Female artisan brings traditional fans to the world

Lan Tuyet is working around the clock to prepare to turn out fans in a new material: brocade. She also plans to use this new material for next month’s International Festival of Tourism, where she will have a chance to show off all her hard work: hundreds of intricately designed traditional fans

Over the past decade, people both at home and abroad have become familiar with the name of artisan Lan Tuyet – a designer of traditional Vietnamese fans.

This is just o­ne of the many opportunities Tuyet has received from cultural institutions abroad to promote her beautiful handicrafts and offer insight into the history of fans in Vietnam. Her most recent international jaunt took her to India, where she attended a forum o­n the production of fine handicrafts organised by India’s Association of Handicrafts and Ministry of Industrial Textiles. As a cultural ambassador, Tuyet was able to tell other delegates all about traditional fans in Vietnam.


“The people I met were very impressed by the fans I brought along,” she said. Of the 1,000 fans that Tuyet carried to India, almost all were sold.


The Indians were impressed by the variety of materials, colours and sizes of traditional Vietnamese fans, asking Tuyet many questions about the products’ uses and histories.


“People were thrilled to learn about the many functions that fans have played in Vietnam. Besides creating a breeze, fans are used to cover women’s faces and as props in festivals. But men use them as well, against sunlight, rain and even, in the past, as protection in times of war,” she said.


Lan Tuyet is named after her father, Nguyen Duc Lan, who helped pioneer the recovery of traditional fans in Ha Tay province half a century ago. He brought the trade to Hanoi, and worked hard to bring the breezy accessory back to the stage, where it has adorned folktale stories for centuries.


Tuyet has got the knack of making traditional fans since she was a little girl, but originally set out to work in fashion design. But when her styles were co-opted and copied by others time and time again, she decided, in 1989, that it was time to revisit her father’s trade.


With a degree in business administration from the University of Trade, it wasn’t hard for Tuyet to pick up where her father had left off. But rather than painstakingly replicating traditional styles, Tuyet put her creativity to use to bring traditional fans a new look and quality.


Tuyet used a wide range of materials to realise her vision, incorporating bamboo slats, Vietnamese silk, brocade and coloured paper. Her fans also took o­n various shapes and sizes - from delicate 25-cm hand-painted silk fans to giant two-metre o­nes decorated with Dong Ho and Hang Trong paintings.


Another special feature of Tuyet’s fans is that they have 17 bamboo blades, which is believed to bring good luck for users, unlike most traditional Vietnamese fans that have 18 blades.


But more than their unique materials, construction and sizes, Tuyet’s fans also convey special meanings through their designs. o­ne of them, a light yellow silk fan, depicts the marriage between the dragon and the phoenix, marked with the Chinese characters of happiness and longevity.


Tuyet has signed contracts with companies in France, Germany, the US, Australia, mainland China, Taiwan and Japan to export her traditional fans.


And while she has certainly taken things a step further than her father, she has been sure to stay true to his principles. “I have been asked to work for companies that mass produce so-called ‘traditional’ fans, with the promise of high profits,” she said. “But first my father, and now I, have worked for years to establish the Lan Tuyet trademark. I’m not going to give it away now.”


Tuyet teaches traditional fan making for free to poor children in a commune in Soc Son district. “This way, I’m preserving my father’s legacy and ensuring it will survive no matter how much competition there is,” she said./.

VOV News