Beautiful Flower, a piece made from silk and tafta.
(Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) - While other artists use brushes and paint, Nguyen Thu Huyen uses needles, thread and cloth to create her work.

Painstakingly, she combines pieces of cloth to create beautiful collages. Her art is like no other.

Looking at her works, people often wonder if she incorporates paint in her pieces, but actually, she doesn’t. All the works are stitched from hundreds of pieces of cloth.

She has opened her first solo exhibition in Hanoi to celebrate 10 years of devoting herself to the art of quilting.

The exhibition, I Paint My Dream, has attracted many people. Huyen is happy that 20 of her works have received praise from visitors and experts.

The artworks include still life, portraits and landscapes. They are made from various types of fabric such as denim, silk, cotton and linen.

Art critic Nguyen Hai Yen said she couldn’t stop staring at the painting Beautiful Flower. “Using cloth, Huyen portrays a young girl swinging in a colourful cloud,” said Yen. “The artwork reaches the peak of harmony and peacefulness.”

“In other pieces, Huyen uses brocade to depict the tranquil landscape of the mountainous region, and a Lo Lo ethnic baby sleeping peacefully in her mother’s sling.”

Yen appreciated the way Huyen uses cloth to create images and emotions in her work.

“Quilting is popular around the world. In Vietnam, Huyen is the youngest quilting artist,” said Hoang Anh, editor-in-chief of the Vietnam Fine Arts magazine.

“Quilting is used widely in the fashion industry. However, not many people can use quilting to make an independent artwork which meets the criteria of fine art.”

“Huyen has successfully used fabric as a material to create artwork. She has found her own way of pursuing art.”

Anh has followed the creative process and admired the artist’s efforts and creativity.

“Brush and paint can graphically depict forms and shapes, but it’s not easy to use needle, thread and cloth to pick out the small details on the people’s faces or a landscape.”

“Huyen is sophisticated and has diligently combined pieces of cloth to create different subjects. I can’t believe that fabric can create so many things in a very aesthetic way.”

Her dream

Huyen was born in 1988 in the northern province of Hung Yen. She graduated from Hanoi Open University in 2011, and from the Hanoi Industrial Fine Arts University in 2014. Now she owns a fine arts centre for children and works as a lecturer in fashion design at a university in Hanoi.

She always dreamed of becoming an artist while she was studying at the university. If people want to learn lacquer or oil paintings, they can easily find a class. But quilting is still new in Vietnam, and Huyen had to find her own way to discover it.  

She started with scraps of fabric. Like a young girl playing with a doll, she learned to combine the scraps together to make images.

She went to tailors’ shops to collect scraps of fabric before they were thrown out. She carefully washed them and used them as materials to make postcards and small souvenirs. Gradually, she made small collages and then larger ones.

“People laughed at me for carrying a large bundle of scrap fabric on my motorbike,” she said.

She started her career with a start-up project at university. With a budget of 300,000 VND (13 USD), she bought frames, needles, scissors, thread and glue to create her first work.

The main material, cloth, can be sourced for free from tailors’ shops. Her project entitled Unforgotten Scrap Fabric received much encouragement from lecturers and friends.

Now she invests more in her works. She tries to find different types of fabric. Then she washes them and applies a layer of glue on the dried fabric to make it durable.

“I still have the first artworks I made 10 years ago, and they are still as vibrant as the day I created them,” said Huyen.

Huyen challenges herself by using different types of fabric. No matter if the fabric is thick or thin, soft or firm, smooth or rough, the materials offer the artist a path to discovery.

“I try to use many kinds of fabric to bring special effects to my work. Audiences also have different emotions and experiences when they contemplate my collages.”

Huyen said her strong point is the ability to use colours and form strokes and blocks. The skill helps create different dimensions for her works.

To start with, Huyen created her works based on the patterns on the fabric. Now she is more creative. Huyen creates patterns by herself. She combines the cloth by weaving and arranging them to form images and figures.

For her, the first solo exhibition has not been just for fun. It’s not an experiment. It’s a serious process which she had poured sweat and tears into.

There have been times Huyen thought she would have to give up due to bad health or lack of money.

“When I overcome my problems, I pick up the scissors and ‘paint’ like never before, like I won’t be able to paint tomorrow,” said Huyen.

“I continue telling the stories of my life. I continue bringing my dreams, my emotions and beautiful moments in life to the collages.”

“Thanks to quilting, I’ve forgotten my sorrow, pain and disadvantages,” she said. “I am happy to work because quilting helps me make a dream come true and boosts my confidence.”

"I just want to spread the good things in life to more and more people in a different way from other artists."-VNA