"I began to feel that leather bracelets have their own charm. I bought some books to learn how to craft my own. I even made a bracelet from my old leather belt."
"Sawasdee ka! I'm Khanittha Khew-nga. 'Khanittha' means 'younger sister,' but everyone calls me Tha. I come from Sukhothai, which was a kingdom all its own for two centuries.
"I have two older brothers. Many times I had to play like a boy, climbing trees for example. Sometime I got hurt but I had a lot of fun. Whenever we have a chance to get together, we always talk about our childhood. These are really good memories for all of us.
"We live with four other relatives, but we have our own house on the property. This is a real Thai family. When children get married, they build their own house in the same area so that they can still take care of their parents. I am very happy that we have such a warm family. We often have small parties and that make us even closer. We always help and support each other.
"When I was young, I liked art a lot even though the curriculum set only an hour per week on my study table. So when I had free time, I liked to draw. It was funny that all the students' drawings had almost the same things, for example two mountains with the sun in the middle, a house and a palm tree. But my drawing was special – mine had four houses.
"Although art was my favorite subject, I majored in economics. But I wanted to do other things. I happened to meet a woman who wore leather jewelry. She had an attractive bracelet with a simple motif and it looked very classical. I asked her where she got it and also what it had cost – I just wanted to own one.
"Then I began to feel that leather bracelets have their own charm because the patterns on them can tell about one's character. I bought some books to learn how to craft my own. I also searched on the Internet. I used simple materials that I can source locally. I even made a bracelet from my old leather belt. I made them not only for myself but also for friends on several occasions.
"One day, a friend of mine placed a small order for leather bracelets with me. She sold them at a market. That was the starting point for serious leather designing and crafting. I searched for good quality material to create many more designs. I invested quite a lot because some materials were very expensive and had to order a minimum quantity to get wholesale prices. I didn't have enough money, so I borrowed from my family. They were so kind to lend me what I needed and also helped find customers for me.
"Unfortunately, sales weren't good because I live in small town, and not many people here are interested in leather jewelry. So I contacted a cousin who had a boutique shop in Bangkok. She kindly allowed me to rent a small space in her shop to sell my leather bracelets. My sales increased!
"I've learned a lot, including quality control. I didn't do it well at the beginning. I faced the problems of shortage of material. Copying designs was another big problem for me. I felt discouraged, but I was very lucky that the people around me came to say good things and asked me to never give up. I didn't. I continue to create my designs and, when I face a problem, I try to find the best solution.
"These days, I want to spend most of my time designing new styles and taking care of my parents who are getting older. They need good and healthy food, and I see that they have it. I regularly take them for medical checkups. Every week, we go to the temple together.
"I think that I am successful. I'm not rich, but I feel satisfied with what I love to do."