18/03/2005 00:00 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Fashion treasures from shellfish

For years, when talking about shells of pearl oysters or shellfish, people used to think of mother-of-pearl inlaid handicraft art articles. The shells of pearl oysters are inlaid on wood to make paintings, cupboards, tables, chairs and beds, which produce glittering and colourful hues, hence the products are much sought after by customers.


Young artisan Pham Xuan Cuong researching and designing styles of productions on computer.


Polishing the product is
an important step in
making fine art articles from shellfish. .



Necklaces made from
pearl oyster pieces with silver strings.

For years, when talking about shells of pearl oysters or shellfish, people used to think of mother-of-pearl inlaid handicraft art articles. The shells of pearl oysters are inlaid on wood to make paintings, cupboards, tables, chairs and beds, which produce glittering and colourful hues, hence the products are much sought after by customers.

However, young artisan Pham Xuan Cuong has his own idea. He always ponders over the question, i.e. how to make utensils from this material. “My family has made handicraft art articles from horns and bones from generation to generation. Since I was a boy I knew how to use the saw, which is as thin as a rice-seeding leaf and as small as a thread, to make various souvenirs and objects. But the horn and bone materials become exhausted whereas the shells of pearl oysters and shellfish are more available. Especially, with the pearl oyster culture developing strongly nation-wide, the material resource is very rich. Using my father’s tools such as saws, sharpeners, drills, etc., I tried to make trays, ash-trays and plates from the shells of pearl oysters and shellfish. It was wonderful when seeing glittering colours from the plates that are both popular and precious,” Cuong recalled.

He also added that the natural appearance of pearl oysters’ shells gave him many new ideas, and he wanted to verify his products, such as making buttons and hairclips for the fashion industry. As soon as they were sold, his products are highly appreciated by fashion designers. Although pearl oysters’ shell is not as pliable as horn and tortoise-shell, its glittering enhances the beauty of the costumes under the stage’s light.

“Making handicraft art articles always requires the artisan’s creativeness,” Cuong said. By reading foreign magazines and newspapers together with his experiences, he found out the way to use a silver thread to connect pieces of mother-of-pearl pieces into lovely rings, necklaces and bracelets.nbsp;

According to Cuong, making handicraft art articles is different from mother-of-pearl inlaid articles because it is necessary to maintain the thickness of the shell. To make a beautiful product, the artisan must be meticulous and take painstaking care of all stages, from sawing, cutting, drilling to polishing. If the artisan is not good at any of these steps, the shell will be broken. Finally, the product will not be completed if the silver thread can’t connect well the shell pieces.

At present, Cuong’s workshop in Ha Dong Town (Ha Tay Province) has more than 20 skilled artisans. Every day, they produce hundreds of beautiful products not only to sell for domestic and foreign tourists, but also to export to famous fashion firms in France, Italy and Spain.

Making handicraft art articles from shells of pearl oysters and other shellfish by young artisan Pham Xuan Cuong helps enriching the variety of traditional handcrafts in Vietnam.nbsp;

Story: Hoang Mai

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