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Craftsman from Hoi An turns rough base of bamboo into sculptures of faces

In less than 30 minutes, the face of Mr. Phuc was chiseled out of a rough bamboo base made by Mr. Huynh Phuong Do.
“Crazy Do” or “Bamboo Do” are names that people in Hoi An have given him.

As soon as we reached a small house located in Tan Thinh Quarter (Cam An Sub-district, Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province), we heard the sound of chisels being used. We met Mr. Huynh Phuong Do, 50. Residents in the neighborhood usually call him “Crazy Do” or “Bamboo Do” because he has made many artworks from bamboo bases.

He started to pursue woodwork in 1988. “In 2000, I lived in Hoi An with my parents. The city was in full flood. I was sitting there doing nothing until I saw a clump of bamboo floating on the surface of the flood water. I immediately took it and did some experiments on it. I did not expect that I could create a work of art. After that, I tried to turn bamboo bases into artworks,” Mr. Do said.

He struggled at first to create delicate details on his works, such as the lack of charisma on faces.

After spending a considerable amount of time gathering information, he chose to create historical characters and legendary figures from Vietnam or around the world.

Mr. Do pointed out that it is difficult to imagine the face. To improve this skill, workers have to observe a large number of characters.

Mr. Do bought a desk that was specially designed with a fixed metal bamboo base holder and many chisels. Mr. Phuc’s face was completed thanks to his skillful hands and a great deal of concentration.

When he finishes with the face, he washes, dries, and rubs the artwork with sandpaper. Mr. Do can make 15 works of art in a day. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, he and four other employees could not create enough artworks to sell.

Longing for a craft village

Mr. Do’s family owns a store on Bach Dang Street (Hoi An City). Many visitors buy his works due to their uniqueness. He also sells them to souvenir shops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Due to the pandemic, he had to decrease the price of his work to 200000 VND per work. During this time, his employees were also absent from work.

We also learned that Mr. Do can speak English and French fluently. “I learned English and French six years ago as I wanted to communicate with foreigners. I only know some basic phrases in other languages such as Korean, Mandarin, and Dutch to trade with customers.”

When we asked about his source of bamboo bases, he said that he had bought them from land clearance projects in the province. He has never worried about having enough bamboo as the plants reproduce and grow quickly, and can buy them from other provinces when he cannot find any in Hoi An or Que Son.

“I have always wanted to have a craft village that produces my products. I want to inform people around the world about sculpture of bamboo bases. I am willing to train anyone who wants to learn it,” Mr. Do said.

He is planning to run a course in Hoi An so that tourists can learn about sculpture using bamboo bases. After the course, they can keep their artwork.

From bamboo bases, Mr. Do creates uncommon faces.
Different kinds of carvings have been used to create amazing artworks.
“When shaping faces, people should pay attention to the eyes. The eyes have to be able to express feelings like love, hatred,” Mr. Do says.
It takes Mr. Do less than 30 minutes to finish the artwork of Mr. Phuc.
Mr. Do can finish 15 works in a day.
Each artwork cost between 400,000 VND and 500,000 VND.

Cong Sang


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