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Fabrics decorated by Thai elephants

LATELY, in Chiang Mai elephants have been showing us humans how smart they are. They can play football. They can play musical instruments. They can massage. They can paint original canvases of flowers in Piccaso style of vibrant colors or simple meaningful lines in the Japanese style.

In 2003, paintings by Thai elephants were first exhibited at the Kawamura Memorial Museum of Arts in Japan. The exhibition gained overwhelming success and so creative arts by Thai elephants were successfully promoted at international levels.

In the same year, an exhibition entitled ‘First Elephant Arts Exhibition' was on display in Chiang Mai. In February 2005, a group of eight elephants obtained recognition from the Guinness Records for their creation of a painting entitled, ‘Cold Wind, Swirling Mist and Charming Lanna 1'. The elephant group's painting is documented in the Guinness Book of World Records 2006 and the record book is now available for purchase.

Thai elephant arts have branded positive recognition for Thailand thereby triggering an increase in the number of tourists visiting Chiang Mai elephant camps. Since then, elephant arts have expanded into wider ranges and developed into other artistic forms. Currently, the largest number of artistically skilled elephants reside in Thailand. The survey shows that the Elephant Conservation Center, Lampang province is home to 19 elephant artists while both Mae Saa and Mae Ta Maan Elephant Camps have 17 and 7 resident elephant artists, respectively. Chiang Dao and Mae Taeng Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai and other camps in Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Sorn are also homes to elephant artists. In total, Thailand probably has up to 100 elephant artists and the country can be recognized as home to the largest group of elephant artists.

And now in 2007??? What talent are the elephant artists showing the world? They are designing fabric by painting wonderful patterns on silk and cotton. A team elephant artists have exhibited exceptional patience and thoughtfulness creating the designs on the fabrics.

Seven elephant artists at the Maetaman Elephant Camp known as Haad, Hong, Libby, Somjai, Somboon, Bumbim and Jab and their arts trainer, Mr. Tossapol Petchrattanakool, in cooperation with Silah Lanna Club have created painting on textiles. The arts project was initiated in early 2007. Their creation has built a new recognition for elephant arts at an international level. Paintings, which engage innovative materials, equipment and techniques, have attracted The Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project (AEACP), USA. AEACP introduced the paintings to the world's top designers to use in tailoring garments and present the creations in the New York Fashion Week 2008 - Spring Collection in February 2008 in New York, USA. Seven elephant artists have been practicing on textiles brought in from New York after which the finished painted fabrics will be sent back to New York.

After a short practice period, elephant arts were tailored into clothes and other fashionable items such as scarves, bags, and pillows. Later Thai designers assessed the quality of Thai elephant arts for a line of window curtains. Apart from being transformed into attractive products, the emerging elephant arts are highlighted in practical daily life-style usage.

One of the custom garment designers is Mr. Lawrence Goldberg, a UK citizen who makes Chiang Mai his summer home. Mr. G's aim is to bring the structure of the elephant into the form of the dress.

Elephant arts deserve appreciation, as the art reflects the effort of these gigantic mammals that, in addition to being a long symbolic animal of Thailand, are on the edge of extinction. Therefore, their work in arts contributes a new definition and a key to its existence.

The creative designed textiles was highlighted at the North Thailand Tourism Road Show in the Siam Paragon Bangkok Center in the first weekend of September 2007. For more information about all types of elephant arts, contact Ms Anchalee Kalmapijit, Special Consultant, Maetaman Elephant Camp. Tel. 053- 297060.

Do not let elephants just fade away and remain only in our memory.


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