Located in Ninh Hai Commune, Hoa Lu District of Ninh Binh Province, Van Lam embroidery-making village has a long history famous nationwide for this traditional craft.
Pieces of fabrics and colourful threads in the skilful hands of the local artisans have turned into unique embroidered works full of national imprints.
According to a local legend, the craft of embroidery was first practised by Van Lam villagers in the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400), with the products made to supply to the royal court or for decorations in temples, pagodas and communal houses.
Through historical ups and downs, the popularity of the craft fluctuated, but never disappeared. Currently, about 3,000 Van Lam residents, old and young, who make up 95% of the village’s 1,000 households, are making a living from embroidery. This business provides jobs to the local people and brings them considerable income.
Van Lam embroiderers not only practise the craft right in their native place, but also try to expand it to other places nationwide. Artisan Chu Van Luong, who has devoted his whole life to embroidery, said: “It’s not difficult to learn to embroider, but to make a beautiful product of high artistic value requires the craftsman’s devotion and skills.”
The items made by Van Lam embroiders can be differentiated from the similar ones made in other areas due to their harmonious mixture of embroidery, lace and hemstitching, which are always renewed with new designs, making them unique and attractive.
Over the past few years, artisan Chu Van Luong has trained many young villagers with each line of embroidery with the aim of preserving and developing this traditional craft. He also compiled an embroidery guidebook in which he paid special attention to basic processes of the profession including how to arrange the frame, how to sit correctly while embroidering, and how to blend threads and apply the laces and hemstitching.
According to Van Lam embroiderers, only when mastering the basic techniques of embroidery, the workers can become true “artisans” and produce unique and delicate products with national cultural identities.
There are dozens of private embroidery enterprises and workshops in Van Lam Village which are specialized in training young embroiderers,in making and trading embroidery products.
Vu Thi Hong Yen, Director of Minh Trang Embroidery Company, said: “For years, Van Lam embroidered products have forged a niche in competitive markets, such as the United States, Germany, Japan, France and Russia, due to high quality and diverse attractive designs. Such items as bed and pillow covers, curtains, paintings, kimono, etc., are much embellished due to delicate and attractive embroidery designs.”
Well aware of their business’ potential, Van Lam Embroiders’ Association has launched a project to develop the embroidery business in coordination with tours to historical-cultural and popular scenic spots.
Having been implemented for a few years, the project proves to be profitable for the local residents. Under the project, the temple dedicated to the patron saint of the embroidery craft will be rebuilt; the gate to Van Lam Village will be upgraded; and a showroom to display and introduce embroidered products will be established.
Every year, on the craft patron saint’s anniversary, a contest will be held for skilful embroiderers, which is a chance to highlight their merits and devotion to the craft.
Located in the Tam Coc – Bich Dong tourist complex, which annually attracts millions of domestic and foreign visitors, Van Lam Village has an advantage of developing tours to visit traditional crafts.
The embroiderers’ association in Van Lam Village has a plan to invite skilful embroiderers to work at public sites, such as the boat landing stage and the communal house’s yard, for visitors to observe.
Each household in the village will be a visiting site for tourists, who can stay for a few hours for meals and drinks, and learn embroidery under the guidance of the house owner.
By taking the on-the-spot instruction, they will explore the delicateness of the craft as well as learn more about Vietnamese cultural identities revealed through the embroidered products