A craft sojourn in Chiang Mai

Just before I left for Thailand, my students (rather kids) surrounded me saying that "M'am its not fair that you are happily going abroad while we have to go study a craft cluster". Little did they know that I was to do exactly the same thing a week later, that too very happily. As the first stop on my Thailand journey I chose Chiang Mai. Many ask me why I picked CM of all places? 
Most Indians associate Thailand with Phuket or Pattaya and don't even know that Chiang mai exists.  I first found Chiang mai being mentioned on Trip Advisor forums where I am a regular contributor as the 'No. 1 place to visit in 2015'; but I wasn't interested then. I wanted to go to Hong Kong or Seam Reap or Bali and finally by chance ended with Bangkok and Pattaya. Two weeks before I left, I fell sick and my legs swelled double their  size making snorkeling in Pattaya seem like a bad option. So I ended up picking Chiang Mai for a craft cluster tour and Tiger kingdom along with Bangkok. 

chiang mai craft village tour

My Chiang mai journey started with a lot of Drama. I had booked a tour for the afternoon I landed and kept waiting for them at my hotel for nearly 40 minutes without even having lunch. They never turned up and did not pick my calls. Though being stuck in an unknown place was very scary  I called up another driver, whom I had booked for the next day and asked if he could come. Joy, was indeed my saviour. He not only came in the promised 30 mins times, he took me to 4-5 the craft clusters in the time possible and also acted as my guide all for half the price quoted by the first agency!!

A craft Sojourn in Chiang Mai - A Tour of Sankampaeng Craft Village
 Sankampaeng craft village is to the east of the city ( 8-9 KM) where on both sides of the road there are numerous little craft factories whose work end up at the night bazaar and Sunday markets or gets exported. To do justice to the crafts, this would be a long post so stay with me please.

Hand Painting and Lacquer work on Celadon

1) Baan Celadon - Glazed Pottery
My first stop was  Baan Celadon - A company that specializes in carved or painted and crackled glazed green and blue pottery. Unfortunately as I went on a sunday I could not see the process but the owner was kind enough to explain the wood firing process to me as I sipped on some homemade chilled tea and munched on coconut jelly cubes made by her grand daughter. Thankfully I had read a post on wood firing on the AJE blog and could appreciate the process as she explained it.

2) Hand made Paper & Umbrella
Next I visited Bo Sang  Handicraft Centre  where local artisans make the world famous Sa Paper umbrellas and parasols. Joy explained to me the process - of how they make the fibre from the bark - they beat it and boil it to extract the starch and finally how the paper is made using a screen and a lady did a demo of the final step for me. There is a process chart hung there for those who go without a guide. The bamboo knotters followed by the Umbrella makers and painters sit nearby who convert their paper into umbrellas and hand fans.  There is a large shop which sells a huge variety of these painted umbrellas and parasols along with other locally made handicraft products. I bought some paper, tribal costume doll key chains here. You can also get your Tshirt or cell phone panel painted here.

 umbrella making

3) Gems Gallery
My Third Stop was the Gems gallery - the one touted as the worlds largest gem collection. I can describe it in two words as the "Aladdin's Cave".  I was initially apprehensive about going here due to the famous Bangkok Gem Scams and when I confided in Joy he gave me some wonderful advice. He said "look interested till the very end and then smile politely, say that you'll be back some other time and come out; No need to buy anything". I am glad that I went inside. There is a workroom in the gallery where you can see artists engraving jade, cutting and polishing it. You can also see them doing stone setting, buffing and soldering.  I got to see a lot of the tools that I have read about in Beading daily newsletters and it was quite a bit of learning for me.

jade buddha

The gallery itself is big with sparkling gemstone jewelry made of topaz, rubies, emeralds and sapphires lining table after table in a majestic fashion. I supposedly have good observation powers and can remember a design If I see it once, but I went blank after 3 tables. I couldnt remember millions of beautiful things!! (photography is prohibitted inside and rightly so!). How I wished that I could be a princess (or a queen) and own some of it!

