Yang Guangbin Guizhou,China

Born into a silversmith family in 1963 in Leishan County as the fifth generation silver ornaments designer, he learned to make them at age 13 and finished his apprenticeship in only two years. For 30 years, he has developed his own techniques and was named as the National Inheritor of Miao silver ornaments by the Ministry of Culture in 2007.

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Q

How did you start making silver ornaments?

A

I started to learn it from my dad at 13. I could work on my own at 15. At 16, I took my apprentice to tour the Miao villages and made silver ornaments for them. In ten years, I had traveled each Miao village around Leishan County as well as Guangxi and Hunan provinces. In 1980s, I went back to my hometown to make customized ornaments. I have done the job for 40 years now.

Q

What is the most difficult part in making the silver ornaments?

A

It takes more than 30 procedures to finish one ornament. Carving and welding are the most difficult parts. We did not have any pattern books as reference. All patterns were taught by oral instructions and remembered by heart. Carving strength and the beating rhythm are very delicate factors. Too subtle or too strong is not good either way. Welding requires more efforts. 203 silver petals make up one pair of horns. Each is crafted and welded by hand seamlessly without any welding spot.

Q

What are your suggestions for beginners?

A

I had over 20 apprentices. It usually takes two or three years to master the skill. It is better to start early and achieve early. One needs passion and concentration to master the art.

Q

What are the challenges for inheritance?

A

Fewer people like to learn this old and hard craft, because they make more money working in the city. It takes 15 days or more time to finish one artwork, nevertheless, no one buys it. Some silversmiths had abandoned the old patterns to cater to modern eyes. Some use layered the silver with white copper to make faux sterling ornaments. Some use molds or punching machines. I am worried that the handcrafted beauty is lost this way.

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