Many centuries ago, foreign merchants would come to Hoi An to trade goods and buy high-quality products from Vietnam to sell overseas. Vietnamese artisans moved to Hoi An and founded craft villages, which supplied fine silk, pottery, and woodcarving to meet this demand, creating a creative hub along the Thu Bon River. Today, workshops around Hoi An offer amazing stories, hours of hands-on learning, and unique souvenirs you can bring home. Here are three creative workshops to try Hoi An.

Silk lanterns

The most apt souvenir to take home from Hoi An is naturally one of its graceful silk lanterns. Brought to the old port town by foreign traders more than 700 years ago, the lanterns that give Hoi An Ancient Town its signature glow today are handcrafted by local artisans. Most are hung in front of houses as a tribute to the gods, as well as wishes for peace and good luck.

The family at Tiếng Vọng Phố has been making lanterns for three generations. They now share their skills and knowledge about this iconic craft with travelers in a cozy workshop down an alley near the Ancient Town. Step inside the shop and admire lanterns of different sizes, shapes, and vibrant colors, then sit down at a bamboo table to make your own.

As the instructor takes you through the many styles of lanterns in Hoi An, you’ll find examples all around you. Begin by choosing your lantern’s shape and colors. You’ll then be taken through each step to build a bamboo frame and apply the silk cover. Finish with a light bulb test and see your very own lantern glow.

TIP: Lantern workshops are perfect for those traveling with little ones, as they are set up to cater to adults as well as children as young as five years old.

Tiếng Vọng Phố Lanterns: 8 Tran Cao Van Street, Hoi An

Bamboo crafts

For generations, bamboo has been a part of everyday life in Hoi an. In Cam Thanh, a rural area just outside the Ancient Town, locals use bamboo to build light and durable houses and furniture. Along the Thu Bon River you will notice countless bamboo decks, footbridges, and fish traps.

Behind his riverside home in Cam Thanh, Mr. Tan of Taboo Bamboo carries on his village’s bamboo legacy. When he was a small boy, Tan started learning to work with bamboo from his father. He now runs Hoi An’s only bamboo workshop, which lets travelers get hands on with this sustainable and versatile material.

For three hours, you get to be one of Tan’s apprentices and learn how to make your own bamboo accessory, such as a lamp, speaker, vase, tumbler, or toy. The workshop begins with an introduction to bamboo and Hoi An’s traditional method of processing the grass. Cut, saw, and smoothen away before finishing your creation with customized carving and decoration.

Taboo Bamboo: Thanh Tam Dong, Cam Thanh, Hoi An

Mask painting

Every year during the Mid-Autumn Festival, children all over Vietnam celebrate with brightly painted masks that represent different characters in traditional folklore. Painted masks are also an essential component in the Vietnamese hat boi (folk singing), a beautiful art form that still inspires today’s local artists.

Down one of the alleys of the Hoi An Ancient Town, you’ll find a striking shopfront with hundreds of vivid masks covering the walls. This shop belongs to Uncle Phong, an artist who started as a lion dance mask painter 40 years ago, but was later inspired by the art of hat boi. He went on to create his own style of art masks, which you can learn how to make here.

The artist instructor will begin by sharing the story of art masks and their meaning so you can choose the right ones to create for yourself. You can spend up to three hours creating a paper and plaster frame, lining and drying it, and finally sketching and painting with five elemental colors, with the help of Uncle Phong’s apprentices.

Timing Masks: 58/7 Le Loi Street, Hoi An

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