4) Silverware & Repousse
This workshop was almost empty when I went, with just the manager sharing tips on how to identify 'Real silver'. The gallery by contrast was extensive and filled with beautiful silver chains, pendants, utility articles and gift items of all sizes. Filigree and Nagas work (Repousse) was very common. But after the gems gallery this was a little disappointing for me and when I came out I heard a loud "Dhang dang dungh" sound and to my surprise and joy found a woman doing repousse.  (Not to sound sexist but a female repousse artisan was an uncommon find for me as in India, only men [traditionally] do it)

copper repousse

She could not understand English nor I could Thai but it was as though someone (God) wanted me to see the step wise process. Each step was laid out before my eyes as the artisans had just left them there after a days work. From drawing on the sheet, to tools to filling with the pitch, everything was there. I had so many questions but I was happy that atleast I could see the process with my own eyes
5) Lacquerware

This was my final stop on the highway but to my luck, I not only got a "how to tour"  on how to make lacquerware but was also able to see the outcome at one place. It was so amazing and very humbling to learn about the lacquer process as it not just requires a lot of time and effort but also a lot of patience. The assistant told me that they take 5-7 weeks to create a product with more than 5-7 coats of resin depending on the size of the object and the kind of detailing that is required. I was amazed by the skill of artisans applying the gold foil in such intricate shapes. I guess the chart says everything there is to say about different variations possible in the process. Shown below is their new design intervention - Egg shell work with painting


With that we come to the end of my crafts sojourn. Apart from these clusters you also have silk factories, Brass and bronze workshops, leather goods factories and wood working units (particularly Baan Tawai) in Chiang Mai. I couldn't see these as I started an hour later than originally planned. There are also studios that do stuffed toys, soap flowers, Karen Hill Tribe silver jewelry, aromatic oil and soap making in CM. The best place to shop for these is the Sunday market.

Flower Making using Soap - soap carving. A cottage industry that I dint visit but found these beautiful products at the sunday market
Joy told me that the Government had given land and subsidies to develop craft villages like these as artists being together could be a better tourist draw. I wish that our Indian government too, could go beyond having Haats (or market places) do something like this where craftsmen could not just sell their work but also work and educate others.
I had so much fun during this craft trip and wish that I had spent an entire day there (a three hour tour isn't enough as most shops close at 5 PM). I highly recommend that you visit Chiang Mai when in Thailand and that you book the services of Joy (Pronchadin Potiya) and his family travels for your travelling needs at CM. Joy's cousin Vipa is super cool, much like an elder sister and can be a great driver/guide/companion for a singe female traveller.

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Rich Bridal red floral jewelry

 There is red and then there is Bridal Red. If you happen to be in India or ever attended an Indian wedding you would know that there is more that one kind of "Bridal red". You have the dark maroon, that is oozing with luxury which South Indian Brahmins (like me) prefer for our wedding saree, particularly for our Nine yard sarees that we tie the knot in. You then have the lush tomato red or a soft pinkish red that is favoured by modern day North Indian brides for their Ghagras as they want to be slightly different while still being traditional. You can find a rusty red that a groom would wear in his reception Sherwani. You have the brick red that is slightly generic but a must at weddings for a lot of guests would be attired in it. In between you would find the mother of the groom in a dominating yet subtle dull red holding the position of power. You would also find the orangish sindoor red in the skirts of the little girls running around the mandap, trying to play 'bride'. In the midst of all this, there is one particular shade of red - rich, brilliant and royal, one that captivates your attention like no other - The Rich Indian Bridal Red.

Unlike blue, which suits all skin tones, red is a tricky color to wear. So even when brides shy away from wearing bright reds in their clothes, they use them in their accessories as it is a "Shubh or auspicious" color. A while back, I got a call from a girl who wanted to give her sister a surprise wedding gift. She had seen one of her friends wear my Red roses bridal set for her wedding (Haldi function) and had fallen in love with it. She wanted a beautiful set in red and gold for her sister as she thought she would look pretty in it, though it was not a tradition in their family to have such a function.

However She wanted it in less than a week's time with a considerable reduction in cost to fit her budget. To begin with it seemed impossible but I didnt have the heart to say no to her because of the emotion behind it. So I figured out how to make it work and created the set. Here it is.

