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"The Karen silversmiths we've known all this time are a part of my life. My family was always invited to participate in their various ceremonies such as wedding or a new home."
"I was born in Chiang Mai and I come from a family of jewelers specializing in silver, especially from the Karen hill tribe. They work with the highest silver purity, 99%. So for me, after my family home, school was like a second home and Chiang Mai's Night Bazaar became my third home because that's where my parents worked.
"The Night Bazaar is a very popular place among tourists. After school, most of my friends returned home, but I had to join my parents at the bazaar and once I finished my homework, I would usually take a walk around. Sometimes I would get so bored that I'd volunteer to help my parents with simple tasks like threading beads, do simple wrappings or counting.
"During the school holidays I would sometimes travel with my father to the Karen village where they prepared the silver pieces for us. This village is very far from where we lived, so it takes a day to get there. My father would take them the raw silver so they could craft the different items such as beads, clasps and the pendants that we designed.
"We can't expect each piece to be the same because it is a handcrafted art form, though the design details always remain the same. I have been learning about making silver jewelry since I was young from several silversmiths.
"I find it amazing that such unique and beautiful silver pieces can be made by using only simple manual tools. The Karen silversmiths we've known all this time are a part of my life. My family was always invited to participate in their various ceremonies such as wedding or a new home. It was so much fun!
"However, in addition to the fun, there are always problems, and sometimes it is associated with the beauty and uniqueness of the Karen silver. Each Karen family has a different style of working, resulting in subtle differences. Sometimes we need to work with several of them for one design, and some customers find this difficult to understand. Fortunately, some customers do understand and appreciate the uniqueness of each silversmith's signature work style.
"During my final year at college a new market on Thapae Road opened in Chiang Mai, for manufacturers and people selling interesting handicrafts, as well as for various local performances. I asked my parents to allow me to sell the necklaces I designed there. Although I had experience from selling at my parents' in the Night Bazaar, I felt very excited when I did it for myself.
"I had to lay necklaces on a piece of cloth right on the ground. I was worried about whether or not my designs would sell. I placed my necklaces in cookie boxes with a piece of cloth. The weather was very hot so I sat under a parasol, but I didn't feel the heat at all because I was so excited on the first day. I also made a mistake by selling at a wrong price, so I loss on my sales because I reduced my prices too much. But I was just afraid that customers wouldn't buy any. My parents were always encouraging and later on they came to help me sell. They probably didn't want me to make further losses!
"Unfortunately, work is becoming sluggish now, nonetheless my family continues working with the Karen people. I think Karen silver is attractive and representative of their life and lifestyle. I have always learned so much from them over the years."
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