Karen Village

Karen Village

Monday, August 27, 2007

Interview with Anna of Sakura Jewellery

Anna of Sakura Jewellery, is a London based designer who has been wowing the world with her creations. After retiring from her life as a lawyer, Anna started Sakura Jewellery to fuel her creative passion. We were able to get a little interview with her to find out more about her designs and her plans for the future.

First off, what got you started in your jewellery designing career?
I have always been creative and loved anything to do with art at school but, as my work as a lawyer became more hectic, I felt that my creativity was increasingly becoming buried due to the stresses and strains of my life in the corporate world. My interest in jewellery designing was really born of a need to escape from those strains and stop me becoming 100% absorbed in my day job!

I am self-taught and enjoy exploring new techniques and processes without any preconceptions about what is or isn't possible. In my mind there is never any right or wrong way to create a piece so I feel complete freedom when designing. I love every moment that I am creating my pieces because it is a purely self-indulgent process as far as I am concerned and creating makes me feel totally absorbed and filled with creative energy which leaves no room for stress or strain. Simply put, when I am creating my jewellery I feel truly happy :)

Starting up Sakura Jewellery has allowed me to channel my creative energy into a tangible form. I also wanted to offer an alternative to the mass-produced jewellery abundant in the high street stores these days. I felt sure that it was possible to offer beautiful, hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind and limited edition pieces at affordable prices and that is my mission for Sakura Jewellery now and in the future :D

What are the things that inspire you?
I am definitely inspired by the materials that I use and, in particular, the array of colours I find in the gemstones I use. I think colour affects us all hugely perhaps without us ever noticing and I really love to use harmonizing combinations in my work. I must admit that I don't follow fashion trends at all and generally make what pleases me and puts a smile on my face lol

Many of my recent pieces have been heavily influenced by the gorgeous Karen silver I have used. For example, when I look at a Karen silver Sakura (cherry blossom) the rest of the piece just builds itself around that focal in my mind.

How would you describe the creative process you go through when making a piece?
My designs either come to me in my dreams or just pop into my head when I least expect it. It is an almost magical process which I don't really understand myself. I must say it can also be rather worrying at times because there is always the possibility that the flow of design inspiration could stop at any time (fingers crossed that it won't :S).

I generally only ever make one of each design because I believe that jewellery should be as unique as the person who wears it.

I always start off by sketching what is in my head before I start to make anything tangible. This way I can get a feel for the balance and harmony of the design and also a sense of whether the finished piece will work in its entirety.

Once I have the design sketched out I start making the piece and make adjustments to the design as I feel necessary. I think because I sketch my designs first it is very rare that I finish a piece and then feel like I need to start again from scratch.

You mentioned that you quit your corporate life as a lawyer to start Sakura Jewellery, what urged you to do that? What challenges did you face in the transition?

Throughout my employment in Law, I always had the nagging sense that I may have been following the wrong path. It's difficult to explain but I had never really thought about what I particularly wanted from life or my career but rather focused on what others wanted me to do or my perceptions of what was expected of me.

My work as a lawyer was interesting in that it provided a technical challenge, but the environment didn't nurture me spiritually and left me very little time to pursue anything creative outside of work. So, I decided it was time for a complete overhaul of not only my career but my life!

I think the biggest challenge for me was not really leaving my old life but battling the perceptions of others that I was somehow wasting all my education by leaving the Law. Luckily I had strong support from my family and partner who really believed in me and my designs.

To be honest, I have found it much easier and much more rewarding being self-employed lol Now I know that every minute I spend creating my jewellery is for me and my baby "Sakura Jewellery" :)

What is next in for Sakura Jewellery? What are your hopes and plans?
I have enrolled on a silver-smithing course from this November so I can continue to expand my skills and hopefully bring a fresh new twist to Sakura Jewellery come 2008 ;0)

There is also a new Sakura Jewellery website in the pipeline which I am excited about so the future looks bright :)

My hope is that my designs continue to be well received and that I can continue to indulge my passion for the foreseeable future ♥

You can find out more about Anna and Sakura Jewellery at her website and Etsy store. She also runs a blog:




Thursday, July 26, 2007

Greenery Themed Blog Post

Greetings everyone!