It is simpler compared to the first one but still contains a Necklace, a pair of earrings, haath phool ( tie up style) and Maang Tika with head chain. Indian Brides wear Mehendi or alta on their hands during their wedding but I think with this haath phool, a simple coat of nail polish will suffice. What do you think?

This set is my third bridal set involving red roses with hopefully one more on the way. I did make a pink set with real flowers and white set resembling Jasmine flowers in between. Will post them soon.

Some Indian Bridal Reds 

Apart from Red, white and gold I am not aware of any distinct bridal colors from around the world, are there any important bridal colors in your culture? Please share with us in the comments.

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Romani II Thread and Metal jewelry

In my last post on Romani- Gypsy Inspired jewelry, I wrote about how I was Inspired by the names of Romani gypies (and their meanings), to create a line of bohemian jewelry, that is unique and truly special. Containing handmade cords and unique metal components that are hand made by me each piece is eclectic and full of flavour. 
This collection at the outset might not resemble one that was inspired by gypsies. Why? Gypsies, are generally associated with beads that they string and trade as it is an easy to carry commodity for them particularly when they are travelling. Seldom are they associated yarn or metal. But I chose to make this connection, because the extreme characters of the materials in comparison showcased the eclectic nature of the Gypsies better than beads. There is also another reason for doing so; a more selfish one. One I will reveal in my next post on Romani.

Here are the next five pieces from the line in this short post as I have been a little lost lately, first with travelling, then work, training and most of getting literally baked and dehydrated due to hot hot sun. 

Lyuba - means to love. My Facebook fans would have seen this one on the header. It is a Beaded silk cord choker with a woven metal component wired with beautiful red paper roses; reminiscent of new found love. Inspired by all the Floral jewelry that I made for weddings. Sold

Nuri - Means Gypsy. Nuri was a big time experiment. I flame painted the sheet, drew on it, enamelled the piece and watched it change, morph and grow through these experiments and finally coated it with resin to preserve all my trials. This pendant with the cord was a perfect match to my emotions and personality while making it - so complex with lots of layers, each adding, contributing to the whole.

I had originally Made this necklace with black and blue cords to bring out these accent colors from the pendant. But a client who saw it, wanted me to add copper beads to match with her wardrobe better. I oblidged and changed it to its gold and copper avatar as you can see in the last picture.

Luminista & Luminita - A little Light. Braided metal component in silver tone with a handmade royal blue cord. A diamond glass bead with a aurora Borealis finish adds a little sparkle  The braids are sealed to prevent tarnish.

A variation of the above  using a braided metal component in gold tone with a handmade emerald green cord.


Fluturi - Butterfly. As soon as I took the cord out from Nuri, A butterfly design in blue magically appeared in my mind. I found an UFO - A handcut and hand painted copper butterfly I had made a while ago. I added a black stone focal, silver crystals and a shell bead and soon Flututri was born. Being an elegant piece ( with a 2.5" butterfly) and Black and blue adjustable tie up cords, it is Perfect for pairing with Cotton clothes, particularly cotton sarees this summer

Excepting 1 & 2 the other three pieces are available for sale. For Pricing and order mail me at jewelsofsayuri@gmail(dot)com.  Romani is a fast growing line, expect to see more pieces soon :) 

Before I wrap up for the day, I want to take a minute to thank you for all the love and positive comments that I got in my last Romani post. It is indeed rare for an observer and a creator to feel the same things while looking at a design. I feel privileged to have that connect with you all and I hope that I'll continue to have it in the future.
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Follow Sayuri on Instagram

 One of the perks of being a teacher and constantly interacting with 18 year olds is that, they keep you on your toes, particularly when it comes to technology. My students have been asking 9sorry telling!) me to have an instagram presence for a long time now, saying how all the "In & hep" designers are on it. So after a lot of thinking, debating, head scratching and consulting, I am finally on Instagram.
I am just a week old on it and learning the ropes, and I require all your support to if I want to make this endevour of mine fruitful. If you on Instagram please follow me @jewelsofsayuri. If not, I request you to give a shout out on your other social media channels so your friends/family on it could follow me.

