The Lanna method of Thai wood carving is strictly guarded against photographers and frowns upon photography of the ancient art form, specifically at art displays in the Baan Tawai area of Thailand. This area is rich in craftsmen all displaying their arts in many different styles. Some do furniture, some do boxes, some statues, and then there are the wall art plaques which can be large or small. Many of these artists do commissions for overseas customers and that way their art and fame travels around the world. These commissions cost a lot of money to export out of the country, so visitors to these areas should be aware.
The master craftsmen using the Lanna method of carving can sometimes take almost two years to complete a project, as the detailed work is so intricate, one visitor to the exhibition said that the jungle scenery and vines were so realistic he felt he could walk right into the artwork. Some of the best master wood crafting artists live in this area which has a rich cultural history. This northern Thailand area is famous for its teak forests and was once called the Kingdom of Lanna.
All Lanna wood crafters make their own tools which they can craft to their own specifications, none are industrially made. Some use blacksmithing methods to craft theirwood carving tools from reclaimed railyard springs and sides. These tools are fascinating as they look like small beveled edge shovels, some square, some pointed, with a short wooden handle. Around the top edge of the handle, there is material that looks like what mops are made of, to protect the carver’s hands which are always busy with one or another project.
Thai wood crafting is a beautiful art form that looks stunning on walls, doors, or as figurines to adorn any déor. The work is so detailed and wonderfully intricate, that just making out all that is in the artwork may take a viewer some time. Tourists are fascinated by this art form and flock to see the craftsmen in factories including arts and crafts exhibitions and even travel across the world just to purchase the art.
The master crafters in these areas give lessons to pass on the craft, and a new generation of Lanna wood crafters are being made. These dedicated future master wood craftsmen are producing myths and legend figures, spiritual and religious works all the traditional woodwork, as well as coming up with new subjects to use for wood carving as well as large works on panels depicting all the natural elements. Of all the arts in Thailand, wood carving is the one that most tourists flock to, hopefully, learn and appreciate the techniques of these masters of their art. And financial donations can be a major assistance.