CHUKIAT Naim-Tong, now 41, is the second generation in his family to make the traditional “mechanical” gold and silver rings of Chanthaburi province. It earns him an average income of Bt30,000 a month – enough for him to keep hand-making this unique local product.
A mechanical ring is actually four rings that come together in a special design such as a crab, shrimp, fish, dragon, lotus or even a rose. Chukiat will also create a unique design requested by a customer.
The mechanical ring is a long-time tradition in Chanthaburi province, and this is the only province where they are created.
In an interview with The Nation, Chukiat shared his ring story, starting at age 11, when his uncle-in-law began mentoring him. His uncle, Sayan Pumipak, was an expert mechanical ring artisan, and his well-known crab design is sold under the brand Wan Kol (which means ‘mechanical ring’).
“I learned how to do it, and also helped uncle Sayan to make rings, ’til uncle Sayan passed away in the year 2007,” Chukiat recalled. “I have continued uncle Sayan’s business and set up my home as Baan Wan Kol (which means ‘Mechanical Ring House’). And I opened my house to teach student who are interested to learn how to make them,” Chukiat said.
He added that after uncle Sayan passed away, he thought about his career. But he was sad about how few people still know how to craft the unique ring of Chanthaburi. He believed that this career could generate income enough for his life.
“Uncle Sayan made mechanical rings from when he was still young and did it until he passed away. As a result, I believed that I can do mechanical rings as my career for a long time,” he said. “Although it does not generate high income because I’m limited to no more than three rings a month, and most of them I do by myself only. But it’s still enough to generate sustainable income for me.”
From the year 2007 until now, Chukiat has responded to customer requests for ring designs. Most customers know about the mechanical ring from the Facebook “page” that he created in 2009.
“From the year 2007 till 2009, most of our customers came from word of mouth, as some of them were existing customers of uncle Sayan. After I opened my Facebook page, Baan Wan Kol Muang Chan, up to 50 per cent of my customers have come from Facebook,” he said.
Though he still makes mechanical rings in the original crab designs, Chukiat also designs and develops others designs, such as fish, shrimp, dragon, lotus, rose, and even the name of customers that request special orders. “I can say only one ring for each customer, because all the rings that I have made following customer’s orders are unique designs to match with the customers demand and their characters.”
Creating these unique designs to match customer demand is a challenge for his business, and has continued to generate stable income for Chukiat.
“My business is very small because it is limited by all orders being made by myself only. However, I’m willing to train people who are interested, because this is a unique career that needs more people to learn and to do. If no people learn to do, it may be lost from the province.
“As a result, I’ve opened my house to train student or people who are interested in how to do it, but they have to know that they’ll have to take a long time to study. For example, I’ve been learning how to do it since age 11, and even now I still learn and develop skills to design the products all the time,” said Chukiat.
The key to success for creating mechanical rings is that each one is unique, something the customers can love, he concluded.