Meritorious Artisan Hồ Thanh Tuấn. Photo thethaovanhoa.vn
With his sense of romance, talent, and traditional culture, celebrated artisan Hồ Thanh Tuấn in HCM City has created unique artworks made of pearls, many highly beautiful and valuable.
Tuấn is a rare pearl craftsman in Việt Nam and the youngest member of the jewellery community recognised as a Meritorious Artisan.
His special artworks, including a pearl necklace crafted with a pattern of a bronze drum, a famous typical cultural heritage of the nation, impressed many people, and was honourably chosen as state gifts to present to foreign diplomatic guests and their wives, including former US President Barack Obama and late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
He has set a national record for designing the Miss Việt Nam crown and won two invention patents for his 'bronze drum' pearl necklace and natural pattern pearls.
To gain such recognition, Tuấn has come a long way in a career filled with passion and challenges. Success only came to him when he tried to answer the question: "What is the difference between a pearl cultured in Việt Nam and those in other places around the world?"
The question was often asked by foreign friends when he went abroad for international jewellery fairs or during trips to other countries to survey and learn about the pearl industry, such as Tahiti, France, Australia and the Philippines.
According to the artisan, it is difficult to answer that question since pearls of the same type look the same everywhere. The only difference is in quality. But quality is also a qualitative factor, so how do people realise a pearl necklace is made in Việt Nam?
Tuấn was determined to understand the characteristics of Vietnamese pearls by asking and answering the question: What about Việt Nam is known around the world?
The image of the áo dài (traditional dress), nón lá (conical hat) and xích lô (cyclo or pedicab) appeared in his mind. However, he said he felt it was lacking something he couldn't clarify until one day he was watching TV and saw Vietnamese state leaders receiving foreign guests at a meeting with the mosaic of a majestic Đông Sơn bronze drum behind them.
Tuấn burst out in joy and decided to put the Vietnamese bronze drum pattern on his pearls.
Sketching before painting on pearls. — Photo thethaovanhoa.vn
From then on, the artisan followed a mission of creating extremely valuable items from pearls as gifts for high-ranking leaders worldwide.
Moreover, he also created many attractive products for women and different groups of customers. Tuấn is now the CEO of Hoàng Gia Pearl, a leading cultured pearl jewellery company in Việt Nam with more than 10 years in the domestic market.
That "one-decade journey" has also marked an imprint on Tuấn's dream and set a firm stand for Vietnamese pearls on the world stage.
Fateful turning point
Tuấn was born into a farmer family in a remote area in the southern province of Sóc Trăng. When he was a child, going to the city was a huge happiness for him. Going abroad was something he could only dream of. But such circumstances did not prevent him from striving for success.
After graduating from high school, he majored in information technology, working for a large company with a good salary, but decided to change after he met a group of French pearl cultivators and artisans from Haiti, the world-famous archipelago for black pearls.
They came to Việt Nam to learn about pearl farming and asked him to guide them in surveying various localities.
Tuấn enthusiastically accompanied them as a volunteer without any remuneration.
"They liked my way of working, so they invited me to join a project with a huge income, the same CEO position. I accepted the offer, not because of the money, but because it stimulated my feeling for adventure, discovering new things and stepping out of my comfort zone," he said.
After training abroad in pearl farming for six years, he and his team returned to continue the project on natural pearl raising in the waters of the provinces of Bình Định and Phú Yên, and on Côn Đảo Island.
The project was progressing smoothly until 2008 when it was disbanded due to the world economic crisis, which seriously affected the pearl-jewellery industry.
A year later, Tuấn started to rebuild his career alone. At that time, Việt Nam had already some pearl companies owned by a number of Vietnamese, but they rarely created delicate works.
NATIONAL SYMBOL: A Bronze Drum pearl of Hoàng Gia Pearl company. Photo vov.vn
Tuấn wanted to follow an artistic direction, creating unique and ingenious works from natural pearls. For him, each pearl can become a unique artwork.
Having the soul of an artist, Tuấn participated enthusiastically in art and culture events and worked hard like a painter or a sculptor, locking himself in a private room and brooding over his creations.
Sometimes he sketched hundreds of manuscripts but could only choose one for a final product. His creative process demands extreme meticulousness.
Tuấn believes that culturing pearls to create artworks is an art-making process associated with natural interaction, so it is more sophisticated and complex than making regular jewellery or even painting.
"Emotion is an indispensable ingredient in thinking, designing, and crafting. Some works take several years to complete," he said.
Tuấn selects the best pearls for his creations. — Photo thethaovanhoa.vn
Tuấn believes that pearl jewellers, or any other artisans or artists, should not think about money before creating because if they think of money, they cannot have a sublimation of creative emotions.
"Let your soul wander in your art world when you create a work, and then your effort will surely be compensated," he said.
He may be right as his works have now won the favour of many Vietnamese people and are becoming popular in the US, Japanese and European markets.
His name and products appear in major cultural and art events, including beauty contests such as Miss Ocean and Miss Việt Nam, and he has been recognised for creating the world's largest natural pearl crown.
Tuấn's greatest joy is that his work is recognised far and wide. This means he can continue his journey with an endless passion. VNS
MAGNIFICENT: The crown of Miss Việt Nam 2014 was designed and crafted for three months by Tuấn and 20 other craftsmen. Photo vov.vn