Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — Fish fins are often discarded by fishmongers as they are considered useless in the fishing industry, but a student in HCM City has developed a better idea.
Lê Ngọc Biết, a marketing major at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HUTECH), has been running a start-up project which creates artworks using fish fins.
It started as an idea that Biết entered into a local start-up contest last year. Now, together with a group of friends, he is selling fish fin paintings to individual clients and enterprises for VNĐ300,000-4.5 million (US$13-193).
Art prints and fins are the two major components of Biết’s products. After collecting and cleaning the fins, he sticks them onto pre-made fish paintings to create a three-dimensional and sparkling effect that brings them alive.
Born in a coastal city, the idea came to Biết after he saw an acquaintance process fish and discard all of the fins.
“I wondered why he was throwing away all of those beautiful fins?” he told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
“At first I collected fish fins just to enter the competition,” he said. “After that I decided to come back to my hometown and source the fins from there.”
Cleaning the fins is a tedious task, which Biết and his colleagues do by themselves after collecting them from fish markets and seafood restaurants.
“We remove them from the fish and use enzymes to deodorise them,” he said. “This is a difficult phase as a lot of people can’t stand the smell.”
“We then dye them with food colouring then dry them with heat lamps, a process during which we have to keep a close watch on humidity levels.”
One of VAVA’s painting. photo muctim.com.vn
Putting together the final products demands meticulousness as the fins come in different sizes, and there are different ways to stick them on to the prints, Biết added.
“Even a 1mm mistake would ruin the entire work,” he said.
The twenty-something year-old has a great vision for his products.
Through the paintings, he wants to introduce Việt Nam as a nation with potential to develop a marine economy.
“If the Indians have rice paintings, I hope one day people will think of my fish fin paintings when they think of Việt Nam as the country’s own brand,” he said.
Biết’s team has decided to call the start-up “VAVA”, an abbreviation for “golden fins” in Vietnamese.
Some members of the team have started creating their own prints instead of purchasing them from elsewhere.
They want to push their products into the souvenir market in HCM City, then slowly take them to the coastal southern province of Phú Yên and other beach cities where tourism flourishes.
With these expansion plans, the question of labour comes about, so Biết has come up with a solution.
He introduced his start-up project to a vocational training and job centre for people with disabilities, located at No 215 on Võ Thị Sáu Street in HCM City’s District 3.
Collaborating with the centre to teach people here to make the paintings, Biết considers them the main human resource for his project.
“What makes me most happy about this project is that it helps provide jobs for people,” he said.
“The salary might not be high, but everyone can do it, even people with disabilities. And they can do it in their free time.”
The unusual idea has earned Biết a place in HCM City’s start-up community.
He came third at a start-up competition and a tourism contest in the city last year thanks to the project’s aesthetic, environmental and social values. — VNS