Christie’s to auction first made-in-Vietnam handicraft hinh anh 1The one-off piece, Borderline, will go up for an artistic auction organised by the Christie’s in London on October18 (Photo courtesy of Hanoia)

Hanoi (VNA) - A handmade lacquer work from Vietnam will go under the hammer at Christie’s in London today (November 18).

It is the first time that the creativity and workmanship of Vietnamese craftsmen and craftswomen is highlighted by the well-known international auction house.

Titled Borderline, the exclusive item is a collaborative work between Paris-based Vietnamese actress and designer Tran Nu Yen Khe, and the Vietnamese haute lacquer house Hanoia. While the sketch was done by Khe, the craftsmen of Hanoia turned her drawing into a sophisticated work of art. 

According to the designer, known more as an actress working closely with her husband, Vietnamese-French director Tran Anh Hung, Borderline expresses the line between the past and the present, and between tradition and modernity.

Based on the shape of the Vietnamese traditional conical hat, "non", it has a functional value as a tray, but it is also an example of traditional culture expressed through contemporary design.

On the conical form runs a brilliant vegetal pattern in perfect harmony with a lacquered background of the drawing of a barbed wire fence inlaid by gold leaf made at Kieu Ky village on the outskirts of Hanoi.

The designer said that the idea for the decorative pattern came from the flowery bushes that grow around barbed wire fences, something she saw in many rural places across Vietnam.

The wire is also a symbolic image evoking a hot topic in today’s world – immigration. The bold colours of red and orange not only evoke the image of Buddhist pagodas, they also present the activeness of contemporary Vietnamese society.

One of artisans joining the project, the Head of Research and Product Development Department at Hanoia, Tham Van Sy, said: “It was challenging, interesting and exciting to work together with such a famous figure.”

To turn her ideas into technical sketches, Sy had to talk with her everyday via Skype, with the support of her husband as interpreter, because the designer-actress is not completely fluent in spoken Vietnamese.

Apart from the sophisticated making process, the one-off piece, which took three months to complete, also required other important techniques, of which was the conjunction between the upper and lower parts.

“The story behind is always much more complicated than whatever you see. It’s not easy to join two separate parts – an up-side-down conical-shaped piece with a round pedestal – without affecting its original structure while still maintaining the balance. We had to devote a lot of our mind and time for just this one step,” he said.

Together with 15 other handcraft items from China, Japan and India, Borderline will be go under hammer at the starting price of 2,000 pounds. This auction will be live and clients can bid online at

Hanoia CEO Nguyen Thị Tuyet Thanh said proceeds from the auction of Borderline will be used to launch a contest for young Vietnamese designers.

She also said after this collaborative work with Yen Khe, Hanoia will continue to work with other famous Vietnamese and international artists to create other exclusive, unique designs.

“Although Vietnamese handcraft products are abundant, they are not competitive because they don’t have attractive designs,” she said.

Yen Khe was only one year old when her family left Vietnam in 1974 and migrated to France. She grew up in Paris. After her high school graduation, she spent one year at the “Ecole du Louvre”, followed by a degree in design and interior architecture at the Camondo school in Paris. She also took dramatic art classes. Filmmaker Tran Anh Hung, who was looking for an actress for his short film graduates, found her in this class. After starring in Hung’s first film, she has worked with him on all his projects.

She is best known for her roles in her husband’s trilogy: Cyclo (1995), The Scent of Green Papaya (1993), and The Vertical Ray of Sun (2000). Hung’s latest movie Eternity (2016), which stars Audrey Tautou, also features Khe’s voice as narrator. As Hung’s partner and closest collaborator, Khe is also in charge of costume and set designs of all his films.-VNA