Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Aside from its wonderful array of flora, another great highlight of Thailand's Sopha Botanical Gardens is its three, 100-year-old traditional Thai houses each holding exhibits of antique Thai utensils. Thailand is also home to featured jewelry designer Nareerat Tansuwansophon a/k/a Lek.

Flowers are an integral part of Thai culture.  Flower arranging, for instance, is an ancient form initially practiced by women of noble birth.  Flowers are prepared as food fried, boiled or pickled and even eaten raw. They are used to make teas, and for medicinal purposes.  Elaborate flowers carved from fruits or vegetables are popular garnishes accentuating sumptuous Thai cuisine.

Lek's beautiful gemstone jewelry is a virtual bouquet of the earth's splendid minerals from rose quartz to carnelian. She pays homage to azalea, daisy, jasmine, orchid, gardenia, and peach blossom in designs that are both direct replications or highlight color selections based in natural floral hues. They are all luscious like candy or ripe fruit.

The former administrative assistant is self-taught first teaching herself origami in 1996, and then deciding to pursue a more ambitious aspiration, building a jewelry business. "While I was pregnant with my daughter, I spent all of my time doing origami. It made me appreciate art, and then after giving birth I went back to work," she says.

"When I was pregnant with twins, I wanted to have my own small business so I bought several kinds of jewelry to sell at a shop my sister owned. It was 2004 when I decided I wanted to design my own jewelry.

I bought a book about jewelry making, and I started from the beginning. It took me a long time to make that first piece. When I understood the basics, I started to create designs without using the book until I got better and in 2005, I opened my own small shop. Outside the births of my three children, one of my best memories is when I sold a necklace I named "Green Silk Curtain" to my first customer."

Handmade gemstone jewelry is unique and beautiful involving a keen, discerning eye for what blends and complements. It is like precise choreography, the shape and hue of each stone must accentuate the other.

Designers like Karen McClintock (Canada), Nate Waxman (USA), Kai-Yin Lo (China), and fellow Thai designer Sasina, beautifully link and arrange gemstones in bold, ethereal, and boho-chic designs. Lek alternates between streamlined and more opulent designs and the varying tones effects the overall aesthetic of a piece.

Bolder, duskier colors make streamlined items like her Tropical Orchid Earrings pop, while translucent, muted hues featured in her Peach Blossoms Earrings
are soft, delicate.

On the opposite end vibrant colors on a larger piece helps to build a more statement-making item, while fairer tones seem to cause a larger piece to recede becoming more dainty. Her jewelry is a spectacular array of color, gemstone arrangement, and style.

"Nature is a reference for my designs. I like to sit in the middle of the materials--colorful stones, and pearls in many shapes. I love all of my work, and I am satisfied and happy when I see others appreciate my designs. It inspires me to make more beautiful jewelry."

Photo 1 (top right): Leather and Agate Lush Cosmos Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): Rose Quartz Gardenia Garland Necklace
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