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PRETTY PIECES: Ho Cong Thang poses for a photo with his work. Photos courtesy of Ho Cong Thang

When he was younger, Thang realised he had a passion for turning rubbish into useful objects. He could spend hours working on his creations.

In 2016, he returned to Vietnam after three years working in Japan as a shipbuilder. He chose Hoi An to settle down as he thought the tourism destination would be a good market for handmade souvenirs.

He soon opened a shop named Art Garden Décor, offering decorative items made from rubbish and recycled materials.

His workshop is filled with old light bulbs, bottles, jars, boxes and bits of household appliances.

The old bottles can be painted and used as plant pots, while old wooden doors have been carved into decorative fish.

Sometimes, customers suggest ideas for his latest product.

The craftsman has sold thousands of wooden fish over the last two years, proving the popularity of his designs.

Yet each product takes many hours to design by hand.

“Though I make many products according to the same design, each item has unique details,” he told Quảng Nam newspaper.

“When it comes to decorative objects, industrial production lines kill creativity,” he said.

“If we know how to use and recycle waste and create new objects, it will save our natural resources,” he added.

His team of three to eight workers (depending on the number of orders), have tried their best to meet demand from localities like Binh Duong, Phan Rang, Nha Trang and HCM City.

He is planning to co-ordinate with a local protection centre to offer jobs to needy children and the elderly.

Thang has also collaborated with various organisations to display products with environmental messages.

His Goby fish sculpture made of iron and netting is being exhibited at An Bang Beach as part of an initiative by the Globe Aware group, which includes foreign volunteers living in and visiting the coastal town.

 

He also helped the group make a ‘Blessing Box’ near An Bang Beach so people can leave things they no longer need for others to take.

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GIVE AND TAKE: A foreign visitor by the ‘Blessing Box’ on An Bang Beach.

"Later this month, we'll make another Goby fish trash bin to place at nearby Cua Dai Beach and another give-and-take wardrobe," Thang told Việt Nam News.

"I think that he is very talented and thinks outside the box," said Francesca Supple, a tourist from California who is part of the Globe Aware team in Hoi An.

"His work is so unique and looks nothing like what we see in the United States," she said. "I wish there were more young artists like him in the US."

Nachesa Supple, Francesca's daughter, said his work was both beautiful and functional because it made a positive impact on the community.

"I love how enthusiastic he is about making public sculptures to raise people’s awareness of the environment," she said. "He is spreading a very powerful message and helps people realise how society can deeply impact nature."

In May, Thang's team helped the Mekongaholics environmental group make a giant tortoise from recycled materials at Ong Beach on Cu Lao Cham Island.

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SUPER SCULPTURE: Thang and his team by the big tortoise on Ong Beach on Cu Lao Cham Island, which won first prize at The Art of Recycle Award 2019 hosted by the UNESCO Office in Vietnam and the Coca-Cola Foundation.


The sculpture was made from an old bamboo boat, fishing nets, plastic bottles and ropes collected on the beach.

The installation has attracted many tourists. It also won first prize at the Art of Recycle Awards hosted by the UNESCO Office in Vietnam and the Coca-Cola Foundation.

"I like this sculpture and other small souvenirs Thang designed," said Nguyen Thi Tham, a local student, who also works voluntarily for the Globe Aware group.

"I help Thang's team do environmental and community projects," she said. "He's so friendly and warm. Foreign volunteers like him a lot."

Tham said he showed them how to make things in an artful and creative way. She also said his only drawback was that he didn't speak much English, which hindered his capability to communicate with foreigners.

"Like other people living in Hoi An, I recognise climate change has been caused by humans," Thang said. "I want to make a small contribution to raising people's awareness of making the earth clean and improving the climate."

by Huyen Phuong & Le Huong

VNS