Utilising sap of lacquer trees, wood, eggshell, gold, and silver, young people in La Sonmai group have brought the essence of Vietnamese lacquer into life and applied the material in producing consumable products. That is how they safeguard and spread love for their ancestors’ cultural heritage.
One come to the La Sonmai’s office may be impressed by sparkling phone cases, which are hung on the walls of the office. Each case is a lacquer artwork decorated with traditional patterns such as Dong Son bronze drums, dragons of Le dynasty, and tigers.
According to Vu Anh Duc, 29, one of the founders of La Sonmai, when they came up with the idea of creating a new “cover" for phones by using lacquer, the group members went to Ha Thai lacquer village in Hanoi's suburban district of Thuong Tin to place orders from the village’s artisans and learn more about the craft.
However, the final products were not as they expected since the surface of the case wasn’t shiny enough. With a strong determination to go further with the products, La Sonmai members coordinated with lacquer artisans in Hanoi and carried out their own research to find ways to create a shiny surface for the product while ensuring its durability and shades of colours.
Their efforts were finally rewarded with the establishment of La Sonmai in September 2017, lifting high the members’ dream of creating unique and original products that are beautiful to look at and practical to use in daily life.
It requires a lot of difficult techniques to make a lacquer painting, and it even more challenging to create a lacquer artwork on the mini-size of a phone case.
Le Thanh Quynh Anh, a designer of La Sonmai, said that the making of the group’s product requires a lot of techniques, experience and has to go through many meticulous stages.
Following basic principal in lacquer making, the artisan promotes his own creativity while working on the material. Therefore, despite being adapted from the same design, no two products are the same.
It takes from 15 to 20 days to finish a lacquer-made phone case, and the time is even longer up to a month for more sophisticated designs. A case at La Sonmai is priced from US$49 to U$89.
Not to mention strict requirements in selecting material as the lacquer which is extracted from sap of lacquer trees, which are grown in the northern province of Phu Tho. The sap is then carefully processed to ensure the durability and the glow of the product.
Since its products hit the market, La Sonmai has received a lot of orders and drawn much interest from customers, particularly youngsters as they can feel the Vietnamese culture and spirit represented through the products.
Not only receiving appreciation from domestic customers, the beautiful lacquer-made phone cases have gradually realised the group members’ aspiration to promote Vietnamese traditional culture and the art of lacquer to foreign customers.
With a team of 12 members and five artisans, La Sonmai has hosted workshops to help visitors try their hands at working with lacquer and cultivate the love for the art among the community. The group members have also been working on creating exquisite accessories, which will be introduced to the public in the coming time.