I know it’s been a while since we have updated the blog. June and July has been quite busy for us as we prepare for the winter collection of designs. If you haven’t received the email newsletter, we’d like you to know that Shiana is giving site wide discounts on our items for bulk purchases :) the details can be found at http://www.shiana.com

Now, enough about that and more about the village and our greenery themed blog post! It’s been rainy for several days, which caused some trouble along the road sides (mud slides, broken trees, the usual rainy-season hindrances.) Luckily the village is at a high spot, and flooding is rare, and with the rain in full swing, we’re lucky that the forest plants were thriving.

Which leads us to this package right here:

Given to us by sweet Siwaporn, who makes Shiana’s lovely fish beads. The package is full of Phak waan (Pak wan) which when literally translated, means “sweet vegetable”, a leafy green vine, which really does taste sweet when stir fried or boiled in soup. Imagine a leafy sweet asparagus and you will get the basic taste of Phak wan.

We also saw that Ngu-ga started to grow some hot green chili in his garden. These were also picked right after the photo was taken to make a spicy chili salsa. The villagers often eat their vegetables with a spicy dip which is a bit different from the traditional Thai spicy dips and sauces because they don’t contain fish sauce. The dip contains soy sauce or salt, shallots, green grilled chilies (pictured), garlic, parsley and lime juice. You have to eyeball the amount of ingredients you put in, but it makes for a great dip, and tastes better on the second day.

Lastly, there is this odd tree. We found it while visiting Ngu-ga’s orchard. No one really has any idea what it is, but the “fruits” are hollow inside and the skin is quite thin. If any one knows, feel free to let us know!

Take care and have a great summer!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

World Fair Trade Day is May 12th

Hi Everyone!
We know its been a while since our last posting. I just want to remind everyone that World Fair Trade day is on May 12th. You can get more information about it at the Fair Trade Resource Network. Those who are in the United States can find some events in their respective States.

In Celebration of World Fair Trade Day, we're having a special price on two of our new toggles:

[104040148] Thai Karen Silver 25mm Window Toggle (1 Set)
The window toggle is fit for all seasons and occasions, it is a combination soul pendant with a matching toggle bar (you can still use it as a pendant.) This is a very strong and versatile toggle. If you do not want to use it as a centerpiece, it will politely be tucked away at the back of a necklace or bracelet to accent your work.

[104040146] Thai Karen Silver 30mm Moon Fish Toggle (1 Set)
The Moon Fish toggle is a perfect summer accent piece, reminiscent of warm nights in the oceans where the full moon calls deep sea fish up to the surface. The small details on the fish are all created by hand stamps.

Use the code fairtradeday to get 20% off of the window toggle and the Moon Fish toggle when purchasing it on our website.

Coupon Code Details:
  • Place this coupon code into the "coupon code" form field during checkout. It is located under the order subtotal.
  • This code is valid until May 30th, 2007.
  • The coupon code is only used with purchases from http://www.shiana.com and not eBay auctions or buy-it-nows.
Have a wonderful May! :)

Angie Thien

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Air Pollution at the Village

The dry season comes swiftly in the village, and with it follows dust storms and debris from the clearing of farm fields by slash and burn methods. To add to this, many people have taken to burning garbage as a quick alternative, due to the lack of a stable garbage collection system. When so many families throughout South East Asia do this, some fires can get out of control. Destroying local forests and devastating the environment.

[Picture of Road at 11:00am: What should have been clear day]

On our last few trips up to the village, we noticed small fires almost everywhere, along the sides of the road, and even in the dry mountain forests. The smoke from these fires has become so bad that many places in Northern Thailand have been declared disaster zones due to such poor air quality. The villagers are situated near these disaster zones and the smog. Coughing and eye irritation has become common.

