After a little cool down and refuel session, it was back to the hotel to freshen up for about an hour before dashing off to our pottery class at 4. Mr. Mony had to leave us for the day, but our driver was happy to help us out getting around to the rest of our destinations for the day. This was a very pleasant surprise and only added about $10 to the original price of our driver/tour for the day which actually worked out to our favor in the end, so all worked out in the end. We arrived at Khmer ceramics excited and ready to try our hand at making a traditional Cambodian clay pot.
“Khmer Ceramics,” reached its peak during the Khmer Empire but unfortunately traditional ceramic, pottery and porcelain art of the Empire disappeared over time. The clay pottery is actually something that is unique to Cambodia and still in used in some of the old villages today. A lot of the silver, gold, and woodwork they are known for has actually been brought in by an artist from other areas of the world. So, in 2006 Khmer Ceramics & Fine Arts Center started a renaissance of this art form by introducing it back to Cambodia while contributing to the educational, social and economic development of Cambodia in general and disadvantaged communities in particular. The center provides work for nearly 100 people and opportunities for local residents with disabilities to work and learns the history of the lost arts.
Upon receiving a warm welcome, we were given a smock and a guide, who is a student of the art school, to help us out for the day. I have never made pottery using a wheel before, and man was it fun!!!! You make one pot with the guide of the student and the other 2-3 you attempt to make on your own. Keep in mind I use the word “attempt” very loosely here. :p I think they were afraid to give Rebeca and I free reigns of the pottery wheel lol. I did get a look of surprise when I look my own shoes off and really got into the spinning and molding like I’d seen my instructor do himself, but after the initial shock, there was a huge grin on his face he became very enthusiastic about our pot making. Plus the fact it probably provided a little-unexpected entertainment for the day 😛 As it turns out my teacher was actually deaf. At first, I thought he may not speak any English, and was using basic symbols and gestures to communicate with me, but then I noticed he began talking to another student nearby and as soon as I spelled out my name is sign language it became a very enjoyable lesson for both of us. 🙂 Okay, my sign language was a little rusty but thanks to my sister I had learned a few basics way back when. I think, or at least hope, it made his typical tourist teaching session a little more enjoyable. It was actually kind of funny because if you do know me, you see I can’t just follow your typical instructions. I just have to be “different”;p I don’t mean to, and it doesn’t always work in my favor, as my first attempts to make some fancy vases would go to show, but it definitely made the lesson a bit more humerus. Once my instructor helped me get into the pottery making groove I did end up making a bunch. My teacher was very excited about this, secretly hoping I would want to have them all glazed I’m sure. But I was happy with my one little ceramic bowl. Plus, Rebecca’s and I were having so much fun we started running out of time to actually draw on them. And, if I may add, is way harder than I thought it would be. Rebecca was a pro, but somehow I find drawing on egg shells is way easier than trying to make a straight like in wet clay…only me 😜
All in all, we had a great time and
some of the artwork made by the students in the shop were just stunning. I really do recommend checking out their online store if you would like some handmade pottery for your home. It also gives you the opportunity to aid in their development and continued education for their students as well. We spent a little longer there than expected and were running a tad late to our next destination aka The Cambodian Circus.
Again, this turned out to be one of the best money well-spent stops we made on our three-day journey. I had purchased the tickets online ahead of time, and for an extra $3 we had dinner included. Now, what would you expect for a three dollar dinner at the circus? Not the candle lit, the three-course meal we were served I am sure. With a green mango salad for an appetizer and freshly made popcorn for dessert, we just had to ask the chef what they name of our dish was it was so good! Turns out it was his own recipe specifically designed for circus guests. He was very proud, and definitely had a right to be! I took a picture of the menu for him, and he was so happy to hear we liked it and wanted to share. I’m a strong believer in taking the time to appreciate little things and everyone for what they do. You never know who’s day it may make sometimes. After filling up our famished bellies from running around in the heat all day it was time to enjoy the show, and man what a show it was!
First, just to provide a little back story of my life. It has been a long family tradition of my parents to take my sister and I while growing up to see the Big Apple Circus when it was in town (aka New England), so let’s just say I may have a guilty pleasure of still enjoying a good-ole circus show even in my twenties ;p To be honest though I wasn’t expecting too much from Cambodia. I mean who can top Grandma, the clown?! But man was I wrong! From jugglers, acrobatic performances, to making fun of their own cultural stereotypes (Lady-boys) they had it all, and it was quite an enjoyable evening.
The Show itself tells the story of a child of the Cambodian Civil War who is haunted by visions of the War and the destruction of the Khmer Rouge regime. This is the story encompasses old folk tales adding a modern twist turning myths into facts using visual art with traditional Khmer music and dance.
After the show, we hit the gift shop, which was filled with artwork by the students of the school the circus supports and it was unbelievable. What I particularly liked about some of the artwork here is that you had the chance to meet the students/ artists themselves, if they happened to be that night of course. Personally, I like to meet the artist of the work I buy, or at least know least know I am supporting them directly. Although I choose not to buy anything that night, our tickets and dinner voucher will hopefully help with the continuation of the PSA’s efforts to preserve Cambodian art and culture of the local community providing free education as well as professional development.
Here’s a little more about the PSA and development of the Cambodian Circus:”
PSA was founded in 1994 by nine young Cambodian men returning home from a refugee camp after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. At the camp, they took drawing classes and found art to be a powerful tool for healing. When they returned home, they began offering free drawing classes to street children. Soon they opened a school, eventually offering formal K-12 education and professional art training in the areas of visual arts (illustration, painting, graphic design, and animation), theater, music, dance, and circus. Today more than 1,200 pupils attend the public school daily, and 500 attend the vocational arts training programs. All programs are offered for free.”
For more information, you can visit you can visit their website at http://pharecircus.org/
Although, I don’t always particularly like to see the influence the tourism industry has on a country’s overall development due to its impact on the original customs and way of life. In cases in which an NGO, such as the PSA, helps aid development, create jobs, while still preserving the traditional arts & customs tourism can be very beneficial to both the country and those who come to share its real beauty.
After the show, we were pretty beat so it was back to the hotel to rest and finalize tomorrows POA (plan of action)!