Beyond the Mold Silver
Precision, patience, craftsmanship. Each piece is a display of beauty, but the story goes deeper. Silver has long been a way of life in Karen Hill Tribes. Preserving the art of handcrafting silver has been a challenge. Pieces like these help keep the tradition alive. Handcrafted, each piece has its own DNA that runs deeper than the mold.
Sapahn met Annuluck and his wife Bencharat (Ben) a month after the couple welcomed their first-born daughter into the world. Through her studies in human rights, Brooke, became aware of the hardships experienced by many ethnic communities in Southeast Asia, including the Karen Hill Tribe to which the couple belong. Annuluck, an artist at heart, learned silversmith techniques from his father. After completing his education, Annuluck began working as a bus attendant on night routes in Thailand. Craving artistic experiences and a reconnection with his roots, he began working at a large silver factory where he grew his skills and understanding of the industry. Bored by the monotony, lack of artistic opportunity, and the pressure to produce, Annuluck returned to his village and opened his own small shop. Unlike most people in his village who all specialize in a part of the craft process, Annuluck’s skills and passion are worked into the piece from start to finish.
Design happens through collaboration. For these silver pieces, Annuluck sits at his workspace and Brooke sits at the adjacent wooden table. From the basics to small tweaks, the process is part Thai and part English, with some dancing in between. When work is done, Brooke, Annuluck, Ben, and their daughter Pa Jae head home where Brooke has her own mosquito net and Mickey Mouse pillow. Pa Jae has the matching one.
The process begins by melting down small pebbles of pure silver into bars. Hammered, flattened and stretched, each bar begins to take its own shape. Precision, patience and skill ensures that each piece stays within 1-4 grams of its original size. Artisans mix small amounts of copper to provide strength, as silver is a soft, delicate metal. Industry standard is 92.5% silver purity. Sapahn silver ranges from 95-97% purity. Slight variations and imperfections are part of the beauty of handcrafted pieces. In Sapahn’s silver pieces, something runs deeper than the mold, something with a story to tell.