It’s late afternoon. A Japanese customer is waiting for Ms. Lien to complete the pair of clogs she has ordered. She seems pleased with her clogs: “It looks good. I think it’s so cheap compared to prices in Japan”.
Lien quickly rearranges her clogs on the racks while talking to us about her customer: “That Japanese customer likes these clogs. She visits Vietnam twice a year and often buys things here. She has been my regular customer for a long time”.
Lien has sold 4 pairs of clogs today. There are not enough customers to keep her busy: “It depends. I sell several pairs a day, none sometimes. Most customers are foreign tourists, who buy clogs as souvenirs. The domestic demand is very low”.
Lien’s shop measures only 1.5 meters square: “There used to be several clog shops in the market. Then, they all switched to other business”.
Her clogs come in many shapes and sizes and boast dozens of decorative patterns.
Mr. Pham Manh Trung of Ben Thanh Market’s Management Board says Lien is the only one making clogs at the market now: “Despite her poor health and advancing age, Ms. Lien is still dedicated to her work. Her family sometimes asks her to consider leasing her stall, as the rent is higher than the profits earned from clog sales, but Lien chooses to continue preserving and promoting the making of a traditional Vietnamese item”.
Ben Thanh Market’s Management Board has encouraged other shop owners to sell or at least, display Lien’s wooden clogs at their stalls to preserve and promote Vietnamese craft items. Lien’s main concern is whether someone will continue her work when she retires: “It’s essential to keep it as a craft and to have clogs displayed and sold at the markets. Otherwise, the clog-making craft will disappear”.