Female carpenter the last of her kind

VietNamNet Bridge – Tien Tay Vam Village in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre is notable not only for its delicate wooden products, but also for the artisans who make them. Here, women are – or were -known for their skills in the male-dominated carpentry profession.   Ta Thi Thu Van, 57, began her career as a carpenter 36 years ago when she married a man in the village. “When I got married at 21 years old, all I knew was following, helping and learning from my husband,” she said. “After two years of practicing, I became a professional.” According to her husband Le Van Phuong, head of Tien Tay Vam Village’s carpentry group, most woman in the village have considerable expertise in carpentry. They saw, chisel, shave and assemble assemble wooden products. A skilled artisan can build a standardised bed frame on her own. “My wife mastered all the techniques. In her heyday, she could build one or two big bed frames all on her own. With a saw in her hand and her foot put on a dais, she looked like all of us,” Phuong said. The craft was sometimes difficult for her, Van said, because bed-frames are quite heavy and she is a small person. But she balanced her carpentry work with keeping house and taking care of their children. At present, Van is enjoying retirement, as poor health prevents her from doing other work. In the last two years, Tien Tay Vam has witnessed a population…

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