"Hello, I'm the sister of Jamras Thapinta [a Novica featured artist]. My name is Nittaya Cherdchu, but people call me 'Noy.' I was born on December 20, 1964. My family was a big one because my parents have six children and we all lived with my grandparents. I'm the third-born....
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"Hello, I'm the sister of Jamras Thapinta [a Novica featured artist]. My name is Nittaya Cherdchu, but people call me 'Noy.' I was born on December 20, 1964. My family was a big one because my parents have six children and we all lived with my grandparents. I'm the third-born. We all worked in the rice fields and after the farming season we each followed our own careers. Jamras was the first to be able to support our family before he married.
"By 2003, all of us were married and, sadly, our grandparents, father and second brother had passed away. The rest of us are still close and still help with the family work. And we look after our mother who is the center of our love.
"I can remember that when I was a girl I worked in the rice field and did housework and, in my free time, I made bamboo baskets to sell. Weaving baskets did not provide us lots of income but we had no other choice. I wish I could have studied more, but my parents couldn't pay for more education and all of us just finished primary school.
"My older sister and brother went to work in a nearby wood furniture factory. When I was 16 years old, I followed them. After practicing for about a month, I was hired and have increased my skill over time. After several years I was then able to design my own patterns.
"I met my husband, who worked as a carpenter in a teak wood furniture factory, and we married in 1985 when I was 21. After that, we continued to work with wood, but set up a workshop in our home. Drying the wood properly and the coloring process both take quite a long time, so I leave that to my husband and Jamras. Then I have more time to focus on designing and carving. My other two brothers also help me, and any single carving usually requires at least three people to work on it until it is finished. We have other helpers too, as our work and our lives are always concerned with people in our village – they are like our family.
"I feel so proud of my work because all of it comes from my experience, not from any school in the world. I feel very good when people like my sculptures.
"Woodcarving isn't easy. An artist has to practice more than a year and must take a long time to craft just one product. My dream is of having a shop to display my work but I don't have the budget to open one. So I feel very happy now that Novica has given me a chance to show my work."
Mango wood requires special treatment. Cherdchu selects the wood and lets the logs rest under heaps of wood shavings. She removes the bark and slightly roughens the log, then lathes it to the desired shape. This first stage alone can take up to three hours. Then the piece is placed in a kiln and fired for three days. It becomes encrusted with a thick layer of smoke, dirt, and impurities and must be polished several times with sandpaper. When the piece is smooth enough, she carves and decorates it. The final step is painting. Depending on the finishing style and the natural wood hue, a piece can take as long as six days to finish. It is lacquered several times and let dry for two days. It is then polished and finished with a final coat of lacquer.