Saturday, February 29 2020


Traditional scenes on bamboo-woven trays

Update: December, 02/2018 - 09:00
Clever idea: Nguyễn Ngọc Diệp started up her own business by drawing Đông Hồ and Hàng Trống traditional paintings on bamboo trays. — Photo Courtesy of Nguyễn Ngọc Diệp
Viet Nam News

By Thu Trang

Artists have been using a variety of mediums to paint on throughout the ages, and folk paintings can often be found on the back of bamboo-woven trays. But what about using the same trays to create different works of art?

This was the idea Nguyễn Ngọc Diệp, 25, from Hà Nội, came up with to start her own business.

Her style includes traditional Đông Hồ and Hàng Trống paintings on bamboo trays, creating unique and sophisticated art works.

After graduating from the University of Economics, Diệp worked for a number of companies before deciding to choose her own path. She explained the more she worked in companies, the more she found she was not suited to such office work.

Unexpected idea

Diệp said that during the Lunar New Year festival in 2017, one of her friends asked her to paint a pair of roosters in the Đông Hồ style on the back of a tray woven from strips of bamboo.

Diệp has been a fan of drawing since she was a child and often drew pictures of comic characters. Moreover, her parents used to study the arts, so she immediately agreed.

It took her five days to complete the project on a bamboo tray, 80 centimetres in diameter, and she posted photos of the finished piece on her Facebook page for her friends to enjoy.

To her surprise, many people complimented her on the piece and asked for one of their own.

The bamboo-woven trays of different sizes used to be very popular for multiple purposes in Vietnamese rural life, so paintings on these trays naturally have a traditional style.

Diệp decided to do some research and discovered that although traditional paintings can often be found on bamboo trays, many lacked soul, and other artworks were nowhere to be found on the bamboo trays.

So she decided to start her own business.

“My family encouraged me a lot, but I also received a lot of remarks,” said Diệp.

Some said she should find a stable job and get married instead of painting on bamboo trays, but Diệp was determined to go her own way.

At the beginning, orders were slow, and she only made about VNĐ1 million (US$43) per month.

“I got stressed, and thought about quitting,” Diệp said.

Variety: Diệp’s passion is creating different traditional art works. — Photo Courtesy of Nguyễn Ngọc Diệp
Intricate: The Hội Làng (village festival) painting which took Diệp two days to finish. — Photo Courtesy of Nguyễn Ngọc Diệp
Art set: "Four female musicians" is one of Diệp’s favourite artworks. — Photo Courtesy of Nguyễn Ngọc Diệp

Thanks to her perseverance, more orders started coming in, and her income has gone up.

She set up a detailed plan for her work and focused on traditional paintings, because “it is close to Vietnamese people and suited to bamboo.”

Diệp now sells hundreds of trays each month for between VNĐ50,000 and 300,000 (US$2-13) each. The more complicated the paintings, the higher the price.


“I’ve liked painting since I was small. At that time, I copied my favourite cartoon characters in a comic book style,” said Diệp.

It took the young artist time to develop her own unique style and create beautiful works.

One of Diệp’s most unforgettable memories was when one customer asked her to draw the 12 animals of the oriental zodiac: rat, ox, tiger, cat/rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep/goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

“I searched for different materials, but I couldn’t find the 12 animals in traditional Đông Hồ and Hàng Trống style,” said Diệp.

Instead she sourced different reference materials to complete her creation.

Since then, her paintings have become more and more diversified.

Diệp chooses acrylic paint for her works.

“The paint is also used in normal paintings. It is quite expensive, but the art works will be more beautiful,” said Diệp.

To create these works, every step is taken with care, including choosing the bamboo trays, paint and varnish so that the paintings do not fade. People can use wet towels to clean the paintings without ruining them.

“I want to prove to everyone that patience and endurance will bring success, and a start-up idea will be fulfilled with ceaseless efforts,” Diệp said.

“I hope to bring my works to more and more customers including foreigners and Vietnamese people living abroad in order to share our nation’s folk paintings,” said Diệp. — VNS

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