Discarded plastic buttons turned into colourful art

Nguyen Phuoc Quy Thanh is breathing new life into discarded shirt buttons and plastic items by using them to make colourful works of art.

Discarded plastic buttons turned into colourful art
Nguyen Phuoc Quy Thanh, 27, makes art out of old buttons and small plastic items. - Photo courtesy of Nguyen Phuoc Quy Thanh

The 27-year-old, who spent four years studying chemical engineering and then worked at a lab for seven months, decided he did not want a routine life of working and collecting a payment at the end of every month. Instead, he says he wanted to have a more creative life.

One day he read about artworks that could be created with plastic items such as buttons, so he gave up his job and pursued making artworks out of discarded plastic materials.

Besides making art, he also wanted to reduce the damage caused by plastic waste.

Thanh told Thanh Niên newspaper that plastics can be dangerous if they are not used properly, and that awareness about the material among youth is still low, which could be problematic for future generations.

He said that his art sends a message that plastic materials can bring joy to everyone if they are used correctly.

“I first encountered difficulties like my parents' objections. They told me that I could not make money from this. My friends told me that my future would be uncertain. Sometimes I wanted to give up, but I would allow myself to be sad for a few days, and then I would keep on trying,” Thanh told Việt Nam News.

Since his craft is not practised widely in Vietnam, Thanh had to learn about and seek out the materials himself. The learning process took months. 

For his work, he collects colourful buttons from various sources as well as beads and other plastic items, as long as they look good.

The process involves coming up with an idea, and then drawing a rough draft before choosing the right buttons to fit the picture.

Watching Thanh putting together a piece shows how meticulous the process is. One by one, he picks out the right buttons, applies glue on them, and carefully sticks them on the background or on top of one another, occasionally using a toothpick to lightly move buttons around.

Many colourful buttons and beads are slowly arranged and glued to form a picture of a rocket ship, famous comic book characters, or lively flowers.

“I did not have experience in art, but ever since I was young I have been really creative and have liked putting things together.”

Thanh has made around 100 artworks of varying complexity and size, covering a wide range of topics.

 

He used to be unknown and just posted his work on Facebook. Then he started making portraits for paying customers, and has even gifted pieces to Vietnamese celebrities.

The people who were initially against his decision slowly warmed up to it, Thanh said.​

Discarded plastic buttons turned into colourful art
Thanh has made many artworks about various topics, including inspirational art about COVID-19. — VNS Photo Viet Dung  

​For the community

After COVID-19 began, Thanh did not want to focus on business and wanted to do something for the community.

He made inspiring pictures related to the fight against COVID-19 that he gave to hospitals and foreigners living and working in Vietnam.

He also gave artworks to three HCM City hospitals which awarded Thanh with certificates to show their appreciation.

Thanh said he plans to donate more artworks to hospitals and organisations such as embassies.

In the future, he would like to hold exhibitions for his plastic artworks and organise classes for children to teach them the craft. He said he thought that it would stimulate their creativity and help them have a better understanding of the dangers of plastic waste.

Besides, if more Vietnamese youth make art with plastic materials, it would help to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the country, Thanh said.  VNS

Viet Dung 

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