A Vietnamese man has spent multiple years earning a living out of handmade toy figurines, hoping to preserve the traditional creation of such objects for posterity.
Dang Van Tien has with determination followed the job of making to he – toy statuettes typically made of glutinous rice powder in the past – selling the products by traveling to different places from Xuan La, a rural village specializing in the tradition just south of Hanoi.
The 33-year-old and other craftsmen from the village would display their works and demonstrate how to make them in front of live audiences around the tourist attraction of Hoan Kiem Lake, and along the newly opened Trinh Cong Son Pedestrian Street in Tay Ho District, in the capital.
Tien, who was introduced to the art of forming toy figurines by his maternal grandfather, who taught him the skill at the age of 18, has experienced ups and downs with the job.
In 2008, Hanoi administrators began wiping street vendors off the urban face, endangering his sales as he relied on the streets for a living.
Fortunately, he managed to obtain permission from local authorities to alternatively ply his trade at public parks.
Toy figurines usually use glutinous rice powder as the long-standing material, which means children could eat and play with them.
But Tien said the problem is that the statuettes left from the sales became rotten only within two or three days, while a deft craftsman can produce 100 to 150 toy figurines daily.
By experimenting with various alternative materials, he has found a secret powder able to retain its quality for a year.
Other figurine makers in his village placed multiple orders for the new mixture from him.
Tien has nurtured the ambition of preserving and developing the traditional toy figurine making techniques of his village.
The desire has motivated him to join festivals and fairs held by the government.
“I told the authorities my wish to keep the village’s toy figurine making alive, and they gave me a priority, inviting me to provinces like Bac Giang, Hai Duong, and Phu Tho, and [the city of] Hue [for public events],” Tien said.
“As I’m still young, I have to find new business links to have a stable income and advertise the toy figurine making.”
The man won a number of awards for his skillfulness from domestic competitions for craftsmen nationwide.
Also for the same purpose, he recently hired college students to create toy statuettes on Trinh Cong Son Pedestrian Street, which was inaugurated in Hanoi last weekend, in the hope of making the objects more popular.
He learned from children, his target customers, to increase his figurine repertoire.
“What I remember most is when a little girl asked me to fashion Ironman without giving me any picture of the character,” Tien recalled.
“I then made a thing that fitted her description. After I’m finished, she brought the Ironman to her mother happily. So I just learn how to make attractive Ironman figurines after taking an order from a kid.”