Lacquerware spotlight: Vietnam

 

For volume buyers looking for lacquerware, Vietnam is a sourcing destination to consider.

Lacquered tableware, home furnishings and furniture from the country feature finely crafted unique designs. Within this report, buyers will find contemporary pieces that have been manufactured using traditional techniques.

A key factor enabling the lacquer industry to create unique pieces is the large pool of artists and artisans found in the country. Vietnam has an estimated 1,500 craft villages serving as home to painters, carvers, weavers and other skilled workers whose techniques have been passed down from previous generations.

Traditional techniques of lacquer painting, in particular, are still practiced in the various villages in the north and south of Vietnam. The art is also taught in universities and workshops, enabling more people— especially the younger generation—to learn how to create designs and apply lacquer.

The diversity of raw materials available in the country enables makers to apply the art of lacquer work to various items, ranging from small paperweights to large cabinets. Lacquerware for export includes bamboo, rattan, clay and wooden products embellished with seashells, eggshells and gold or silver leaf.

The industry is facing a number of challenges that threaten its growth, not the least of which are rising costs and price competition. Lacquerware suppliers, the government and relevant industry associations are working together to make the traditional craft of lacquer work relevant in the modern world and thereby more attractive to consumers.

The Vietnam advantageDesign frontrunnersSupplier spotlightMoving forwardPDF download

Lacquerware spotlight: Vietnam The Vietnam advantage

Lacquerware from Vietnam is a synthesis of centuries-old techniques and modern designs. Lacquer, or “son mai” in the local language, is applied on a wide range of materials and products. The selection of lacquerware from Vietnam includes tableware, home furnishings and furniture made of rattan, bamboo, wood and clay.

Click “Inquire now” to send inquiries to featured suppliers.

Design capability 

Vietnam lacquerware suppliers create their own collections, as well as customize products to client specifications. They provide free product development services, and samples are free of charge when an order is made. 

Viet Pearl Lacquer, a lacquerware supplier based in Hanoi, releases more than 200 models each year. The company’s selection includes decorative boxes, dinnerware, lamps and wall decor. 

Manufacturers employ local artisans to create the designs and patterns. Some companies, Hanoi-based An Huy Trading Service and Production among them, hire graduates of fine arts to enhance their product development capability. These graduates are hired for their artistic mindset, professional training and familiarity with local lacquerware. 

Besides relying on the creativity of its in-house teams, makers keep up to date with market and product trends through online research and the information they obtain from clients. 

Consequently, the selection of lacquerware from Vietnam comprises contemporary designs and artwork, as well as traditional pieces. Modern designs typically showcase abstract motifs and nonstandard or novelty structures. In contrast, traditional products often depict floral and religious motifs, or local people and scenery. 

Viet Pearl Lacquer offers curved wine bottle holders made of MDF with mother-of-pearl or eggshell inlay. Mirror frames with structures featuring overlapping ovals are also among the company’s offerings. 

At Ho Chi Minh City-based supplier Huong Nga Fine Arts, the selection includes asymmetrical cabinets and tables that combine MDF and wood. The pieces showcase handpainted, multicolor abstract patterns, which can be customized. 

Lacquer spotlight: Vietnam

Huong Nga Fine Arts offers cabinet model LFC-030 (left) with six drawers, while model LFC-029 (right) is fitted with eight drawers.

Inquire now

Domestic availability of raw materials¹ 

Lacquer resin and materials for the base or core product are abundant throughout Vietnam. 

Lacquer:¹ Resin harvested from the Rhus succedanea tree. The resin is originally white when extracted from the tree but turns brown when it gets in contact with air and becomes black when dried. The resin is mixed with inorganic filler powders and mineral pigments to achieve different colors. 

Suppliers also use artificial lacquer, which is made from industrial polymer resins. 

Lacquer spotlight: Vietnam

Mother-of-pearl:² This organic-inorganic composite, also known as nacre, is cut into different shapes according to the desired inlay pattern. Once set on the base, lacquerware artists use knives to carve details. Models with mother-of-pearl inlay require more lacquer coatings than versions with painted artwork.

