Tagua, a palm tree, which is extensively found in the tropical rainforests region between Colombia and Panama as well as Peru and Ecuador provides the raw material for the famous tagua sculptures. The fruit of this Latin American palm tree, which is shaped like a nut and generally comes in two to four inches in size, is used for different types of folk art by people of this region. Also known as palm ivory, the handicrafts made from tagua nuts have received praises across the globe and inspired many families in South America to take this work as their profession.
Tagua nuts are at first dried in the sun. Once dried for four to six months, the skin or the outer surface of the nut starts shining, and is then polished by the artisans who design paintings on it or carve sculptures out of the palm tree fruit.
The designs depend on the color of the nuts and vary from white to dark brown depending on the sand coating of the nut. If the nuts are fried in oil, they get a brown shade, distinct from the brown color created by sun drying. The artisans then apply different natural color dyes on the tagua. Yet, its natural colors also enjoy a huge demand.
The natural colored tagua nuts gets an off-white shade when it ages and resembles the color of animal ivory, which is why it is often dubbed palm ivory.
Among the popular tagua craftworks is the Panamanian Golden Frog: With an approximate size of 2″ x 1.5″ x 1.25″, the Panamian Golden Frog is one of the most sought tagua sculptures. The golden colored frog with black spots on its back is sure to attract the attention of anyone. Another golden frog, which is approximately 2″ x 2″ x 1.5″ in size has black stripes on its back and is also quite attractive. Other popular frog sculptures include the Poison Dart Frog Trio, and Strawberry Poison Dart Frog.
Figurine Carvings: Apart from the frogs, tagua figurine carvings also enjoy a great popularity among art collectors. Carved in the shape of dolphins, whales, penguins, elephants and even bears, these animal sculptures enjoy immense popularity not only in South-America.