Plaster pigs in “harvest” season hinh anh 1Final pig products are ready for customers (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - As the Year of the Pig approaches, the demand for souvenirs bearing the image of the pig increases.

That’s one of various reasons making many families in Duong Hong village, Thanh Da commune, Phuc Tho district on the western outskirt of Hanoi busier on these year-end days.

For more than ten years, dozens of households in the locality have earned a good living making zodiac animals.

And this year they are banking on the pigs by creating ‘piggy banks’ for children to store money.

“My brother initiated the craft in Hanoi first,” Duong Ngoc Tuan, who first introduced the skill to the village, said.

“In 2002, we decided to move the workshop here to increase production and use up free time between harvest seasons.”

Now Tuan’s workshop is the biggest supplier to wholesale customers countrywide. Each month, he produces around 16,000 animals.

He’s so busy, his family and ten staff have to work day and night to meet demand.
The producing process includes designing, making plaster moulds then adding artwork.

“Designing sample products is the most challenging stage,” said Tuan. “This requires artistic creativeness and is crucial to the attraction of the final products.”

Plaster pigs in “harvest” season hinh anh 2Duong Ngoc Tuan works on his products (Photo: VNA)

After he and his younger brother brought the craft in the village, many locals came to work at their workshop.

“Our experience and creative designs confirms our product quality,” Tuan said.

“Customers are the most objective judges. They choose the best products. That’s why we keep regular customers for years.”

When the mould is made according to a sample design, workers make many plaster pigs, dry them and use sandpaper to smooth the products before painting.

“A worker with an artistic eye makes the pig more vivid with beautiful eyelashes, nice smile and cute dimples,” said Nguyen Thi Oanh, Tuan’s wife.

“Women can make plaster pigs from the small moulds, but bigger moulds require strong men to work on,” she said.

Oanh said even when customers need the products quickly, they don’t let quality slip.

“Children will save money in the pigs,” she said. “The pigs will stay with the children for a long time so they must be beautiful and good quality.”

“I feel happy to finish a beautiful pig,” said employee Duong Ngoc Viet. “If customers say I make ugly pigs I will learn from that and improve my work.”

Tuan said in 2015, one of his nephews introduced the products to the online marketplace and received an order from Pennsylvania in the US for 2,500 pigs.

“Exported products require stricter criteria for deadline and quality,” Tuan said. “Now we just focus on the domestic market.”

According to historian Le Van Lan, it is not clear how Vietnamese people started to save money in clay pigs.

“When we excavated at historical sites dating back 4,000 years ago, we found skeletons of domesticated pigs,” he said.

“So pigs became close friends of human beings for 4,000 years. They have been friends of hard-working peasants. They have been featured in Dong Ho ancient folk paintings,” he said.

“I remember at small age, I made my own clay pigs and put a hole in its back to put coins in,” he said.

The clay pigs that are used to save money could even be described as having qualities similar to peasants.

They are diligent, thrifty and work hard to save money for the future.-VNA