Lacquer spotlight: Vietnam

Eggshell:³ Eggshell inlay typically uses shells of duck eggs because of their thickness. Eggshells are burned to turn them beige or light brown. Similar to lacquerware featuring mother-of-pearl inlay, models with eggshell embellishments require more layers of lacquer than painted designs. 

Lacquer spotlight: Vietnam

Base:⁴ Suppliers use a wide range of materials for the base of lacquered products, with bamboo, rattan, wood, MDF, clay and fiberglass among the most popular. 

Bamboo and rattan bases are coiled or woven. MDF and natural wood pieces are cut and carved into shape, while clay and fiberglass are molded. The traditional production of lacquerware can take weeks or months to finish, depending on the design and the number of coatings.

Lacquer spotlight: Vietnam

The map here shows where most lacquerware makers source manufacturing inputs. 

Lacquer spotlight: Vietnam

Fine craftsmanship 

Lacquerware from Vietnam is still mostly handmade. The handicraft nature of lacquerware from Vietnam allows more variety in design and makes products difficult to imitate, according to Tran Duy Toan, sales manager of Viet Pearl Lacquer. 

A key factor enabling manufacturers to offer a diverse range of products is the large number and variety of craftsmen in the country. Vietnam has more than 1,500 craft villages, which serve as home to weavers, carvers, potters, painters and other artisans whose techniques have been passed down from previous generations. 

Suppliers typically hire their workers from these craft villages. Some companies subcontract manufacturing of the base or core products to small factories in these areas. 

In the north, lacquerware suppliers practicing traditional techniques can be found in the villages of Ha Thai and Son Dong in Hanoi province, Cat Dang in Nam Dinh and Dinh Bang in Bac Ninh. Products from these areas typically feature silver leaf accents or mother-of-pearl inlays. 

Tuong Binh Hiep in Binh Duong province, meanwhile, is the key manufacturing center for lacquerware in the south. Lacquered products from this hub usually adopt eggshell as embellishments. 

Lacquer spotlight: Vietnam

Production⁵ 

The traditional production of lacquerware can take weeks or months to finish, depending on the design and the number of coatings. Generally, lacquerware passes through the following stages: 

1. Constructing the core product: The artisan constructs a base or core product in bamboo, wood, MDF, ceramic, horn or fiberglass. 

2. Making the lacquer base: After the base has been created, it is covered with linen cloth or cotton gauze to keep it from cracking and warping. Natural lacquer, mixed with soil, sawdust and other inputs, is applied to the base.

Lacquer:The semifinished product is dried for three to five days, rubbed in water and polished. The process is repeated several times depending on the number of layers required. Low-end products have at least five layers of lacquer, while high-end models can have as many as 30 layers. 

Lacquer spotlight: Vietnam

3. Creating the pattern: Designs can be made with mother-of-pearl or eggshell inlay, or painted directly on the surface. 

The chosen artwork is sketched on the semifinished product. After the painting of the design or setting of the inlaid materials, the product is once again coated with clear lacquer and left to dry for up to 10 days before being polished. 

4. Polishing the lacquer surface: Once dried, the piece is rubbed in water and polished using sandpaper or another abrasive material.

Lacquer spotlight: Vietnam

Endnotes: 

1 Image courtesy of Huong Lacquer Workshop.

2 Image courtesy of Viet Pearl Lacquer.

3 Image courtesy of Viet Pearl Lacquer.

4 Images courtesy of Kima Lacquer Art.

5 Images in the Production section are courtesy of Kima Lacquer Art. 

Lacquerware spotlight: Vietnam Design frontrunners

Vietnam is home to seasoned lacquer artists who have dedicated most of their lives to the preservation and development of the art.

The two artists featured in this section, Pham Kim Ma and Tran Anh Tuan, participate in preserving the traditional methods and encouraging the younger generation to develop innovative designs using various materials.

Click “Inquire now” to send inquiries to featured designers.

