"Hello, my name is Manop Chaisiriwong and I was born on July 1943, in Chiang Mai province. I come from a family of wood carvers, and my village is renowned for this activity. We live in an area dedicated to the logging industry and people often used the...
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"Hello, my name is Manop Chaisiriwong and I was born on July 1943, in Chiang Mai province. I come from a family of wood carvers, and my village is renowned for this activity. We live in an area dedicated to the logging industry and people often used the remnants to carve a variety of souvenir pieces. When I was about 12 or 13 years of age, I was sent to observe and learn from Arjan
['Master'] Boon. About two years later, Arjan Boon gave me a chisel and a block of wood and told me to do something with it – he was fed up with me staring at him all the time. That was the first time I was ever handed a chisel and I sculpted the lower part of an elephant's body. Arjan Boon saw what I had done and gave me the opportunity to work at his studio.
"For a year that's all I did, carve the lower part of an elephant's body, and I started to feel ready to carve the complete body. But Arjan was busy training his brother, which at the time I found frustrating, so I enlisted the help of a good friend and he taught me. I showed Arjan my complete elephant and he let me stay at his studio, carving elephants. To this day, elephants remain my favorite subject. Eventually I moved to another studio and carved other statuettes.
"I got married when I was 25 years old, and I have two children. I continued to work as a carver, always improving my work, and eventually I began to teach others. But still I was working for somebody else. I decided to set up my own studio at home, and that way I could work and get to spend more time with my family
"My main theme continues to be elephants, and I mastered the ability to carve them performing certain tricks or expressing emotion. This type of work has prepared me to carve a variety of themes that require detailed elements. I have come to realize that if you're good at carving elephants, you can carve almost anything. But I respect elephants as my teachers and, nevertheless, they are Tailand's national treasures.
"Now I keep this type of work as my occupation and I have many students. I usually design new styles and I also keep to the traditional representations. I hope customers appreciate the work involved in creating each statuette – it is exciting to see my elephants come alive through the Internet!