​Vietnamese woman uses art to create jobs for Saigon’s disabled community

Vietnamese woman uses art to create jobs for Saigon’s disabled community
Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong sketches an outline of a piece she will create with copper wire. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong, a Ho Chi Minh City artist who specializes in working with copper wire, is using her talent to lift the city’s disabled community through a social enterprise she has created to teach her trade to those with special needs.

Phuong never expected that her first experiments twisting and turning copper wire nearly a decade ago would lead to a career as an artist and social entrepreneur.

“I only began bending copper wire to fill my free time, but my art actually turned out to be way cooler than I had expected. I really became drawn to copper wire. It’s a medium that really pushes my creativity,” she shared.

For several years, bending copper wire into intricate designs remained little more than a hobby for Phuong, but when a respiratory condition forced her to quit her job as a pre-school teacher in 2016, she began focusing on her art full-time.

Her artistic pursuits eventually led her to create Uma, a handicraft brand dedicated to art items made from copper wire.

As a young entrepreneur with no industry knowledge, she found little support from family and friends.

“I didn’t really know anything about the rules of art. I simply made what I liked,” Phuong said.

Now, just a few short years later, it seems those doubts were misplaced.

Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong (right) teaches copper wire art to members of the disabled community in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong (right) teaches copper wire art to members of the disabled community in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Uma’s products currently garner attention in both domestic and foreign markets, with export deals inked between the company and retailers in both New Zealand and the U.S.

Phuong has also been recognized by Guinness Vietnam as the first copper wire art maker in the country.

Aside from her entrepreneurial ambitions, Phuong also runs a copper wire art workshop for the local disabled community and volunteers with several charitable organizations based in Vietnam.

She hopes to empower those with special needs by giving them confidence and providing them an outlet to earn a living.

She has no current plans to expand her business, despite receiving the droves of acquisition and investment proposals which come her way.

She wants to remain independent and help lift the spirits of those around her.

Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong sketches the outline of a sign she’ll create to support the country’s fight against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong sketches the outline of a sign she will create to support the country’s fight against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Duong Thi My Huyen (left) from Quang Ngai Province, a disabled artist with muscular atrophy, works on a piece at Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong’s copper wire art class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Duong Thi My Huyen (left) from Quang Ngai Province, a disabled artist with muscular atrophy, works on a piece at Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong’s copper wire art class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Ornaments are created with copper wires at an art class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Ornaments are created with copper wire at an art class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

A caricature of Buddha sitting on a lotus flower is depicted in this copper wire art piece. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

A caricature of the Buddha sitting on a lotus flower is depicted in this copper wire art piece. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Copper wire ornaments decorate a traditional Vietnamese ‘non la’ conical hat at an art class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Copper wire ornaments decorate a traditional Vietnamese ‘non la’ conical hat at an art class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

A copper wire lotus leaf and dragonfly decorate a traditional Vietnamese ‘non la’ conical hat at an art class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

A copper wire lotus leaf and dragonfly decorate a traditional Vietnamese ‘non la’ conical hat at an art class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Apprentices create copper wire art in Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong’s class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Apprentices create copper wire art in Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong’s class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Beads brighten up a copper wire ornament in Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong’s class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Beads brighten up a copper wire ornament in Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong’s class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong (left) instructs an apprentice on the creation of a copper wire art piece at her class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Thi Nhat Phuong (left) instructs an apprentice on the creation of a copper wire art piece at her class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

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