What other carpenters find useless, Vietnamese artist and woodworker Nguyen Van Vien finds valuable. His inherent skill, a bit of hard work and the need to cut down on his capital expenditure has turned him into a unique green artist – one who takes what is apparently rubbish timber and turns it into works of art. Van Vien has found an innovative way to turn discarded tree roots and other useless wood matter into extremely beautiful and intricate wooden mosaics that have earned this artisan the moniker of “father of mosaic painting.” Today he creates what are clearly eco-friendly and green works of art using material that no one had thought useful.
It was by accident and not by design that Van Vien, a hard-up carpenter, came upon this idea to create works of art out of recycled wood. Van Vien comes from a Vietnamese village called Khuc Toai, known for its traditional carpentry. This 53-year-old artist had left his village at the age of 19 to study arts at the Indochina College of Fine Arts, in Hanoi. However, his artistic aspirations were short-lived, since he had to come back to his village to support his family. He had to take up woodwork and carpentry to get food on the table. The money he earned was not enough.
So Van Vien had to look for ways to cut costs. That is why one day he found himself near the river scanning for discarded wood, and rubbish timber. He picked up floating tree roots from the river, and decided to recycle it. As he started peeling of the bark, his artistic eyes noticed the color nuances of the timber under the bark. That’s when an idea struck Van Vien; he started to cut the wood into small pieces and arranged them into color groups. He used these pieces to create wooden mosaics that spoke a story or depicted traditional scenes.
But it wasn’t easy. Since Van Vien had never worked with this form before, he had to sit through nights creating the mosaics. His initial work mostly captured local scenery and had simple images. But with time and practice the repertoire has expanded and so has the intricacy of his work.
Van Vien stresses on the fact that the colors are natural wood hues and he uses the bare minimum paint. He has won numerous awards and the title of Artisan with Golden Hands for his unique work with recycled wood. Today Van Vien is a proud owner of a woodcraft company and sells his work across the globe.