What do I share on Instagram?
As I have just begun my Instagram journey, I post pictures of jewelry I make, places I visit and sometimes behind the scenes or WIP pictures. I am still figuring out the ropes as I hardly take pics with my cellphone and when I do they are more casual than staged perfectly like photos.  What I intend to do is to showcase the crazy colorful collage that my life is - Who I am, what I do and sometimes, the things I want! You can also find the richness and India inspirations that often seep into my work. Here are some of the pictures I have posted so far.


 I have just begun and I sincerely hope that you'll accompany me on this journey. I would greatly appreciate any tips from Instagram veterans to build my account and its visibility. Please leave your tips in the comments and please Follow Sayuri on instagram - @jewelsofsayuri

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Blingly beads of Bangkok

Blingly beads of Bangkok - If this alliteration didnt get your attention - then you are not a hardcore beader! :D
I recently took a trip (was it a vacation, I dont know?) to Thailand which was a "Turning 30" gift for myself from myself. Sometime last year, when I realised that I am finally leaving my 20's behind I gave myself a list of things to do before turning 30. Yes! one of those cliche lists, which ofcourse included traveling abroad alone! So after a hell of a lot of planning I took a 5 day trip which included a "half a day of shopping in Bangkok"! I do know 'half a day' is far too less for shopping anywhere in Thailand, but given the fact that I was nevertheless buying something or the other everyday (grin!) I had to limit myself and my Bhats (Thai  currency) somehow.
bead supplies in bangkok
While I did shop for clothes and knick knacks, shopping for beads was a priority. After some research on the internet I found that you could either buy beads at Palladium or China town in Bangkok. I chose Palladium as it was close to where I stayed. Palladium World Shopping center is a place in the middle of Bangkok where even a seasoned jewelry shopper with go crazy. It is a 5 storeyed mall at the corner of Pretchabari road and Ratchaprarop road, opposite Platinum mall, with an entire floor B1 zone catering to jewelry related products. 
Palladium World Shopping center,
B1 Zone, 555 Ratchaprarop road, Bangkok- 10400 

bead shopping in bangkok
After Shopping for beads in dingy crowded alleys of Delhi, Shopping in a calm A/c environment was quite different. The place was eerily quite, clean with stores selling pearls, agates, shell beads, crystal beads, amber stones and ethnic beads. There were packaging and display supply stores too. Most of the stock comes from China, but it said to be cheaper here. I found the Pearl stores slightly expensive; ethnic beads very expensive and Amber was not for retail buying. I didnt buy agates as they mostly come from India. Westerners might find it cheaper when compared to their local markets but the prices here were similar to India (even online shopping). Only the Chinese crystal store had findings, others only had beads. There was no wire or metal related supplies. What did I buy? I bought some bamboo coral, some pearls, MOP/Shell beads, loads of big blingy crystals - you can find then throughout this post!

bead shopping in bangkok
 The main speciality of this complex is that there are handmade jewelry makers who make and sell pieces wholesale right before your eyes here. It was fascinating to watch artists make huge blingly pieces in minutes. Unfortunately photography was not permitted. There is also a branch of “Pink Pussy”  - a fabulous accessories shop with amazing jewellery at fantastic prices. I went crazy here and didnt know what to buy. I did in the end buy 3 beautiful cocktail rings - a graduated flame, a wolf and an engagement style solitaireish ring all for 650 THB!!! It would have costed atleast triple anywhere else in the world.
Warning - This is not a place to take Teenage girls or women with credit cards!!  LOL

Pretty Pussy Store

At Platinum fashion Mall, I saw the Indian and Chinese crowd go berserk. People bought suitcases and filled them with clothes. I have never seen so much Clothing in my life before. But most of them are for petite women and the fabrics/cuts are such that it cannot be worn in India; atleast not in the streets. After some hunting, I bought a couple of tees and dresses. Most shoes were too small for me and I missed the bag section completely as I was very hungry and was looking for the food court craving like mad for some decent Indian food.
Pretty flower hairbands everywhere

