Vietnamese sand art

When I heard I was to do photos for a story on Vietnamese sand artists, I had no idea whatsoever what sand art actually was. I had seen artists who did realtime art using sand on a backlit panel – a constantly changing work that was skillfully manipulated by the artist to morph from one picture to another (check out the second video on this post on Hello Saigon! ), but I had the feeling that this would be something different.

And as I discovered on arriving at the tiny studio in a narrow back alley in Ho Chi Minh City, I was right.

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Turns out sand art, which is a discipline mastered by relatively few here in Vietnam, is the art of creating painting-like images in glass containers. These works are generally two-sided, but can also be created in round vessels so that the image loops around as you turn it. It is quite amazing the way coloured sand can be manipulated inside a glass container to create all kinds of images.

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The works are created by first outlining the design with a marker on the outside of the glass “frame”.

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Tiny amounts of coloured sand are then placed into the vessel with what looks like a long-handled teaspoon with the edges bent up to allow it to fit into the narrow space between the glass panes.

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Once the sand is loosely in position, a long, pointy skewer-like utensil is used to move the sand – a few grains at a time – into the specific location required.

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It’s a painstakingly meticulous process that means that hundreds of hours of work may go into a single creation.

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It was certainly an eye-opening visit, and I felt lucky to have observed these artists painstakingly creating their works.

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For more details about the sand artists, check out the article in Oi Vietnam back in May online or download a copy of the issue.

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