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Rattiya Chaiwong

"The charm of handmade silver is in its uniqueness. If you look closely, you'll see a slight difference in every piece — even in items with the same pattern."

"I was born in Nan, a rural province in Northern Thailand, in 1979. After finishing high school, I moved to the city to... study a bachelor's degree in food science, but I didn't work in this field. Instead, I took a job in production at a jewelry company. But I didn't enjoy this career either, because I like trading, so I quit the job and applied instead to be an instant food salesperson. In this way, I could apply the know-how from my degree.

"When I went back to my hometown, I saw handmade silver crafted by local and hill tribe people and felt in love with it. Surprisingly, I had simply drooled over this work, which I've seen since I was a child, but I was overlooked. Maybe I'm just old enough now to appreciate handicrafts.

"Nan province is well-known for unique silver and jewelry, created by skilled local artisans in special patterns. This technique and our artisans make Nan silver like a wearable piece of art.

"I began selling jewelry by an artisan who lives near my house. I sold mostly to my friends in the city and they really liked it. As I sold more and more, I thought I'd like to be a part of the designing. Using feedback from shoppers, I saw that they wanted to adjust the shape, weight or pattern.

"So I had to learn about the crafting process, from melting raw silver, pulling the silver wire, rolling a silver sheet for making a pattern and decorating the finished jewelry. In this way, I could understand the possibility of improving a design from the wearer's viewpoint.

"The charm of handmade silver is in its uniqueness. If you look closely, you'll see a slight difference in every piece — even in items with the same pattern. Sometimes, this jewelry is expensive because of the different skill of each artisan and the patterns used.

"During Thailand's economic recession, my jewelry sales diminished and some of the artisans changed their jobs. I got married and had children so I only worked a routine job. But in my free time, I began learning about gemstones and studied more about silver crafting using new and efficient technologies.

"When the economy got better, I started to design my own contemporary styles, such as openwork in soft, trendy and mystic jewelry. Most of my work combines oxidized and high-polished finishes, suitable for the everyday look.

"Every one of my jewelry designs is handcrafted by the many freelance people who collaborate with me. Today, I've quit my routine job and dedicate all my time to silver jewelry. I love this art so I never give up when facing any obstacle. Although it requires a lot of work and responsibility, I still love it and am unwearied. I hope you like my work."
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