Pham Kim Ma 

Pham Kim Ma took up Lacquer Specialization in the Traditional Art Department of Vietnam University of Industrial Art. In 1986, he established Kima Lacquer Art, which produces lacquered bowls, vases and other home decor. 

“Working in lacquerware is first my hobby, my passion and now it’s my destiny,” he said. Pham shares his passion by conducting workshops teaching the traditional method of creating lacquerware. 

A number of Kima Lacquer Art’s products have received the Seal of Excellence for Handicraft Products in Southeast Asia, which is awarded jointly by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the ASEAN Handicraft Promotion and Development Association (AHPADA).

Lacquer spotlight: Vietnam

Lacquer spotlight: Vietnam

This lacquer plate among Pham Kim Ma’s designs that have been awarded

the UNESCO – AHPADA Seal of Excellence.

Inquire now

Tran Anh Tuan 

Tran Anh Tuan is the artist and owner of Lacquer Art, which he established in 2012. He is a master’s degree professor, specializing in lacquer at Hanoi University of Industrial Fine Arts. He also conducts training workshops where participants can learn about the traditional techniques and create their own lacquerware. 

Tran has exhibited his creations in Vietnam and overseas. In 1998, his work was awarded a prize as one of the 10 best paintings at the Philip Morris ASEAN Fine Art exhibition. 

Tran is a member of the Vietnam Fine Art Association, the Hanoi Fine Art Association and the Vietnam Young Artists Club.

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

This painting by Tran Anh Tuan was recognized as one of the 10 best paintings in the Philip Morris ASEAN Fine Art Exhibition in 1998.

Inquire now

Lacquerware spotlight: Vietnam Supplier spotlight

Apart from producing world-renowned designers, Vietnam is home to suppliers whose brands have penetrated the international arena. Featured here are seven companies with known brands in the furniture and home decor industries.

Click “Inquire now” to send inquiries to featured suppliers.

An Huy Trading Service and Production JSC

Model: AH-120830

Descriptions: Spun bamboo; handpainted; artificial lacquer; 28x35cm 

FOB price: $12 

Delivery time: 60 days 

 

Inquire now

Huong Nga Fine Arts Co. Ltd

Model: LBP-219

Descriptions: Decorative bowl; MDF; handpainted; natural lacquer; 30×16.5cm 

FOB price: $77.50 

Delivery time: 1 to 3 months 

 

Inquire now

Kima Lacquer Art

Model: KA 003

Descriptions: Lotus leaf painting; golden lacquer sheets; natural lacquer; 52x52cm 

FOB price: $280 

Delivery time: 150 days 

 

Inquire now

 

Lacquer Art

Model: LA 001

Descriptions: Handpainted; plywood; natural lacquer; 90x1220cm 

FOB price: $8,000 

Delivery time: 7 days 

 

Inquire now

 

Tu Bon Co. Ltd

Model: TB011-150

Descriptions: Fiberglass vase; handpainted artificial laquer; 34.5x45cm  FOB price: $45 

Delivery time: 60 days 

Inquire now

Viet Pearl Lacquer

Model: Rect Stand Lamp

Descriptions: MDF lamp; silk shade; burnt eggshell embellishment; artificial lacquer 

FOB price: $18 

Delivery time: 45 days 

 

Inquire now

Viet Vision

Model: LD3-H01

Descriptions: Trays; eggshell inlay; artificial lacquer; 25.5×25.5×5, 21.5×21.5×5 or 18.5×18.5x4cm 

FOB price: $15 

Delivery time: 30 to 45 days 

 

Inquire now

Lacquerware spotlight: Vietnam Moving forward

Vietnam’s lacquerware suppliers, together with the government and relevant industry associations, are working together to make the traditional craft of lacquer work relevant in the modern world, and thereby attractive to consumers and overseas buyers.

Click “Inquire now” to send inquiries to featured suppliers.

Challenges 

Overseas demand for Vietnam lacquerware has been sluggish in the past few years amid economic slowdown in the industry’s key markets, namely the EU and the US, according to Le Ba Linh, vice chairman of Binh Duong Province Lacquerware and Sculpture Association.

