Thai Beetle Wing Art and Decoration
Thai beetle wing art and decoration was very popular in Thailand. It was primarily used as decoration on royal clothing such as shawls and sabai cloths but also on jewelry. However, the ancient tradition of using Thai beetle wings has mostly died out in Thailand. Nevertheless, at the Dusit Palace there are some rare pieces of Thai beetle wing art and craft and jewelry displayed.
Thai beetle wing art
In fact, at the Grand Palace, HM Queen Sirikit discovered old royal cloths that were embroidered with bug wing. Thus, HM Queen Sirikit set up the bug wing decoration-collage section at the Chitralada Center in order to preserve and honour this traditional art.
HM Queen Sirikit’s intention was to create new works of art with the ancient tradition of using beetle wing. For example, beetle wings were tried in decorating sculpture and wood carvings. Another example is that multicolored fine strips of beetle wings were woven into yan lipao pieces such as basketry.
However, let me tell you something more about the bug used for this special art technique:
Beetle wings are the wings of the insect belonging to the genus Sternocera which is called malaeng thap in Thai. The beetle wings are very beautiful because they have an iridescent green and bluish surface. Hence, the beetle wings shine like emeralds and thus, this kind of beetle is also called ‘jewel beetle’.
Since these bugs have a short life span, they are available in abundance and can be collected when they are dead. Then, the bugs’ wings are clipped off and used as sequins for embroidery and jewelry.
The life circle of the beetle wing starts on the rainy season which is called khao phansa (rains retreat) in Thai. The beetles die off after having laid their eggs in the period ending the rainy season. Therefore, the bugs’ alternative name is “malaeng khao phansa” in Thai which means ‘rains retreat insect’. The dead beetles are collected, thus their ecosystem remains intact and is not disturbed. In addition, HM Queen Sirikit had research conducted on the life cycle of the jewel beetle in order to ensure its conservation in nature.
Most of the wing pieces are an iridescent emerald color. However, you might notice that some wing pieces look slightly orange. This orange shade is in fact quite rare and only found in one out a few hundred beetles. What is special about Thai beetle wing art is that it is extremely durable. Thus, the natural shine of the beetle wings remain for decades and even centuries.
HM Queen Sirikit has also used Thai beetle wing decoration on her clothing and shoes 🙂 Today, her granddaughter who is a prominent Thai fashion designer, Princess Sirivannavari, also draws on traditional Thai craftsmanship.
Here are some very beautiful and awesome examples:
(*Photo credit: Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles)
Do you like Thai beetle wing art and decoration and would you wear it as jewelry or as sequins on clothes? I think beetle wings are a very good alternative to plastic sequins and beads because they come from nature. What is more, beetle wings allow people to admire and cherish the natural beauty of the jewel beetle 🙂