"Hello! My name is Yooprai Kaewtui, born on February 19, 1953. I have one elder brother and two younger sisters. I got married and had a daughter when I was in my early twenties....
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"Hello! My name is Yooprai Kaewtui, born on February 19, 1953. I have one elder brother and two younger sisters. I got married and had a daughter when I was in my early twenties. Her name is Fai. When my daughter was 14 years old, my husband passed away so I had to take care of my daughter alone. My husband's sister introduced me to a few men, but I was not interested. It was just me and my daughter for quite a few years, until I met my second husband. We got on well and became good friends. We finally decided to spend our life together. We don't have any children together, but we are happy the way we are.
"I have loved handicrafts ever since I was young. I was born and raised in a village where most of the people make saa
(mulberry) paper, as well as many other handcrafted items. I studied accounting when I was in Vocational Education, but I realized that truly I do really like handicrafts more. After I graduated from Vocational Education, I was accepted by many schools to study the next level courses, but my parents couldn't afford it so I had to apply for a job at a big company in Lamphoon province, south of Chiang Mai. At that time, though I liked handcrafts more than anything, because my parents had already sent me to school and I got the certificate of accountancy, I had to use my knowledge to earn my living for a while. But during the time I worked in a big company, I was always helping my parents or my brother as they worked on handicrafts.
"I worked for the same company for about five years, and then I had to quit because one day, when I was seven months' pregnant with my second child from my first husband, riding my motorcycle on my way to work, I got into an accident and I lost my baby. Even though I had lost my child, my mother insisted that I had to conduct myself as if I had given birth, and so I had to stay home for a month, which is a traditional belief in Thailand: a woman who just gave birth should not leave her home for at least one month.
"My life has revolved around saa paper ever since I was a little girl. My parents made saa paper, so I would help them as well as learn from them. When I grew up, my brother had a saa paper shop, and I moved to his house and learned many things more from my brother.
"Many years later, I started creating new saa paper designs. At first I only made a few products because I was not sure if people would be interested in my work. I sold products at my parents' house and there were shoppers from other countries interested in my products as well. They placed an order for only some products, but after that they ordered more and more. I was so glad and proud! Now, it's been about 23 years since I started to design and create my own line of saa paper items.
"The art of working with saa paper has characterized our village culture, and has been carefully handed down through generations. I'm proud to help continue this beautiful legacy.
"I do really love Lanna (northern Thai) culture and tradition. I always participate in the important dates and ceremonies such as Buddhist ceremonies, the Saa Paper Festival, and local street fairs. For the Saa Paper Festival, I once decorated my workshop with saa paper in a way no one had done before, and many people showed their interest. I also got an award from the Prime Minister for being able to use local material for decorative purposes. After that, the decoration shops and houses with saa paper have spread to all over the village.
"I can't just sit and do nothing. I love to work. I am not working only for myself, but I also work for the public. I always receive invitations to participate in many community activities as well.
"As a local Thai woman, I feel very proud to have created all of my work by myself, and that I have a good opportunity to work with a great supporter of traditional arts such as Novica, who always gives me great advice to be able to handle my work more efficiently. I am happy to be able to create the work I like, to work at home with my family and many other neighbors, and that I can also present my work to the whole world via Internet. I still wonder how all of these good things have come to me.
"Being able to have my own work and being able to support myself and my family is great. Moreover, my work is also helping other families in my village to earn a better income.
"I never give up. Every time after I create new items, I take them to the experts and other people for their comments and suggestions. I then return with their comments to develop my work by improving the design and quality. I am always enthusiastic in solving problems and I love to challenge myself with many difficult things. Life will always bring problems, but I never give up trying to solve them.
"I would like to invite people from all over the world to take a look at Thai crafts and saa paper items. It's all handmade. If you like and buy it, you can help Thai people to have a job and help us to be able to create more work. I hope people from all over the world will wish to know more about Thailand."