Hundreds of years ago, northern Thailand was covered with dense forests, which supplied the wood for hundreds of temples and palaces. Throughout the country, you’ll see temples, or wats, covered in carved reliefs depicting Hindu or Buddhist deities, heavenly guardians, and floral motifs like the opening blossom depicted on this striking sculpture. It’s carved by Chiang Mai artisan Jaifah from rain wood, called jamjuree in Thai.
Hand-carved in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Rain wood and iron. Approximately 15 3/4"H x 11 3/4"W x 2 3/4"D.
Wood-carver Jaifah is continuing a tradition of perseverance and quality that she inherited from her parents. They made hill-tribe dolls and silverware, and sold antiques. Her mother would load the goods in the basket of her bicycle and take them to sell at the hotel near the railroad station. By the time Jaifah was born, her family owned a small shop selling silver and antiques. “They loved to collect antiques and didn't want to sell them all,” she says. “They wanted to protect many of them so that people from future generations could know about our art, styles, and culture.” So her mother began making copies of antique styles for sale, while keeping the originals. “Part of our house is like an antique museum that we open to students and people who are interested.”
Jaifah and her older sister now run the business: Her sister works with silver and antiques while Jaifah works with wood and lacquer. “The most important thing [our father] taught us is to be honest in our work and with everyone,” Jaifah says.