Elephant skin from Thailand


Feb 12, 2005
Manchester, NH
I have a customer who is interested in framing a piece that she says is from Thailand. I have not seen the piece but she describes it as "painted art on elephant skin, round, thin and leather-like with holes in it like the folded snowflakes we used to make as kids."

I have searched around online and the only thing I've been able to find that sounds similar is water buffalo skin from Thailand.

Any clues as to what this might be and what approach might be best for framing it would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.
Welcome to the Grumble, Mark - it sounds like this item may be stitchable if it has holes in it. I recently framed a Thai stick puppet made out of a shiny translucent leather and I stitched it onto fabric-covered ragboard.

Better be on the safe side and wait til you actually SEE this thing before making any big plans....LOL!
They are pretty tough and easy to work with. Sew em down or use Tacky Glue. Clear it with your customer before using any kind of glue. when you see it, you will know what to do.

I dont know what the laws are in the US but, If the object is elephant it will be on the Convention of International Trade of Endagered Species List. There for I would check to see if being in possesion of the piece could find yourself in a lot of hot water, or even a gaol(jail) term. I would check this before taking the job.
Yeah, welcome to the G Mark....

As John said, sew it. Unless the person has no problem with glue.

Basically the elephant hide is like most other leathers other than Wombat or Aussie.... those are just too tough and thick to do anything with but buy 'em another round of Bushmans Oysters.... eh Dave?

Frank's fabric adhesive will work or Feldman's leather cement, Ducco, ..... just let the cements off-gas for a few days before putting the package together....

So for my IMHO, I just sell about an hour or two of sewing...

As for the CITESL, I figure that if they got it here, it must be ok. It's not like they are small enough to stash in a pocket....

Enjoy, take lots of pictures, it will be one of those "WEIRD things I have framed".... :D

PS: I just checked, It's NOT covered by FACTS. Guess they will have to form a study group ....
Nothing wrong wh Bush Oysters, as long as they are cooked properly and you dont have to bite them off yourself :eek:

Kangaroo is the strongest leather per wieght of any leather, but due to the fact its quite thin is very easy to work with pliable. We make a variety of things from Kanga leather like whips, belts etc. (Just a little bit of useless information to place in your useless information book)Were not that thick. ;) ;)
Dave, I was talkin bout a black & tan with a salt depth charge.... :D

ah..... what were you talkin about??? :eek:

Oh great, now some Kiwi is gonna strike this all down because it's not on focus and they don't know much about fine drinking... or elephants.

BTW: when Elephant is tanned right, they make a fine pair of boots. Mine are now going on 18 years, as are the Hippo's.
Bush Oysters ,over here, are Bull or Rams Testies often crumbed and deep fried. Early in Australia's history the old farmers would bite them off the lambs as they were too small to cut and find with a knife. Then they invented rubber bands, which made them drop off after a while. Bulls still got the sharp knife. ( All True ) My apologies for those with a weak stomach.

I would much prefer a Bundy and Coke, if its your shout.
The customer brought in the piece and it wasn't anything like what I expected. I was envisioning something much more rustic.


The medium feels like a hide and the coloration goes through the medium and is even visible from the back.

The piece has been rolled up in a tube for the last 2 years and has quite a curl to it. Sewing this to a matboard would be a real tedious process ... lots of different colors and lots of holes and points to tack down ... enough so that I think it would be very difficult to conceal and would detract from the actual art.

Does anyone have any thoughts on mounting this piece now that a picture is available?

It looks like you could stitch it around the circumference, following the already present white stitches on brown. You most likely don't need to stitch it in the center.

How I handle this type of thing is to make a fabric covered padded backboard, and stitch through the fabric/padding, not the matboard.

For this I'd use 8-ply, covered with needle punched polyester - "Insulate" - using 3M# 415 double sided tape at the very edge. The padding is covered with washed fabric (usually unbleached muslin) also applied with the 3M tape, generally wrapped to the reverse.

Center the piece on the backboard and stitch with cotton thread (waxed if needed). You can use a curved needle if necessary.

Start to finish, I'd estimate 3 hours. I watch TV, and make it a fun time, but that's just me.

Hope this helps.

Stack a bunch of glass on top of it for a few weeks, see if you can't get it to relax a bit.

My inclination would be to do the work and sew it. If your customer doesn't want to pay for the labor, go to Tacky Glue.

Tacky Glue was designed for gluing fabrics and objects to fabrics. It looks like a heavy bodied white glue from the container. It dries clear, is resistant to penetrating all the way through fabrics. It has a fantastic bond, and it can be removed with water. Use it sparingly on leathers, leather does not take kindly to water, if it ever has to be removed.

Go to a craft shop and purchase some Tacky Glue. Experiment with it. Glue two pieces of fabric together. Glue some leather to fabric. Stuff sets up fairly fast, so your R&D won't take up all that much time.

I don't know John, your Nurre Rep is Grena, so thats why you were a little hesitant to making the right suggestion.... :D

Mark, Just Glue them dang Nurre weights down on four sides and call it good..

Ok, now that we have a good picture..... all joking aside...

One Rebecca is right, I'd bid it at 3 tedious hours of sewing....
unless the customer goes with John's take...

Spread the tacky glue very thin on the back side of the elephant hide, and a complimenting on the backer.. let almost dry then push together and weight over night... fit. (about a 10 minute job that you should bid at about 1 hour....Murphy and all)

Post the finished product when it's done next year.... :D
Just a little more useless information. The story depicts an Angle(right hand side) and a demon ( left) The Angles name is Meakkala and she holds a glass ball which produces lightning. The demons name is Ramasoon he want to steal the glass ball. He chases Meakkala with his axe. He throws the axe which produces the thunder.

I hope I dont steal your thunder, but I think you will find it is only cattle skin. Very common in Thailand. My Wife is Thai tour guide. Was probably passed off as elephant. My wife has never heard of these things made from elephant skin, due to the skin used is the under part of the hide. This produces the smoother texture of the article. If it was elephant the wrinkles would be too difficult to carve.

My wife being Thai we had a few of these things to do, for a Thai Restaurant in Melbourne and other parts of Victoria. The first one we did we sewed it to the mat. You will need to sew the middle parts as the leather is quite thin in places and will tear if not supported. I would suggest sewing eight pionts around the circumference and then in a few places where the leather is wider ( eg the red tip of her headdress)The next one we did was at the request of the restaurant (which had a few already done)( ours were about 32" x 22" in size before framing) I know this will go against all conservational practices, but we sandwiched the piece between two peices of glass, using non-acid silicone to hold it to the back piece of glass. We cured the silicone overnight before placing the top glass. This can be very messy if not done properly. We practiced on a few of my wifes cheaper ones before we started playing with the other. We then placed a frame around it and made the whole thing see through. It looked quite effective as it let the light come through from the back.

As it was for a restaurant, the effect was more important to the conservational quality. The piece you have - monitory value would be about USD$30 (Thai price not Tourist Price)If I can find my digital camera I will place a picture of the smaller one we did for practice.

Best of luck with it

This might be a good candidate for a fine mesh fabric overlay mount, similar to the one described in last month's PFM.

Prepare a circular 8-ply alphacellulose mount board about 1" larger diameter than the art. If the art isn't really round, you can hand-cut the mount board to exactly fit the shape of the art, plus 1/2" all around. Use two layers of 4-ply board if cutting the 8-ply is a problem.

Paint a coat of acrylic medium around the back edge of the circular board & let it dry, to serve as heat-activated adhesive for the coverings.

Next, cover the board with a layer or two of 1/2" thick polyfill (quilt padding), which creates a slight spring tension to hold the art in place. Use a fabric background for the art, the weave of which should help to support it.

Center the art on the padded fabric background, and overlay a larger piece of Stabilitex. Carefully turn the whole assembly upside-down on a clean table surface.

Gently pull slight tension on the Stabilitex as you attach it to the back of your circular mount board, using a tacking iron to activate the acrylic medium. The finished mount may be slightly convex, due to the compression of the padding.

Finally, float the mounted art on a solid background, and frame it with plenty of air gap under the glass. I suggest Museum Glass, to show off the finely-cut details of the art.

Or you could just glue it. :rolleyes: NOT! :eek:
Thanks, Jim. This is the second time in recent days that someone has mentioned Stabilitex. I have found some other threads discussing Stabilitex both here and on PPFA-OLE and found a link to Talas (sp?) where it can be acquired but would appreciate it if someone could point me to a more detailed discussion of Stabilitex, when and how to best use it, etc.

We did one a few years ago. I thought we could stitch it in place with some lightweight fishing line. However - the customer bought it back about 6 months later because it had slipped. When I took it apart, there were NO stitches left in it. I can only guess that the elephant hide was abrasive enough to cut thru the stitches. After consulting with the customer, we ended up vacuum mounting the piece.
Originally posted by Jim Miller:
This might be a good candidate for a fine mesh fabric overlay mount, similar to the one described in last month's PFM.
I just found my copy of last month's PFM
and want to thank you for the great article and your help in this thread.


Originally posted by Baer Charlton:
BTW: when Elephant is tanned right, they make a fine pair of boots. Mine are now going on 18 years, as are the Hippo's.
Baer, do the elephants lie out on the beach, or go to really, really huge tanning beds to get tanned right? I had no idea they could cut and stitch leather for boots!!

My hippo refuses to wear boots! When he walks on the bottom of the pond, he says the boots fill up with water, and are too heavy. Man! You oughta try finding a pair of flip-flops for a hippo!