His hands are decorated with silver, gleaming in the light as they move back and forth guiding the old blade of the small saw through a piece of cuttlefish. It’s a traditional silver casting technique, he explains, that his father and his grandfather passed down to him. His family emigrated from China as fishermen many years ago.
Now his family’s connection to the sea has evolved, using remnants of sea life to support the unique casting techniques he teaches students in his workshops.
After studying metal design at university, Best started his own business in jewellery making. He named it Chey, a modern twist on a Thai word which means ancient or old. It’s a fitting name for the designs he creates which are robust and elegant, forged using techniques which celebrate his family’s cultural heritage. The designs have a weight and solidity to them that remind you of their presence on your hand.
Once Best has cut the cuttlefish in half to create the mould, he pushes the template piece into the soft shell leaving a perfect imprint. He cuts a small channel to pour the smelted silver into and then ties the two halves of the shell together with silver wire, incorporating the material into the whole process. In a concrete cylinder bowl he heats a random assortment of silver to molten until it is liquid enough to pour into the mould. It smells like barbequed seafood as it burns its way through the shell, releasing a cloud of smoke and inspiring appetites. Just as quickly as Best has poured it into the mould he is opening it up, the silver already cooled to form a solid ring.
To cast the jewellery in the workshops, Best recycles scraps of silver or old rings. Each piece is unique, each made from a sum of parts that have already lived a life. There is beauty in the making process, and sometimes it creates unexpected results which are all part of the uniqueness of the pieces. The contours of the cuttlefish give each piece its own fingerprint that cannot be copied or repeated, making them truly one of a kind.
In just two years, Best and his wife have created a thriving business, travelling around Thailand to creative markets while also running a permanent shop from Chatuchak Market in Bangkok and the silver workshop classes at the neighbouring antique market. By teaching these workshops, Best is sharing and promoting his traditional artisan practices. Not only can we appreciate and celebrate his minimalist designs, but Best provides the opportunity to learn the craft, sharing his trade and knowledge with the wider community. By incorporating traditional techniques into contemporary designs, he encourages the practice and preservation of a part of his family heritage. Chey offers something valuable and unique to the world, feeding into and underpinning a community of sharing and educating each other that is such a beautiful part of Thai culture.