One Man's Junk is Another Man's Treasure
I’m waiting in eager anticipation of the delivery of my French colonial replica tiles from Ho Chi Minh City. I have recently been doing a little more research on the chap who is making these (trying to kill some time whilst I wait for them longingly) and I have read some lovely stories about him. Apparently he, much like most Vietnamese people, just thought of the old colonial tiles as scruffy and ugly. His preference was for the shiny new variety. This opinion is pretty much standard across Asia. Asian people long for modern, western design with clean lines and more stainless steel than you can possibly know what to do with. In the West, however, we seem to have more nostalgia for, or at least more taste for, design, fashion, artifacts, interiors and exteriors from days gone by.
So, this Saigonese chap was happily working in a tile store, selling flashy, shiny new pink and blue spotty tiles to his fellow patriots. Then one day a foreign man, French I believe, came to his store desperately seeking colonial tiles. The Vietnamese tile seller imagined the man must be crazy, directed him towards a couple of junk yards he knew of and went about his day. But then, a few months later another foreigner, an American this time, came to his tile shop and asked where he could source some French colonial tiles. This time, the Vietnamese tile seller asked the American why on earth he would want such things. “Oh, don’t you know how beautiful and desirable these tiles are in the west?” exclaimed the American. This sparked the tile seller’s curiosity and he asked for more information, before sending the American to the same junk yards. So, the tile seller decided to find some colonial tiles and try and sell them in his shop. This was in the 1980s, when the tiles were still in abundance. He sold many. They flew off the shelves. So, as soon as his stocks had depleted he went about teaching himself how to make a version of these himself, using the traditional French methods. What an entrepreneurial chap!