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Engineer quits high-paying job to make agarwood bonsai

Quitting a job with an income of more than US$1,000, Thai was determined to pursue his passion for woodworking and is now known for a new profession - creating bonsai from agarwood.

Born in 1985 in the central province of Nghe An, Le Hong Thai majored in Construction at Da Nang University of Science and Technology and worked as a construction engineer in a company in Da Nang after graduating.

His salary then was nearly VND30 million (more than $1,000) - but he was determined to quit his job to pursue woodwork.

Initially, he did not know what path to pursue but after doing groundwork and realizing business opportunities with bonsai, he chose agarwood to be his unique material.  

He said it was a difficult process at first because the source of agarwood was very scarce so in order to find the natural roots of agarwood, he had to go to the highlands of Tien Phuoc District (Quang Nam province). When Thai found the source of materials, he started production.

He considered creating miniatures of real trees, but then he turned to handmade additions. Finally, he chose copper and aluminum wires to mold into old trees attached to agarwood roots.

Creating a work requires many stages. The first stage is to capture the shape and the maker needs to add certain things to a wooden bar to finalize in a beautiful product. This is also the most difficult stage to create the work, he said.

After styling the shape, the artist will begin to refine the agarwood for sharpness and make the base for the product. The base is constructed of wood, hard plastic, or stone.  The base needs to be strong and is made of durable wood or high-quality plastic materials to retain the quality. Once the agarwood is fixed to the base, the next stage is decorating and shaping.

At this stage, he uses small copper and aluminum wires to bend, align and shape each leaf, branch, and root to cling to the tree base.

"This is a time-consuming process and it requires the ingenuity of the artist," Mr. Thai shared.

The final unique bonsai tree ranges from VND3 to VND15 million, with some worth as much as hundreds of millions of VND depending on size and the type of agarwood used.

Thai has made about 100 bonsai trees with about 10 sold every month at more than VND100 million (nearly US$5,000).

"Excluding the cost of raw materials, labor, etc., I make around 20% profit," he shared.

Tam Ky City People's Committee (Quang Nam Province) Vice Chairman Nguyen Hong Lai has recognized Thai as a famous young entrepreneur.

Cong Sang


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