Silver Garland of Devotion

 

Pounding of hammers and noise produced by filing and polishing are sounds that everyone in Phra Bat Huai Tom Village is accustomed to. So is the tingling coming from the bells on the top of Chedi Si Wiang Chai and reverberating of daily evening prayers. The peaceful and simple way of life of this Karen village derives from teachings of a holy man, Phra Kruba Chaiwongsa Pattana, who enlightened people in the community to be mindful, considerate, persevering and hopeful. The Karenni people of this strictly vegetarian village (the only one in Thailand) base their credence on Buddhist faith and are famous for their ability to exquisitely and beautifully convey their beliefs into the unique silver creations, a pride and honor of Phra Bat Huai Tom community.

‘Genesis’ collection has been created by Stories of Silver brand, headed by Titapa and Lucija Perko, a Slovenian designer and business partner, who both take great pride in working side by side with the Karen community of silversmiths. “Stories of Silver does not aim to bring something new into the community, but rather to unveil the roots and identity of its heritage. We observe what is already there. We try to tell the story through sketches and concepts, based on the awareness that each family in the village has its own unique silver beads form. Not two are making same beads. We elaborated these distinctive elements into our final creation by trying to be as unique as possible.”

“We want to pass on the beauty from this community to the outside world. We wish for everyone to be mindful, persevering and thoughtful in the same way master artisans of Phra Bat Huai Tom village are when creating the silver products. The beauty lies within, beyond what can be seen with the eye,”

Joy Titapa Tanskul explained upon receiving the first prize from the ‘International Craft Creation Concept Award 2023’ or ICCA AWARD 2023 competition.

The “Malai” collection has won the hearts of both Thai and foreign judges. It is an elaboration of the previous Genesis collection that we produced in early 2023 by using the entire 20-day production period, with a team of 8 people responsible for designing and producing all 5 pieces. The collection consists of necklaces, bracelets and rings, with the highlight being the silver centerpiece designed in the shape of a garland (“malai” in thai) traditionally used for temple offerings. The design idea is based on conveying humility and faith. In addition to being worn as an ornament, these pieces can also be ingeniously used to decorate an offering altar at home, according to Buddhist traditions, thus replacing traditional flower garlands offerings.

Moreover, the intricatley crafted necklace created with 108 silver beads can be worn as an outstanding accessory, but in the same time used for meditation and mindfulness practice simultaneously. Joy explains: “This piece was inspired by the fact that the Karen people use a 108-bead necklace for daily meditation, counting 3 cycles of recitation. The first cycle is for the Buddha, the second for the Dharma, and the third for the Sangha (the buddhinst monastic order). Thus, the number of silver beads in the necklace matches the number of recitation beads, totaling 108 pieces. We designed the pendant with 8 threads representing the Noble Eightfold Path, which leads to the cessation of suffering. The 3 silver rings symbolize the middle way, as the first ring is angular, the central one smooth, and the third one textured, signifying that the middle path is the most appropriate way in one’s life. Finally, there is a round eye pendant, representing the beauty that goes beyond what the eye can see, requiring insight and mindfulness to perceive. Some variations of the necklace have divider beads, splitting the necklace into three parts. We adopted this concept to create an adaptable bracelet.

The artisans who magnificently executed these beautiful pieces are master Ekkachai and master Worachot who we see as mentors in embodying knowledge, determination, calmness, simplicity and mindfulness, all of which culminated in crafting these silver pieces for us.”

“Stories of Silver does not aim to bring something new into the community, but rather to unveil the roots and identity of its heritage. We observe what is already there and elaborate this into our creations in unique way.”

The uniqueness of silver from the Phra Bat Huai Tom Karen community lies in its special matt texture. Silver is made from 95-99% pure alloy. There are but a few tools used in making this collection, such as hammers, scissors, etching and polishing stone, which are basic tools that the Karen people have traditionally used ever since.

Silver pieces are produced through a meticulous process of hammering, cutting, filing, etching and polishing, that result in delicate surface pattern lines that look like hair (hence the local name for this surface finish, “cat fur”). Each piece embodies unique simplicity but with distinct textures that convey different meanings. Additionally, traditional stringing of beads with cotton threads adds to the craftsmanship’s allure.

As a tradition, the Karen people in the Phra Bat Huai Tom community spend their free time after the harvest season engaging in various activities such as silver-making and weaving , due to the fact that these activities have been habitually supported by the government. During most days they engage in their routine work that regards harvesting longan fruit, rice and corn. Living simply and in harmony with nature, their lives are deeply rooted in their surroundings. They also engage in making offerings at the temple and perform daily ritual prayers. This practice is meant to purify the mind and cultivate inner purity.

“What makes the Genesis collection so rewarding is because it tells a story. The true beauty of the community comes down to all the pieces and is conveyed to the wearer. That is more than what can be seen with the naked eye,” as Joy summed up. “The artisan master and villagers who worked with us on this collection were truly delighted when we called to inform them that our 20-day effort was paid off.”

After the exhibition in Bangkok the pieces from the Genesis collection will be exhibited at the Bang Sai Arts and Crafts Center in Ayuthaya, thus allowing interested public to learn about the stories and wisdom of the Karen people. Meticulously designed and crafted silver pieces aim to remind people to be mindful, virtuous, persevering and to try to observe the world with their hearts, beyond what only the eyes can see.

Genesis “Malai” Collection is currently available for pre-order through LineOA: @storiesofsilver or email: contact@storiesofsilver.com

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