People were buying necklaces at Jungle acessories in heaps and bundles. Why? Because the same thing bought for 100 THB a piece (approx Rs.208) is being sold as "Fashion jewellery" in fashion chain stores like Lifestyle, Globus, Westside and their likes for Rs.399-599! Easy profit!
I unfortunately, had only a 500 THB note with me, by the time I came to this store, so I bought 2 necklaces and a watch and sadly kept the remaining money for a taxi ride back to my hotel. And I am extremely proud of the fact that I didnt give in to the temptation and break out my credit card! :D Though I missed 1K THB  somewhere - which is another story for another day.

To sum up - If in Bangkok, Go shopping to 
- Palladium World Shopping center for pearls, agates, crystals and fabulous hand made beaded jewelry
- Platinum Fashion Mall - for clothes, shoes, wigs, bags, suitcases, jewelry , Food and anything else you can think of
Chatuchak Sunday Market - all sorts of knick nacks; things that you didnt think you wanted before

I didnt go to Chatuchak Sunday Market as I went to the Sunday Market in Chiang Mai then, but more on that later. With this trip I started my bead sourcing for the upcoming season and its still going on and I am buying (or hauling) from various sources. Will have to create something from all of them soon, predominatly to make space. Hopefully I'll find my muse. Till then Take care; Happy Shopping!

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DIY Colorful Poppins hoop earrings

Indian kids would have had vastly different childhoods depending on where they lived, the language they spoke or how their parents were. But one thing that would be common would be love for Parle sweets and snacks; Particularly Poppins.
Poppins is a roll of hard-boiled rounded sweet-tangy very colorful sugar candies, with unique fruit flavours. As a  kid it would be so thrilling to open a roll to find out which color would be on top and if all the friends/siblings would get their favourite colors. At about Rs.2 a roll, it was something every kid could enjoy enjoy. Not to mention adult who quietly ate from the roll that was stashed by their kids and then scrubbed their tongues clean so as to not get caught.:) Oh what fun!! If you have never seen one, scroll down to the end of this post for a picture.

Recently I had made colorful hoop earrings and worn them to college one day and a colleague who saw them, immediately pointed out excitedly to a group of students saying -"Look she's wearing poppins" and grinned playfully. Soon people gathered around me trying to look at the colors and basically play with my earrings and I was reminded of a giggling group of kids looking at a roll of poppins for the first time in their lives. And that's how, my beautiful Ladies, these earrings got their name -  Poppins hoop earrings.  Here is a DIY tutorial; do check it out.
Colorful Poppins hoop earrings
- 20g Artistic silver wire
- 24g Artistic silver wire
- 8mm Fire opal beads - 4 
- Acrylic/glass crystal faceted rondrels - Green - 4, Pink - 4, Golden yellow - 2
- Tools - Mandrel (ring mandrel or marker), round nose and chain nose pliers, wire cutter, Nylon hammer and block (optional)

1. Make your own wire Hoops or buy a ready made pair. Check below on how to make your own hoop earrings.
2. Cut 2 lengths of 12" of 24g artistic wire. Since I am more of a wing it type of a person, I dont exactly remember how much wire I used. Do take more wire if you want additional wraps between the beads.
3. Add a golden crystal in the center of one length of wire and wrap once on both sides to the hoop frame. Now let us finish one half of the frame before moving on to the other side.  
4. On any one side add a Fire opal wrap once to the frame. By wrap once I mean "one full wrap + another half wrap" i.e. wrap once till it comes back to the starting point, take the wire over the frame, add the next bead and wrap.
5. Repeat step 4 with one pink and one green crystal. 
6. Finish with 2-3 wraps as desired. Cut and tuck the wire end. 
7. Repeat Steps 4-6 on the other side to finish one earring. Repeat steps 3-6 to complete the pair

 How to Make wire Hoops

1. Cut 2 lengths of 4" of 20g artistic wire (it can be more or less depending on the hoop size that you want) and straighten them
2. On one end made a loop with round nose pliers on each of the wires. Hammer lightly to strengthen the wire
3.Wrap the wire around a cylindrical object like a ring mandrel and insert the remaining wire into the loop. For  cylindrical object that dont have markings, make a marking with a marker to make sure that both the hoops are of the same size.
4. Hammer once again all around the hoop to work harden the piece preferably while on the mandrel. I dont recommend hammering the portion where the wire with turn through the loop.
5. Turn the remaining wire at a 45 -60 degree angle so that it acts as a catch while wearing the hoops. Flush cut and file the ends. Your Wire hoops are now ready to be worn. 

