Les Artisans d' Angkor is a craft school in Siem Reap which aim to encourage the Khmers to revive the traditional crafts and create a generation of self-supporting skilled craftsmen. It is mainly funded by European donors. They provide training for young rural Khmers to learn the ancient Angkor era of silk weaving, wood carving, stone carving, lacquer and painting. Most of the work produced includes stone elephant, silk clothing, wooden apsaras and lacquer dishes which replicates the classic Angkor-era art.
Entrance is free to the workshops and upon arriving in the school, there is a guide who takes you on a tour to different workshops explaining the process of the craft making in each workshop.
Majority of the wood collection are made of rubber tree, particularly for gilded and lacquered items but sometimes they also uses timber for some special items. Wood carving is said to require the highest skill, because of the difficulty in shaping and cutting the wood. The young craftsmen learned to capture the meticulous movements of wood carving they inherited from their ancestors.
The art of stone carving in Cambodia exist way back to the Angkor era. It is visible in various Angkor temples. Majority of the stone carving is done on sandstone but they also use soapstone (aka steatite).
This is the last stage for carved wooden sculptures. They put several layers of chalk in the wood surface as a base coat that gives the surface velvety look and touch.?? The lacquering follows by applying the paint on the layers of the chalk. Copper-leaf is then applied for gilding. Once done, they waxed the finish product to give them the appearance of the ancient statues.
When in Siem Reap, you can find paintings being sold around the town. Angkor d' Artisans proved to me that painting is very effective medium of communication. I was amazed when I knew that the art of silk painting here is carried out by deaf and mute artists. They used acrylic so that the paint does not leak through the silk. The silk they use here is produced at the silk farm.
After you have seen all the workshops, you can browse the showroom which contains all the masterpieces created by these talented students for sale. I noticed that products are not cheap, but it is reasonable because they are not rubbish souvenirs mass produced for tourists. I can say that you are paying for QUALITY products.
Artisan d'Angkor is a workshop located in downtown Siem Reap; just 10-15 minutes walk from the night market.
In my humble opinion, the Cambodian people have revived their fine arts and crafts after all the years of Polpot's regime. This is a good place to understand how rich Cambodian culture and arts was.