Official statistics on lacquerware are not available because the government does not categorize the line as a distinct export segment. Data on overseas sales of wood and wooden, ceramic, rattan and bamboo products, however, show that growth has considerably slowed down in recent years.

From 2010 to 2013, exports of these items increased at double-digit rates ranging from 18 to 30 percent. Growth slowed to approximately 12 percent in 2014, and then slipped to 9 percent in 2015. In 2016, exports inched up only 0.4 percent to reach $7.66 billion, according to data from the General Department of Customs, Ministry of Finance of Vietnam.

An Huy Trading’s decorative box and Tu Bon’s vase are handpainted.

Inquire now

Amid sluggish demand, competition within the industry and with providers of substitute products has become tougher. Lacquered products are typically sold as souvenirs or gifts, and therefore compete with products such as handdrawn and handembroidered artwork.

To attract clients, suppliers have been maintaining the prices of their products despite rising costs, thereby cutting into their profits. On average, raw material costs increase 2 or 3 percent each year.

Labor-related expenses are also on the an upward trend. In 2017, minimum wages across Vietnam were increased an average of 7.3 percent compared with 2016 rates. Makers have also had to offer higher salaries to attract and retain skilled craftsmen, whose number has become limited as younger generations opt for professions with better compensation.

Several companies have switched to artificial lacquer to reduce production costs and offer more competitive prices. Compared with natural lacquer, the synthetic version is generally less expensive and quicker to dry.

To avoid engaging in direct price competition, some makers are differentiating themselves by offering unique designs. Only a few companies have taken this strategy, however, because most have limited funds to invest in design and market research. The majority of suppliers rely on the information they get from buyers and online research.

Tran Anh Tuan of Lacquer Art noted that Vietnam lacquerware has great export potential, but not many companies can meet consumer demand for innovative designs. He added that some suppliers specializing in production have limited knowledge on how to market products overseas and export directly. Consequently, their lacquerware is exported by trading companies.

Do Hung Chieu, chairman of the Hanoi Lacquerware Association and managing director of An Huy Trading Service and Production, noted that most suppliers are more production-oriented rather than being production- and sales oriented. In Ha Thai village, Hanoi, for example, many makers need to improve their English proficiency, marketing and finance skills.

Sector support 

Organizations such as the Vietnam Association of Craft Villages, Hanoi Lacquerware Association and Binh Duong Lacquer and Sculpture Association help lacquerware suppliers keep up to date with economic news and market and production trends by disseminating information to its members. These groups also assist in export promotion and proposing new policies and programs to the government.

Binh Duong Lacquer and Sculpture Association, together with the Department of Industry and Trade, helps members join local and international trade shows by providing 50 to 100 percent of the booth fee. The association is also making proposal to the Department of Culture and Tourism and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to develop a professional project to attract tourists to Binh Duong lacquer village. This is one of the ways to preserve and develop traditional craft village.

Huong Nga Fine Arts can customize the patterns on these coffee and side tables.

Inquire now

The Hanoi Lacquerware Association, in cooperation with the Department of Industry and Trade, organizes training sessions for members and their workers to enhance their skills and knowledge in lacquerware production.

Currently, the lacquerware sector enjoys the following support from the state:

(1) export tariff waiver for lacquerware

(2) 50 percent of booth cost at international trade shows for lacquerware manufacturers

(3) skills enhancement program by the Department of Industry and Trade.

Vietnam is preparing a proposal to UNESCO that lacquer be placed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Lacquerware spotlight: Vietnam PDF download

Download PDF

Click on the download button to get a PDF copy of the full report, which contains the following:

The Vietnam advantage


  • Design capability
  • Domestic availability of raw materials
  • Fine craftsmanship

Design frontrunners


  • Pham Kim Ma
  • Tran Anh Tuan

Supplier spotlight


  • An Huy Trading Service and Production JSC
  • Huong Nga Fine Arts Co. Ltd
  • Kima Lacquer Art
  • Lacquer Art
  • Tu Bon Co. Ltd
  • Viet Pearl Lacquer
  • Viet Vision

Moving forward


  • Challenges
  • Sector support