STUNNING THAI WOOD CARVINGS – I once ordered a pair of doors for the villa I was building in Thailand. I chose Grade A Burmese Teak and then took them to a local Thai wood carver.
I turned up 2 weeks later to collect my doors and I stood in complete awe at the level of craftsmanship this Thai gentleman had created.
The detail was just amazing and of all of the places I’ve ever been in the world it is the Thais that create some of the most wonderful wood carvings you will ever have the pleasure to see.
In this article I will show you a handful of some of the most stunning pieces of artwork that are all carved by hand, some taking months of work to complete.
Depending on the size of the carving it can take an individual anywhere from a few days to even months to complete. A carving, such as the example above would probably take well over 3 months to produce and I have personally seen examples of the photograph above sell for under $200.
Thailand, during the 1970′s consisted of over 75% of tropical jungle and sadly today this figure is less than 22% and many carvings depict forest scenes with an abundance of wildlife.
Many Thai carvings depict scenes that are Chinese in origin and in fact many of the ruling classes in Thailand, known as the Bangkok Elite, are from Chinese descendants. This makes for an interesting blend of images that are carved, such as the typical Chinese Dragon above.
The wall plaque above is often found in many homes across Thailand and is probably the most recognizable piece of art the Thai wood carvers produce. Sizes vary from just a few inches square to several feet square. While the above carving may look cracked, it is in fact carved from many slats of wood and then placed together. A friend of mine has a very similar one on his wall and he placed each slat about 12 inches apart to cover the wall and the effect, I can tell you, is nothing short of breathtaking.
One scene you will often come across in Thai wood carvings is that of Elephants. Elephants play an enormous role in Thai culture and history. The King of Thailand, some 800 years ago drove off the marauding Burmese Armies, while sitting on the back of a White Elephant. From the stories I have been told, the White Elephant is the most prized, and even the current King is reported to own a few. The story, regarding the war 800 years ago, as I was told, says that the Burmese King was jealous of the Thai King because he owned 7 White Elephants and demanded that the Thai King hand one over to balance the power. The Thai King refused and a war ensued. How true this is, I cannot honestly say, but I have been told this story by a few Thais.
In any regard to the tales, the Thais do hold the elephant and especially the white elephant in high regard and you will find many wonderful carvings depicting these majestic animals.
Thailand, for those of you who are not aware, is a Buddhist country and religion is often included in their art, from painting to incredible detailed wood carvings. Take a moment to closely examine the carving above of a Thai lady praying to Buddha. Look at the meticulous attention to detail that has been lavished on this carving. Nowhere will you see any part of the carving that does not contain intricate detailing, from the dress and jewels right the way up to the carving of her hair.
It is, without doubt, these type of wood carvings that I find most appealing and would certainly be delighted to own and display in my own home.
There is a huge floating market in Bangkok, which is extremely popular with tourists, and as such many wood carvings are produced to emanate these scenes. Regardless of how many times I have set eyes upon this type of carving I fail to get bored at looking at them and appreciating the time, effort and skill it took to produce. You will never find two scenes exactly the same and in the example photograph above I am sure anyone viewing this can appreciate the level of detail in this busy floating market.
The photograph above displays three entirely different scenes and pretty much sum up the flavor of all Thai art – the jungle, the wildlife and Buddhist images. Again, which ever subject you prefer, each carving is completely unique and so wonderfully and lovingly created.
In this final example above, all elements of the Thai culture are brought together in one massively intricate wood carving. Over the years I’ve spent in Thailand I have come across many variations of what makes up the Thai culture through their carvings and I can honestly say I have never gazed upon any piece that I did not like or appreciate for its craftsmanship.
While most individuals may not understand or even appreciate Thai culture there is no denying that when it comes to carving wood depicting cultural scenes the Thais have developed a skill set that has been passed down from generation to generation over the centuries with great affection and love for the materials used.
I have seen a number of homes, from contemporary modern villas to old listed buildings, that have added Thai wood carvings as part of their interior design and I can tell you, regardless of the setting, Thai carvings blend well with practically any style due to the natural materials used.
If you have been inspired by my article then try searching the internet for Thai Wood Carvings – there are hundreds of websites displaying images and retailing such art. I really hope you enjoyed this brief journey through the wonderful Thai wood carvings.