Northampton artist wins worldwide art competition with honeymoon-inspired elephant sculpture

Emma Breene with her winning entry to the Elephant Parade 2015 design competition
Emma Breene with her winning entry to the Elephant Parade 2015 design competition
  • Emma Breene’s colourful elephant was chosen through a global public vote
  • The design was inspired by what she learned while looking after elephants in Thailand
  • She will travel to Bangkok as a VIP to unveil her creation and join the parade in a bid to raise awareness of threats to the Asian elephant population

A Northampton artists who won a global art competition will have her miniature elephant scultpture transformed into a lifesize statue to join in a parade in Thailand.

Emma Slora Breene beat contestants from all over the world after online voters deemed her colourful piece, inspired by her own experience working with the animals while honeymooning with her husband Richard in Thailand, the most impressive. Artists from countries such as South Africa, Luxembourg and USA, took part in the competition run by charity Elephant Parade, before results of the public vote were announced last week.

The competition helps to raise awareness of the plight of the Asian elephant, whose numbers have dwindled by 70 per cent in the 100 years

Emma Breene

The 33-year-old illustrator and former art teacher, of Dragonfly Meadows near Kislingbury, said: “I was shocked and elated to win. I really didn’t think that I would, even when it became head-to-head between myself and the Hong Kong entry towards the end of the competition.”

All organised by the Elephant Parade charity, which supports Asian elephant conservation projects run by a number of foundations, her design will now be recreated by ghost artists in lifesize form to be used in the charity’s annual parade in Bangkok. As part of her prize, Mrs Breene has been invited as a VIP to unveil her creation at a launch party in the city ahead of the event in December.

Her beautifully intricate design, she said, depicts all the ideal things that elephants would eat and see in their natural habitat, which has declined in size by more than 95 per cent in the last century.

“My elephant’s design was inspired by meeting a baby elephant named Am, whose name can mean ‘immortal’, while on our honeymoon in the Golden Triangle in 2013,” she said. “We took part in looking after and feeding the elephants, and Am had a voracious appetite for bananas. The design incorporates this together with many other fruits, flowers, barks and grasses which constitute an Asian elephant’s diet.

“A peacock adorning the elephant is also native to Asia. In many cultures around the globe peacocks represent immortality and guardianship, an aspiration of the charity for the conservation of the Asian elephant. The Hamsa bird on either side is a decorative element seen in Indian and Southeast Asian culture. It symbolises perfect union, balance and life.”

“It was a very labour intensive project and took me several hours.”

Commenting on how she became involved in the competition itself, she said: “A while ago, a friend of my husband heard about the Elephant Parade competition so I gave it a go.

“Unfortunately it would be too expensive for me to travel to Thailand again to paint the design on the parade model, but I will be sending the original for the ghost artists to work from.”

Despite her natural love of all creatures, Mrs Breene never had a particular fixation with elephants until her honeymoon, and now boasts a strong collection of elephant-related memorabilia in the house. After working with Am and his friends, the work of Elephant Parade has taken on a strong meaning for her.

She said: “The competition helps to raise awareness of the plight of the Asian elephant, whose numbers have dwindled by 70 per cent in the 100 years, while simultaneously helping to give a local British artist some success on the global stage.

“Elephant Parade currently supports 11 projects in eight elephant range countries. The projects include financial, material and technical assistance. One of the projects include:- Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE), Lampang, Thailand - FAE operates the world’s first hospital for elephants. The hospital is home to Mosha, the inspiration of Elephant Parade. At the age of seven months, Mosha lost her leg from a landmine explosion on the Myanmar-Thai border and is the first elephant to be fitted with a prosthetic leg.”

While waiting for the big event at the end of the year, Mrs Breene will continue to work on developing her own art businesses and illustrating her own children’s book, which she wrote while at university.

The parade itself is held in different countries every year and last year came all the way to the UK. For more information about Elephant Parade, the design competition and the parade event itself, visit: