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The history of decorative carved Siam Soap Flowers (Thailand) - A Unique Carving Craft

Updated on May 15, 2017

Finished carvings set in decorative wooden boxes

What is Siam Soap Carving?

Siam soap carving is an ancient handy craft that developed over many years in Thailand. An ordinary bar of soap is painstakingly hand carved into a delicate flower, which is then hand painted before being set in a decorative wooden box.

These soaps keep there smell of a long time, hence every time the box is opened, the sweet fragrance fills the room. These are just one of the amazing Thai crafts of the east I have come across, but is the first I have written about.

Siam Soap Carvings

How Siam Soap Flower Carving started

Thai Soap Carving originally started with fruit and vegetable carvings. The skill of carving fruit and vegetables into stunning shapes started around 700 years back, in Sukothai. Sukothai was the original capital Thailand, located in what is now considered to be the northern sector of central Thailand. It was the capital between 1240 and 1350. During preparations for a major Thai festivals called Loi Kratong, a servant of the King called Nang Noppamart was thinking about how she could improve on her Kratong and make it more beautiful, hoping to please his royal majesty. She chose one of her favorite flowers and used it as a base for her carving. She then proceeded to carve a bird, which was set in a position pointing its head towards the hand carved flower. The tradition of Loi Kratong can still be witnessed today and is and Sukothai is (not surprisingly) among the best places to experience it.

Since the revolution that occurred in 1932, the art of fruit and vegetable carving faded in popularity. Many previous skilled carvers became concerned that the art was disappearing completely and so set up a new course to train Thai people in the hope of preserving the art for everyone to enjoy. Nowadays it is taught to children of 11 years and older, starting in primary schools and continuing through secondary school. Some students even continue to choose it as a specialist optional subject for university. The skill has been preserved, but now with a relatively modern twist of Soap Carving, which allows the carving skills of talented craftsmen to last longer and be enjoyed for generations.

More and more people across the world are slowly discovering (often with disbelief) the amazing beauty of this Thai art form, all thanks to the original inspiration from Nang Noppamart and the courses created to preserve the skill. People are now using these for unique gifts, souvenirs and wedding favors across the globe ... and in turn, are also helping to make sure the craft lives on for generations to come.

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    • profile image

      nik-nik 4 years ago

      Absolutely lovely! And the music is perfect!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

      Beautiful craft and art! Thanks for SHARING. Voted up and awesome.

    • SanneL profile image

      SanneL 6 years ago from Sweden

      What a unique and beautiful art form! This could be a wonderful gift to give away. Interesting read! Thanks for Sharing!

    • wmhseo profile image

      wmhseo 6 years ago from Canada

      The decoration is so amazing I like it so much.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have a friend that carved vegetables into beautiful works of art. She replicated what she saw done on a cruise and I actually wrote about it and showed some photos. Alas, I had to finally turn those beauties into soup so as not to waste the food. The soap carving obviously lasts longer and if scented would make great gifts. Thanks for showing us this and will SHARE.

    • thesingernurse profile image

      thesingernurse 6 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      It must have entailed a lot of hard work to carve a wonderfully shaped soap in the early days. I hope they could preserve this art of soap making. It's part of their culture and heritage as Thais and their own people should embrace this craft. Voted up and beautiful.

      We'll be waiting for that upcoming soap hub. ;)

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 6 years ago

      It is a great art that needs to be preserved. Thank you for sharing this information.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 6 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      Those are really cool. I am not so sure that I could actually do something like that... I have a lot of artistic qualities that I excell in... carving isn't one. I get too impatient and I bet my flower would end up with a bunch of broken petals. This had an interesting backstory. Thanks for SHARING!

    • profile image

      SJmorningsun25 6 years ago

      What a neat form of art! Thanks for sharing these lovely pictures. Looking forward to the "How" Hub. Thanks for SHARING!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 6 years ago from Thailand

      Hey Alocsin,

      Cheers for the votes and the tip you sent me too. Not sure I have the skills for a hobby like this, but I do admire their work! They somehow make soap look like real flowers ... takes some serious patience and a steady hand.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      This actually sounds like a great hobby. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 6 years ago from Thailand

      Hi Naomi's Banner,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I think it is a great little hobby for kids and also should keep them quiet for a while (good for mum and dad! lol).

      I will be covering how to carve these and the painting process soon ... so please pop back from time to time.

    • Naomi's Banner profile image

      Naomi's Banner 6 years ago from United States

      Very beautiful art. I have tried soap carving as a child. I carved ivory soap which is much softer than most soaps. It was fun but none of my creations looked as breathtaking as these. I wonder how they get the die colors in the soap? Thanks for sharing this most beautiful art form.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 6 years ago from Thailand

      Hi Blondey,

      Thanks for reading and your kind words :-). I will be giving more details and a full explanation of the process in my next hub. it really is an amazing skill these people have!

      Pop by anytime ...

    • blondey profile image

      Blondey Hubpages 6 years ago

      How do they do it?


      and interesting article