Culture Culture

07/03/2018 - 08:05

Paper quilling jewelry

It seems to be a mismatch between her educational background - an Economics major and the vocation she pursues - quilling, but for Hoang Thi Khanh Dong, the choice was simply made, "I do what I like. Whenever I look at a colorful strip of paper, I have a sudden urge to create something."

Newspaper earrings and necklaces

Paper and the odd hours at night

Hoang Thi Khanh Dong currently works for the National Urban and Rural Planning Institute under the Ministry of Construction. She lived and studied in Hue until 1997 when she found a job, got married and settled down in the capital. "In 2007, I came across an online tutorial about paper quilling. I gave it a try and immediately took to it," she recalls.

Starting from making paper necklaces for her daughter, then being encouraged by friends and family, she has now developed hundreds of types of items, including brooches, decorative lamps, postcards, and currently, art pictures.

This small woman says that whenever she sees colorful strips of paper, she gets itchy fingers, and ideas start popping into her head just like things have already been programmed. In terms of arts, she is an outsider; therefore, when she decided to take up quilling she asked her husband for help with color scheme and graphic design software.

Most of her works are made at night. As for simple jewelry made with basic quilling shapes such as coil, teardrop or C scroll, she can make several items a night. But as regards art pictures, she has to spend dozens of nights because a picture needs numerous coils being glued together onto a surface in such a way that every single detail becomes vibrant and lively.

Her studio is a small loft full of colorful Japanese paper, scissors, knives, slotted tools, tweezers, glue, etc. Every night, she sinks into her own world until the clock strikes to remind her of the time she needs to stop and rest. "Night is the best time for creativity as it is completely tranquil then. Night time is precious for me, and I always wish a night would last longer," she shares.

Hoang Thi Khanh Dong working on paper quilling

Planning to bring paper quilling to Hue

Her website has received innumerable feedback, a large amount of which comes from foreign customers. Her craftwork jewelry is present all over the world, in Singapore, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, the USA, etc. "Customers give me the theme and their preferences, I then fulfill the order and send them photos for comments so as to make adjustments if needed. The more I work, the more experience I accumulate. My recent order of 20 earring pairs and 30 necklaces is well praised by my customer in the US," Ms. Khanh Dong proudly says.

According to Hoang Thi Khanh Dong, in retrospect, she has received a great deal of support and encouragement from her friends and family throughout her process, since her self learning days to the current initial success. Her first 100 paper necklaces were posted for sale on Facebook by Ms. Hoang Da Thu, a friend working for Tre Publishing House, who is very supportive of friends building start-ups. Ms. Thu recalls, "Right after the box of paper jewelry arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, half of it was bought by my colleagues. The effect was then spread thanks to the uniqueness and novelty of the products. The paper material is light, and the price is very reasonable with an item costing approximately several dozen thousand VND; therefore, everyone purchased several sets to wear.  Necklaces can be customized with the coils glued together to form the name of the owner, so they are very distinctive and unique. They are perfect gifts for friends and foreign business partners!"  

A quilling picture on the theme of "hens"

Phuc's Fond, a charity fund, has chosen Ms. Khanh Dong's items to sell in a fundraising event. Ms. Van Tuyen, a fund member says, "Necklaces made from colorful strips of paper look really nice and elegant. After seeing the photos of them, we immediately made the decision to order 200 necklaces to sell here and abroad. Some of the necklaces have been sold well in Norway at a university fundraising event."

A friend of Ms. Khanh Dong working for The Houston Museum of Natural Science in the US offered to promote her works and sell them in the museum souvenir shop, but finding the materials that meet the national standard is still a challenge for her.

Ms. Khanh Dong is planning to organize some field courses for children in Hue this summer when she brings her children to visit their grandparents. She has also been persuaded by her friends to work on a plan to find business partnership to hold an aodai - paper quilling jewelry show during the Festival Hue 2018.

"I am still hesitant but everyone I know advises me to go back to Hue, to do something for my motherland. I hope I can get a lot of support so that my dream of putting paper quilling jewelry on a show in the land of the Perfume River and Ngu Mount can be soon realized," she pours her heart out.


Ms. Indrani, a lecturer in Massachusetts, the US shares, " I came to know the works of Ms. Khanh Dong thanks to Linh Green, a Vietnamese friend. I am attracted by every one of her handmade pieces of jewelry. Coming from India and having a passion for vibrant colors, I have ordered her products for my family members, close friends and myself. I am sure they will like them."   

Story: Tue Ninh

Photos: Xuan Truong