Karen Village

Karen Village

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Homes and Gardens

While many Karen (especially in the new generation of silversmiths) are building concrete or brick houses, there are still a number of villagers who choose to live in traditional style homes. These homes are usually on stilts and made of wood, which provides cooling in the very hot summer months.

Traditionally people would raise animals like chickens, and pigs under their stilt homes. In our village, many of the Karen are vegetarians and the area under the home is often used as a silver workshop for silversmiths.

Many homes also have “raised gardens”, which are like bamboo tables tops full of rich soil. The Karen grow forest herbs or sometimes vegetable (from seeds which they buy in the city) within these raised gardens.

The reason why they raise the gardens is to keep dogs and cats off of the vegetables, and to make it easier to maintain and water the plants.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Tiny Beads

Few people really understand the work that goes into making the tiny hill tribe beads that are often for sale in strands. As an example, here is a solid cube bead with a small ‘pout-duang’ (commonly known as the flower print) on it. These beads are tiny, usually measuring no more than 1-3mm each.

In order to make these beads, little balls of melted silver need to be cooled, and then holes are drilled to create beads. The beads are then filed down into shape, one by one. This is usually done with a metal hand file.

Then, the beads are strung up for stamping. Usually two or more silversmiths are needed for this, as the job requires both a master and an apprentice. Only a master silversmith has the expertise to make really beautiful beads, but their apprentice would be younger, with much better eyes for the job.

Lastly, the beads are cleaned, sometimes oxidized, and left to dry.