Skip to main content

H.M. Queen Sirikit, The Queen Mother, Preserver of Beetlewing Crafts

                When one thinks of Thai arts, one may imagine scenes of gold, shinning crystal mirrors, luxurious silk, and intricately carved wooden figures. Indeed, those are celebrated components of Thai arts, but there is one lesser known material that has been used by Thai craftsmen since ancient times: jewel beetle wings.

                Jewel beetles are a family of beetles known for their luminous exoskeleton, which resemble metal or precious stones. The common varieties of jewel beetles found in Thailand are Sternocera aequisignata and Sternocera ruficornis. These beetles possess outer wings which are metallic green and copperish red in colour. Adult beetles lay their eggs on the underground trunk of certain bamboos. The pupas spend around two years in their egg-larvae-cocoon stage. Once they reach adulthood, the beetles lay underground waiting for rainfall. After the rain, they fly out to feed and mate. The lifespan of an adult beetle is around two to three weeks.  Males die after mating, while females die after laying eggs.

 

                The term “beetlewing art” refers to the use of jewel beetle wings to produce craftworks. Thai craftsmen have been collecting wings of dead jewel beetles to produce art since ancient times, but the practice has diminished in the modern era. In the year 1982, a special exhibition was held to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the Rattanakosin Period. While searching for display artifacts from the royal collection at the Grand Palace, H.M. Queen Sirikit, The Queen Mother came across a beetlewing- embroidered dress cloth that was owned by the late Queen Savang Vadhana, grandmother of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great. Although the fabric had deteriorated over time, the carefully stitched beetle wings remained in excellent condition. The discovery made Her Majesty recall a time when locals presented garlands of jewel beetle wings to her during a royal visit to the Northeastern Region with H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great.


Photo courtesy of Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles

                Determined to save the dying art, H.M. Queen Sirikit, The Queen Mother established a beetlewing art department at the Queen Sirikit Institute (then Chitralada Palace Silapacheep Workshop). There, traditional beetlewing crafts such as clothing and carved dolls were revived by newly trained craftsmen under Her Majesty’s program. Her Majesty also revolutionized Thai beetlewing art, ordering for jewel beetle wings to be cut into thin strands and woven in with yan lipao ferns to create the first prototype of beetlewing hand bags. This technique of beetlewing weaving was later incorporated into the making of larger craftsworks.


Photo courtesy of Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles

               Through the efforts of H.M. Queen Sirikit, The Queen Mother, Thai beetlewing art has been successfully revived. Today, skilled beetlewing craftsmen are still being trained by the Foundation of the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand (SUPPORT). Exquisite examples of beetelwing crafts are on display at the Arts of The Kingdom Museumin Bang Pa-in District, Ayutthaya Province. Jewel beetle farming has also become an alternative source of income for some communities.

Sources :
http://www.isan.clubs.chula.ac.th/insect_sara/index.php?transaction=insect_1.php&id_m=17828
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IC_YNApqUeE

Share this article

thailandtoday thailandtoday thailandtoday

thailandtoday thailandtoday thailandtoday

thailandtoday thailandtoday thailandtoday

thailandtoday thailandtoday thailandtoday

thailandtoday thailandtoday thailandtoday

thailandtoday thailandtoday thailandtoday

thailandtoday thailandtoday thailandtoday