They are famous for haunting trees at night with their distinctive hoots and swooping on mice and other prey, and now they're stopping traffic. A giant bamboo sculpture with bright eyes peers from the entrance of the Owl Art Museum in Nakhon Chaisi, Nakhon Pathom province, never failing to attract the attention of motorists.
Sculptures in the Owl Art Museum, where more than 2,000 items are displayed.
A stone's throw from the busy Thana Market, the thatched roof hides a museum with an atmosphere of art, a place full of decorative items in the shape of owls, or reflecting the distinctive characteristics of the nocturnal birds. From furniture sets, terra cotta lamps, plant pots to candleholders, visitors get the sense of the variety of artistic possibilities the moment they first step into the place.
The privately-owned Owl Art Museum opened late last year. After passing through the giant sculpture, visitors encounter a one-room museum which displays more than 2,000 items _ wooden toys, masks, kites from overseas, ornaments, handicrafts, wonderful sculptures, oil on canvas paintings, and more.
For owner Preecha Punklum, the museum has humble and personal origins. "It started from bedtime stories for my daughter. After reading her tales, I ran out of stories. So I developed a character. Owls can represent both mystery and wisdom; therefore I created new bedtime stories with an owl as the main character.
"Since then, our bedtime stories about the owl's experience have been told every night."
To teach his daughter about discipline, Preecha wanted his daughter to collect something for fun. Of course, the owl was at the front of their minds.
After five years, the collection had grown to thousands of pieces, and included owl items from Thailand and overseas.
As the growing daughter became distracted by other characters, Preecha and his wife came to realise the collecting days may need to end. However, Preecha, who is a lecturer in the Faculty of Decorative Arts, Silpakorn University, was keenly aware that there were more than just toys in the collection, with a number of rare and traditional items and that have their own stories.
"These owl items mirror wisdom and the spirits of art," he says.
He rented the land in Nakhon Chaisi to house the collection, and he uses the museum as a venue where he can work on art as well.
The museum has been set up to focus on design, and does not emphasise the value of the collection. Visitors will instead gain insight into how one idea can be developed creatively into a multitude of art forms and designs.
Meanwhile, the small museum educates visitors about the owl as well as beliefs surrounding the creature of the night. This includes the Thai superstition that an owl brings bad luck to people if it flies over their roof.
For Indian people, white owls have come to be linked with auspiciousness and good luck because of their association with the goddess Lakshmi, whose images include a white owl.
In Myanmar, the owl represents fortune. Merchants love to keep golden owl toys in their shops, believing it will bring better sales.
Stop by and stroll around, you may be amazed how the mysterious bird can inspire the art lover within.
About the author
- Writer: Peerawat Jariyasombat
Position: Travel Reporter