greenery Art on Lê Văn Sỹ Street, District 3, on a Saturday evening recently, and were impressed and excited by the variety of fragrant essential oils, raw materials and tools for making soap that had been carefully prepared for them to use.

The staff helped them and other customers pick out favourite scents and colours for their soaps, and carefully guided them through the steps.

They involve using a graduated cylinder to measure how much essential oil to use, boiling soap base made from goat’s milk, mixing it with the scented oil and colour, and finally pouring the mixture into cute plastic moulds.

While helping the customers, the staff also held forth on details like the benefits of goat milk for human skin and how best to use organic soaps, leaving customers with interesting trivia in addition to their very own unique bars of colourful soaps.

Tiên, who had never done this before, was keen to take her cute handmade soaps home. She tells Việt Nam News that she found the class really fun because she got to create something very unique, adding the staff were very helpful.

While making their own unique pieces of soap, customers also get to learn interesting trivia. VNS Photo Việt Dũng

Hoàng Thị Hồng Thuỷ, founder of The Greenery Art, says she started the business nearly four years ago, and it “aims to help customers take care of themselves more and be more confident in indulging in their personal hobbies.”

It holds workshops based on four themes: living green (plant growing and decoration); organic (products made using natural materials such as soap and candle); handmade (handicraft items like paintings and fabric bags); and cooking (mostly confectionery such as cookies and mochi cakes).

The Greenery Art does market research and surveys, and looks at new trends to identify new workshops to organise.

“We believe that art is a necessity in life, a crucial spiritual need for every day. Expressing oneself is a big demand, not just in HCM City but everywhere, especially among young people,” Thuỷ says.

Trần Thiên Kiều, an employee who has been working at the workshop for over a year, says many young people come because they want a place where they can experience art and also bust stress while making craft items.

“Many customers tell us very interesting stories about why they are here. We had one customer who returned after studying aboard and attended our workshop to make a candle for their lover before they travelled overseas.”

The staff here have a passion for the art they teach people, which allows them to share that love, she says, adding customers too are very interested in what they do, taking pictures of every step along the way as they bring their artistic creation to life.

Customers at Coming Home make candles based on the workshop's ready-made candle models, adding their own decorations to make them unique. VNS Photo Hồng Linh

Coming Home Candle Studio in Nguyễn Công Trứ Street in District 1 also organises classes to make beautiful, decorative scented candles.

It opened in 2020 to sell candles before its owner realised there was plenty of demand among people for learning how to make their own candles.

While it is easy to buy moulds and other materials, people usually only want to make a small number of candles, and so are not keen on making large investments in it.

Nguyễn Ngọc Liên Tâm, manager of Coming Home, says after customers pick the candle model bases they want to make, Coming Home guides them on how to add and mix ingredients, colours and fragrances, use the candle moulds and add decorative items on top.

“Most customers here make candles for fun or as a gift, and they are very excited to be creating their own unique candles. They happily share their candles on social media, which introduces us to more people," she tells Việt Nam News.

“They have never created candles before, and being able to design their own art product in our workshop is a great way to stimulate their creativity and hone their dexterity.

“Though their candles are based on our ready-made models, everyone adds their own touches to express their personality and artistic vision.”

The studio plans to expand its classes and professionally teach candle making to people who want to pursue it as a career with South Korean certification.

“We find that many young adults nowadays are interested in candle making. When we started out, it was difficult since it was not widely known in Việt Nam, and we had to learn by ourselves. Now we would like to share our knowledge with more and more people.”

Making traditional crafts accessible

These workshops are an opportunity for people to try their hand at traditional arts and crafts.

Hiên Concept, a pottery class on Tân Bình District’s Nguyễn Bá Tòng Street, opened more than three months ago.

Its founder, Võ Thành Tài, says as more and more workshops open arts and crafts classes, he finds pottery making to be a promising market and interesting activity to teach.

Locals and expats alike enjoy learning pottery at Hiên Concept’s workshop. VNS Photo Gia Linh

Pottery is one of Việt Nam’s ancient crafts, but not many people fully understand it, Tài says.

“When most people think of pottery and ceramics, they usually think of items like dinnerware, vases and cups, and I think it has limited people’s imagination with respect to this genuinely interesting art," he says.

“That is why Hiên Concept wants to make this craft more accessible to everyone, and show people that pottery is not a hard craft and anyone can make potteries if they put their heart into it.

“Pottery is not age-restricted, and most people have probably played with clay at least once in their lives. The challenge here is that people perceive it as complicated. So it is very nice to see our workshop becoming popular and how people are not afraid of getting their hands dirty to make something creative.”

To help customers make the best pottery possible, the staff have to be meticulous in their guidance, especially the clay mixing process.

Hiên Concept also aims to get customers to appreciate the value of “beauty in imperfection” in their own unique works, and offer them a peaceful, home-like environment in the workshop to stimulate creativity.

The workshop brings the traditional craft of pottery within reach of urban youths. VNS Photo Gia Linh

Zoe Arnall, an English teacher living in HCM City, tells Việt Nam News that she enjoyed her experience and would like to go there again.

“From a typical Saigon street, stepping into the studio was bliss. The setting was so lovely and peaceful, which made the pottery making experience much nicer and enjoyable," Arnall says.

“The young lady who was teaching us and helping us make our creations was super helpful and gave great guidance throughout our three-hour class.”

Tài plans to set up more classes and open studios for people who want to get into pottery, and even potentially a marketplace where artists can sell their products.

Young people always have to juggle a number of different activities and responsibilities, and stress is a constant companion as a result. More and more business models are springing up to help them relax and maintain their mental health.

Expressing one’s artistic side and individualism is not something a lot of people can do everyday simply because of the lack of opportunity, and so arts and crafts workshops are a great way for people to spend quality time with their loved ones while having the satisfaction of creating something truly unique and beautiful. VNS