Visiting Artisans Angkor was part of our itinerary, but not on the first day. I had the address with me but I didn’t know that it was just a few steps away from the place we were staying. I mean literally, it was just a few steps away!
Signage going to Artisans Angkor which just a few walks away from the Golden Temple Villa.
Artisans Angkor is actually an on-site workshop facility that offers young artistans both the training to hone their skills and the job they need to make a living. Most of these young artisans come from the rural and poor areas in Siem Reap Province. The facility is located in a very conducive environment giving the artisans stable working conditions and providing them with a vocation so that they can express their talents and continue to develop their skills while earning money.
Artisan finishes the detail of a bas relief of a Bayon face made of sandstone.
I’ve always been amazed by Cambodia. I see it as a country that is rich with tradition and culture. Its popularity among foreign visitors goes beyond exploring the Angkor Wat and its surrounding magnificent temples. More than anything else, it is the brilliant workmanship of the Khmer that attracts me to discover this place more. Most especially their artwork that is both exquisite and distinctive among any other rich-culture country in SE Asia.
An apprentice starts chiseling the head of Pranhaparamita. He uses a finished work (right side of the photo) to guide him with his work.
When we got to the facility, we met a young apprentice who was working on a piece of sandstone. He was happy and amazed to know that we come from the Philippines and offered to tour us around. He maybe noticed that we didn’t have a tour guide so he was kind enough to explain to us the tedious and meticulous process of carving images on a sandstone. He was a bit staggering with his English but we honestly appreciate the effort.
An apprentice works on the carving of the sandstone. He is the same guy who was kind enough to tour us around while explaining the process of finishing a work of art.
A semi finished engraving on the sandstone.
He led us to the next room wherein a group of young girls were busy painting interesting images on a silk screen. Our 'unofficial tour guide' explained to us the nitty-gritty details of finishing single product. I would have tried communicating with one of the girls but he said that they are “deaf and dumb”. I nearly stumbled from where I stood as I heard those words. Definitely, these people are not dumb. Of course, what he meant was, “deaf and mute”. We forgave him for saying the word. :-)
Deaf and mute painters on a workshop. Most of the workers here are ladies.
It is interesting to know that at least 5% of the craftsmen in Artisans Angkor are physically handicapped people wherein they are provided a working environment that minimizes the focus on physical restrictions and a way for them to prove and develop their vocational competencies.
Deaf and mute artisan meticulously paints on the silk screen.
After the tour, we visited the main boutique that sells all the artisans’ works. The artwork being sold are of great quality so obviously, they are high-priced. A portion of the money goes to the artisan who made them. The company follows a strict quality standard procedure from the selection of materials down to the production stage. When the items are completed, they receive the Artisans d'Angkor quality label and sold in specialty shops.
They have shops in Angkor Café (in front of the Angkor Wat) and duty-free boutiques in Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap International Airport, and Hong Kong Airport. They will be opening a new shop in Changi Airport in Singapore (I saw an advertisement on it).
I really wanted to splurge some money on one of these crafts but I just don't know how they will fit into my backpack also, considering we're just there on our first day.