If you wish you can wear the hoops as is without adding any beads to them or you can wire wrap the entire frame if you want something more ornate. I wanted a pair that would capture the fun of Poppins and hence I have kept it light and open. So pop in a poppin(s) and take in all that tangy goodness and flaunt these newly made hoop earrings.

 Disclosure: These gorgeous fire opals were sent to me for a review from Craftyful 
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Romani - Gypsy inspired mixed media Jewelry

Imagine a land, not very far far away. The sky is painted a reddish orange as the sun sets close to a grassland marketplace. Laughter bubbles up in the air as beautiful gypsies trade bead, baubles and interesting stories with one another. Fires are lit as the camp prepares for the night, children run around playing around the musical tableau set by some old wise men. As the music strums through, these bewitching Romani gypsies wearing beads, cords and hand forged metal, dance twirling their underskirts completely enchanting the crowd gathered at the marketplace.

Photos from Svenko
 Inspired by each one of these gypsies (and their names) I present a collection of beautiful jewelry made of hand forged metal components, braided cords and beads that are bohemian, with a deep rooted ethnic flavour. I present "Romani" designed as ever to please your soul. Here are the first five pieces from Romani. All of the following pieces are available for sale; please mail me to buy.


 Zeita - Means Goddess. this necklace comprises of a handcut ruffled and textured brass pendant that is flame painted and treated with patina inks to produce an unique effect. It is augmented by the prong set glass focal at the center that is framed with pearl-stone chain. This necklace  is fit for a Goddess with the pendant having a garland of 'x's and 'o's as a sort of an offering, a dedication. The neck cords are made of cotton cord in bright yellow and bottle green and can be knotted at the back making the necklace adjustable
* Update: There are many comments on this post where people have talked about the "Magical power" symbolised by the Zeita necklace. To be frank, I felt it too while making it and hunted a while for the perfect name for this piece. This necklace originally started off as a contemporary piece made of cord and a hammered pendant, but it felt deeply lacking and somehow adding The eye with the yellow stone, seemed to breathe life into the piece. May be I have read too many Nora Roberts' books or I was a mystical Gypsy in my past birth, but Zeita speaks to me. I am glad that it speaks to you too

Mirela - Mirela means to admire. This Mixed metal bohemian necklace has been made using handmade, textured and oxidised copper and brass components stacked on top of one another and riveted.  The handmade beaded cords and rustic clasp adds to its charm

Mirosi - means to savour . Savour the delights of this mixed media beaded necklace created using handcut metal, specially made shimmering enamel resin focal, braided cord and looped beads. The gold flecks in the cab along with the crystal beads and dichroic resin drop makes this a sparkling addition to your wardrobe. The necklace is slightly asymmetrical with opening in the front. Expect a tutorial for this necklace soon, on the IceResin blog


Lumina - Lumina referes to 'a source of light' often meaning bright or brilliant. This Extremely Light weight necklace comprises of a Handwoven patinated copper pendant with a verdigris finish and is looped together with magnesite and cedarwood beads. Designed to look like a "woven silk Kottadi saree" (Saree with metallic thread checks) with a bejewelled border and a brilliant rhinestone drop.

Andree - Meaning warrior - warrior style Goddess Necklace made with Hammered brass bib, a wire wrapped square lava bead and genuine sheep leather


These were the first few pieces from Romani; More are yet to come. How do you like them and which one is your favourite? Would you wear metal and thread together in such a bohemian style?
Stay tuned to read more about them piece by piece in the upcoming posts or hop to my facebook page Sayuri to see the entire collection together

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