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Back To Childhood With toy figurine

July 16, 2021

Toy figurine is one of the games familiar to generations of Vietnamese people that still exists today. Even toy figurine folk art is handed down through folk songs, making it a beauty in folklore that belongs exclusively to the countryside of the S-shaped strip of land.

“Toy figurine, how many dong did you sell?

I bought one for my husband to play with

My husband just broke the game

I bought another one I played alone.”

No one remembers exactly when toy figurine appeared, only knows that they have existed for a long time, imprinting on the minds of many generations of Vietnamese people. Originally, toy figurine had a much more rustic name, people often called “powder” or “stork”. Simply put, they are a type of dough cake that can be played and eaten at the same time, typical of the Northern Delta that adults think of to make up for children’s deprivations every holiday or Tet.

It wasn’t until later, when toy figurine was widely sold as a toy for children, that the artisans thought of adding a reed pipe with malt candy on the head to attract customers. Colorful and eye-catching, the sound is funny, these items are passed on by children, called by the name “To he”.

There is no single template that defines the art of toy figurine. They are multi-shaped, multi-colored and change every day. From simple shapes handed down from time immemorial such as flowers, fruits, animals associated with the countryside and traditional culture such as buffaloes, cows, pigs, chickens, birds,… to models. More complex, requiring a high degree of meticulousness such as the trio of three (phúc, lộc, thọ), four spirits (long, ly, quy, phượng), 12 animals, …. all are transformed vividly through artist’s hand. Today, toy figurine accompanies the tastes of young children, every object that appears popular is brought into the art of “to he”, most notably Ton Ngo Khong, Tru Bat Gioi, fairy princesses, etc. .. With the quick hands of the artisan, after only a few minutes, it is possible to create a toy figurine with all unique and eye-catching shapes.

No matter how diverse the shape is, the raw materials for making To He have always remained the same for many generations. It is a powder mixed from glutinous rice and plain rice according to the secret of each craft village, but the hardest part is mixing the dough so that it is even, keeping its flexibility in any weather. After mixing glutinous rice and plain rice, people soak it in water, then grind or pound it into a powder, knead it thoroughly until it doesn’t stick to their hands, then hold it in small handfuls, and boil it to “fight” the color.

The four most basic colors in To He art are yellow, red, black and green. People use colors derived from plants and boil with a little powder: yellow made from flowers or turmeric, red from gac fruit or gardenia, black is burned straw or used potash, green is obtained from indigo or galangal leaves… The other intermediate colors are created from these four colors.

The intersection of To he and the art of leather crafting

Adaptive ratio

As can be seen, the conspicuous feature of To he is the customization of the model ratio. To be suitable for children to play, the molder skillfully adjusts the simulation ratio, making the image of the toy figurine become more lovely and funny. Likewise, in order to perfect a beloved and well-received handmade leatherwork, each artisan must customize the proportions to suit the tastes of his or her customer group.

Moreover, customizing according to individual preferences and requirements is difficult. How to balance common aesthetic standards and personality of each person is a question that requires workers to learn, create and adapt.

Colors and lines

Although it is said that the colors and lines of a “to he” are extremely basic and somewhat naive to catch children’s eyes, but, putting yourself in the flow of art, you will realize the basic when is the right and the most wonderful.

Colors complement each other very well, can highlight each other, or make the overall look blurry and lacking in accents. Therefore, the artisan must have a delicate eye to combine those elements in a reasonable and integrated manner in a complete production.

Today on the market there is no shortage of modern and attractive toys, but many people still like and are passionate about toy figurine. People like “to he” because of its simplicity and folklore, similar to what Quyn hopes to convey through our creations.

Hạnh Hoa