With the passion and love for the traditional craft, artisan Ta Thu Huong (living in Phuong Trung commune, Tranh Oai district) has made the ordinary conical hats into many new types,  for example, silk conical hats, lotus leaf conical hats… These kinds of Nón (conical hat) provided high economic value and were flavored by domestic and foreign customers.

With a lotus conical hat on the hands, everyone will be surprised because the lotus leaves still retain their shape into each vein though it slickly covered on the frame of the hat.  The lotus tree is a symbol of Vietnamese culture. It represents the beauty of the countryside. Also, nón is a symbol of Vietnamese culture; It associated with the image of a gentlewoman.  Holding the lotus leaf hat, people will feel the lingering fragrance of the countryside. And people prefer both lotus leaf conical hats and nón Quai thao (flat palm hat with fringes). Decorating the hats with lotus leaves is one of the unique creations of artisan Ta Thu Huong, a Chuong villager. “For a long time, I have thought about changing designs, materials of nón.  And making nón from the lotus leaves is one of my ideas. It’s a very complicated and sophisticated process to make a lotus leaf hat; however, I was satisfied with the completed products. In addition to using lotus leaves, I have decorated lotus leaf hats with lots of Vietnamese images to meet the requirements of customers, especially tourists.” Ms. Huong said.

Born in 1968 in a traditional handicraft village of making nón, like many other people in this village, Ms. Huong has been familiar with hat-making since she was seven years old. In the past, nón was an indispensable outfit for women, so making nón was a very popular job.  Every family had white nón dried in their yard. When Ms. Huong came to adulthood, the needs of society have changed. Many types of hats have gradually replaced nón. Nón makers are required high skills and meticulousness but with the low wages. So, many artisans have gradually quit their jobs but Ms. Huong.  She keeps working hard to make nón and always thinks about how to develop the traditional handicraft of her homeland.  Then, she decided to produce and collect nón in her village and bring them to Hoan Kiem lake, Dong Xuan market for sale; she refused to “wait” for the customers to come to her village. A sweet result had come, there’s will, there’s way. Ms. Huong received the first big contract in her life, with the number of ordered products up to nearly 20,000 around 1990. This number of products would be exported to foreign countries. At that time, she thought 20,000 conical hats were beyond her ability but it was an opportunity to recover the traditional handicraft of making nón lá. She took risks to make the contract.  After that, many nights she lost sleep.   Because she couldn’t produce nón on her own, she ordered the products from many skilled households in the village, and thoroughly inspected the product quality herself.  It was not until she finished delivering the product that she was relaxed. Through that contract, she realized that the Chuong village conical hats still have a great opportunity for exportation. That is the motivation for Ms. Huong to come all the way across the country, to spend her own money to participate in fairs, village festivals, tourism to look for development opportunities.

After many times of traveling for learning, she realized that the wages for nón-makers will still low if they cannot change the products to meet society’s increasingly diverse needs. Foreign customers require attractive products with a variety of types. “Innovating the products is the only way to develop the traditional handicraft villages and bring higher incomes for workers,” Ms. Huong added. Nón must go through many different processes to be completed. First, Ms. Huong has designed the model; then, she hired a mold maker; after that, she would sew the hat.  Many samples had to be discarded because of inappropriate, which wasted her a lot of effort and money. However, thanks to that perseverance, she created many new types of hats.  She also tried to take advantage of many different materials.

Besides lotus leaf hats, silk conical hat is her favorite type.  She bought silk in Ha Dong, carried out some procedures to make silk more durable and achieve color consistency. Inside the hat, it is still made with the traditional method, but the outside is covered with silk fabric.  Silk is very soft, so it was so difficult to stretch the silk to cover the frame and easy to inflate. Therefore, the artisan was required high skills and stitched carefully. When the artisan took the hat off the mold, everyone was surprised. Silk is shiny under the sunlight. Wearing the silk conical hat increasingly brings out the luxury and the unique. Silk hat is more beautiful if combined with Ao dai. In 2017, artisan Ta Thu Huong first introduced the silk conical hat to the market. Immediately silk hats attracted so much attention. Tourists preferred it because of its novelty, elegance, and convenience in transportation. Transporting silk is easier than traditional materials. The silk hats quickly followed the international visitors to show up Vietnamese culture to the world.

The workshop of Ms. Huong is increasingly developing.  Currently, she also provides jobs for 30 laborers in Chuong village. In addition to the production and trading of conical hats, Ms. Huong has cooperated with tours to lead visitors to Chuong village and instruct them to experience the hat-making process. This activity has contributed to the development of the local economy.

These days, the Covid-19 epidemic has significantly impacted on the production and exportation.  Ms. Huong said that Covid-19 has caused the common difficulty for artisans in handicraft villages today.  She hopes that the handicraft artisans will be supported to create more sales channels to solve current difficulties, then there will be a long-term solution to maintain and develop the handicraft villages.

The conical hats are being sold at Safimex company. If you are interested in this product, please click:

Source: Hanoi creative city


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