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The Sun Lab Ft Nguyễn Huyền Châu: A Living Project Not Only Beautiful But Also Sustainable

The five members in this team joining the playground is the only one that was matched later on by the organisers, and then build their project from scratch. Their challenge started right the moment they advanced to the next round of the Creativity Challenge. Yet it might just be what makes their journey more unforgettable than ever. 

What to do when a member decided to quit?

Receiving the news that she has got into the next round of Creativity Challenge Playground – VFCD 2022, Quỳnh Giao was a little worried when she proposed initially was not accepted. She would have to work with a pair “in the same boat” as her: Duy Anh and Huyền Châu from Hà Nội, 2000 kilometres away from where she lives. 

Quỳnh Anh then went online to learn more about Duy Anh and Huyền Châu and thought of different ways to collaborate upon realising that their areas of expertise… has nothing in common with her. At the same time, Giao was excited to come up with a never-before-seen combination between game and… knitting patterns (!). 

However, the challenges persist with Duy Anh, not being able to arrange his schedule, decided to withdraw. Quỳnh Giao knew she needs support, and therefore asked to change her registration status from “individual” to “team”. The Sun Lab, where she and three of her teammates are working well together, and Nguyễn Huyền Châu, officially becomes a team. 

Works by Quỳnh Giao and The Sun Lab, showing their strength of product design with sustainable materials.

Not knowing anything about each other and never collaborate before, yet they have to build a brand new project in three months, and the geographical distance is no small obstacle. While other teams already have in their hands quite a detailed plan or concept, The Sun Lab and Châu only just began saying “hello” through the laptop screen. 

Applying local materials and techniques in the product

However, after just two weeks of working together, the team of five has come up with the idea utilising local materials and traditional patterns – the strengths of its two leaders Quỳnh Giao and Huyền Châu.

Huyền Châu has experience in building businesses with communication and social impact, and is especially interested in traditional patterns. It is this common point that connects her to The Sun Lab.

The final product would be a kit which consists of sustainable kinnitng material along with a manual to help users easily create traditional patterns on their work. It can be use as a recreational activity in the after hours to relieve stress and increase concentration, while also practicing patience and creativity. 

By making this product, the team wantss to attract young people’s attention to age-old knitting techniques and its traditional values, which current approaches and communication have unintentionally viewed as old-fashioned and unappealing. When the matter of the youth’s interest to traditions is addressed, this could be a solution to the livelihood for traditional craft villages with an abundant local material sources, but are at risk of disappearing. 

“Our hope is to create a highly applicable product, not only focusing on the shapes and aesthetics but also, in a direct or indirect way, addressing social issues, such as evoking in young people the interest for traditional, sustainable natural material sources, and providing livelihoodss for artisans who are continuing the craft…” – said Quỳnh Giao and Huyền Châu. 

Challenging yet also impromptu and different, how will The Sun Lab and Nguyễn Huyền Châu build, develop this project and present it to the community? Join VFCD to follow their journey and attend their exhibition this November!

(Images provided by the team). 

The Sun Lab 

Year of foundation: 2021

Fields of operation: Product research and design, brand identity design, product photography

Roles in the project: Quỳnh Giao – production design, Nhật Khánh – exhibition space design, Phương Khanh – visual and graphic design, Nguyên Sa – UI design for the online archive of knitting patterns. 

The Sun Lab consists of 04 women: guyễn Ngọc Quỳnh Giao, Phan Nguyễn Phương Khanh, Nguyễn Trần Nhật Khánh, Lưu Nguyễn Nguyên Sa. Their dream is to one day in the near future have sufficient finance to open their own design studio. “And to do so, now our motto is ‘one tree cannot amount to anything, four of them together and they get to work’. Labour is glory!”

Quỳnh Giao is the industrial designer in charge of product research and development, from sourcing sustainable materials to project management. Phương Khanh is the graphic designer/illustrator, specialising in turning ideas into visualisations. Nhật Khánh is the 3D artist with a focus on architecture and interior design. Nguyên Sa specialises in digital graphic design, who sees herself as a person who loves to explore new things and is not afraid of challenges. 

These four women have worked together in multiple projects, their strength being the diversity in design and high applicability of local/traditional materials in products.

Nguyễn Huyền Châu

Year of birth: 1986

Fields of operation: Commerce and social impact project management 

Role in the project: Expertise consultant and community engagement

Nguyễn Huyền Châu has more than 15 years of experience in social work with projects such as Xây Trường Cho Em (Building Schools for Children), Action 4 Lùng Tám, as well as capacity support programmes for underprivileged people. She was given the scholarship in the Leadership for Sustainable Community Design programme in Japan, and is the co-founder of CA’ Library (the first art and architecture library in Hanoi), while also founded and manages VAN•HOA, a creative solutions company inspired by local culture. 

With an expertise completely different from the four women of The Sun Lab, her background leans more on market, commerce and social impact project management. However, Châu has long realised that culture is a potential driving force for sustainable socio-economic development, and therefore since 2017, she has been studying in-depth traditional cultural factors and craft villages to find long-term development solutions. With these common and unique points, Huyền Châu will be an essential “half” who can support The Sun Lab during the course of the project. 

06 / 09 / 2022

WRITER
Bi Xu