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Craft artist Thi Tuyet Nguyen expresses cross-cultural connections through Vietnamese quilling

Thi Tuyệt Nguyễn
Vietnamese-born craft artist Thi Tuyet Nguyen has lived in Taiwan for 15 years.

Often, immigrants will say that moving to a new country changes them. This evolution can occur gradually over many years as the person adjusts to their adopted homeland.

In the case of Vietnamese-born quilling artist Thi Tuyet Nguyen, she reflects this evolution in her crafts. Since immigrating to Taiwan 15 years ago, she has been incorporating local elements and themes into her colourful works.

“I really enjoy living in Taiwan,” Nguyen told Pancouver in Mandarin on a recent trip to Vancouver. “The people are kind and very generous. They’re very open to helping each other.”

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Quilling by Thi Tuyet Nguyen.

She creates her crafts by coiling cardstock around a little pin tool. Next, she glues these small strips of paper together into elaborate designs.

“Then, I glue them onto the paper,”  said. “It’s very meticulous.”

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Quilling by Thi Tuyet Nguyen.

The translator, Vancouver artist Ann Fu, quipped that this work probably takes a great deal of patience. Nguyen, however, said that the composition of these crafts doesn’t take her nearly as much time as it used to.

“The conceptual part is what takes a long time,” she emphasized.

Nguyen lives in Kaohsiung, which is the economic centre of southern Taiwan. She was one of six craft artists from Taiwan whose works were on display at the Migration & Arts exhibition at Vancouver TAIWANfest over the Labour Day weekend. She expressed appreciation to the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute for supporting her work and including it in the show.

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Quilling by Thi Tuyet Nguyen.

Nguyen memorializes interactions

Moreover, Nguyen said that the Taiwanese government offers financial assistance to new immigrants to travel back to their hometowns and learn new crafts. Her nephew is one of those who benefited from this program.

“He returned to Vietnam to learn quilling as part of a grant,” she stated.

Vietnamese quilling art has been a part of the country’s culture for centuries, surviving French colonial rule.

“While resisting foreign influences, the Vietnamese quilling artists at that time insisted on the inheritance of traditional skills,” the Vancouver TAIWANfest website states. “They use these quilling art paintings to express Vietnam’s history, religion, and daily life, and incorporate Buddhist elements and other local cultural characteristics into their works. Such persistence has allowed the art of Vietnamese quilling art to continue to spread and maintain its uniqueness during the colonial period.”

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Quilling by Thi Tuyet Nguyen.

Nguyen likes to memorialize emotional interactions between neighbours in her community through her quilling art. In addition, she offers translation and communications assistance to an immigration agency, thereby contributing to Taiwan’s cultural diversity.

This love of community is reflected in one of her works, which incudes a large red heart and looks like the word “Me”, which is “mother in in Vietnamese. It represents the important role of mothers in society.

“Many people think Vietnam is a matriarchal society,” Nguyen said. “But actually, it is patriarchal. In reality, women do the work.

“I chose those colours to reflect the respect and the love they have for mothers,” she added. “Mothers are considered unsung heroes.”

Thi Tuyệt Nguyễn
Quilling by Thi Tuyet Nguyen.

The National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute and Vancouver TAIWANfest presented Migration & Arts at the SFU Segal Building in Vancouver from September 2 to 4. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.