We’re happy to report that the air quality has improved from the last few weeks that we were at the village, however no one can tell how the situation will effect the health of the villagers in the long term.

Many of the village homes are still made entirely of wood; they are deigned in a way so that air can easily pass through the home and cool the residents. Unfortunately this offers little protection from the dust. As the loud nights of crickets and geckos seem to quiet down, we can only pray for the health of those who have to live firsthand in this crisis.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Heart of the Village

This week we were invited to a gathering at the Heart of the Village. The village heart is a large white building placed at the center of the village. It is rarely opened except on special occasions. And even when opened, outsiders were rarely allowed inside. I knew we were in for a treat when we saw the plain white building brightly decorated with colorful paper. The door was wide open with our friends standing just beyond, motioning for us to join them for prayer.

The seating area was divided into sectioned mats for the different streets or sub-neighborhoods in the village. We greeted a few different neighborhood leaders before I saw Tutara who had saved us a seat next to his family.

We sat in silence, listening to the Buddhist mantras. My dad explained to me that this was the first day, and that the monk will stay to continue chanting non-stop for seven days and nights. The prayers explain the life of the Buddha. It is done at least once a year to ensure the village’s health and for prosperity, and for everyone world-wide to be generally at peace.

Some villagers sat with candles in front of them, while others lit candles outside. After a while, we went out to the fish ponds with Tutara & his son, Sudee (Tutara’s brother-in-law) and Sudee’s nieces Jajan and Jahaair to feed the fish. It was a special occasion, so the village fishes were eating coconut shavings and rice that had been blessed by the monks.

With our spirits rekindled, we reflected on what an honor it was to have participated in such an event. As we were leaving, I asked Tutara if the village heart will be closed by the time we come back. He laughed and said, that while the doors to the building may be closed, the true “heart of the Karen village” is never closed so long as there are people who care.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Cold Mornings

Uncle Suporn told us that the more curled the Makam (Tamarin) fruit is, the colder it would be during the year. I guess he was right. It's been very cold in the village recently. Yesterday morning it was about 1o degrees Celsius outside (the coldest this month). The villagers are hardy, and seem to have no problem with the wind while I was shivering in my three layers of clothing.

I was able to take some pictures before we left to Bangkok, and thought it would be nice to share with you what an average morning in the village is like.

While Sa'cher has gone out to purchase new gasoline for the torches, one of his apprentices sets up the soldering table for him. Today they're making leaves.

It's warmer to sit in the sun while you build a fire. Today's breakfast is rice pourage and picked vegetables. Many of the villagers choose to be vegetarians as part of the Buddhist belief to not harm other living things.

A villager sands down the edges of a silver shell. This household also owns a small village grocery store, where cotton strings for beads, shampoo, and cans of Pepsi can be purchased.

Now that we're back in the city I really do miss the cold mornings. Luckily, I won't be away for very long, we're taking another trip next week. Take care, everyone!


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year, Friends!

Hello everyone!

It’s been busy here at Shiana. We’d just like to thank you all for a wonderful year, and we hope for an even better 2007!

Our immediate plans for the New Year include stocking much more pink gold vermeil and black silver. Speaking of which, our vermeil gold test piece has been worn daily for 1 year and 2 months now, and it has not shown any signs of wear. We also had some of our items lab tested to show that it is 3 microns of gold and 5-7 layers of e-coating (protection). Pictures soon 

Secondly, we are designing more matching components. (Yes we do listen!) Many more toggles, beads and links with similar patterns will soon be available so you can whip up a necklace that is a perfect fusion between your style and the silversmiths. And, we will be naming them under similar titles to make it easily searchable. The new items will now have a 2007 stamp, to ensure the date they were produced.

Warmest wishes everyone, all the best from our village to you!
-Angie T.-