The next stop on my journey is a country i’ve wanted to visit for years, the vibrant and bustling Cambodia. Arriving in the capital Phnom Penh, which is only a short ride over from Vietnams Ho Chi Minh, I was struck by the countless shops selling woodcarvings, a great place to start my hunt!
A thin layer of rubber pinned onto this woodcarvers mallet, gives an interesting way to achieve a softer blow
This piece is inspired by the temples at Angkor Wat, the carver said it will take him 4 months to complete Heng Hang Ry was trained as an engineer and architect and has since grown his woodcarving business over the last 5 years, he produces roughly 50% Hindu carvings and 50% Buddhist. He suggested I visit a nearby social enterprise called Khmer Lives Organisation, who provides training in carving and craft work for disabled people.
I met with Sokchea Tuon (seen above), who began working with Khmer lives 8 years ago. He uses a fret saw to carve out coconut shells which are sold in the store. These sell for roughly $1 each and take him around an hour to make. The Khmer lives has a christian focus and ensures the carvers receive food and accommodation for their work as well as pay.
It is incredibly effective this style of woodwork, piercing and removing waste with the fret saw whilst still keeping the design held together. It was a pleasure meeting Sokchea Tuon and the Khmer Lives organisation, I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in Phnom Penh. After meeting Sokchea Tuon I visited a local market to explore the area, there is an incredible amount of souvenir woodcarvings on sale as well as finding carvings in the local tuk tuks.
Woodcarvings in the local tuk tuk
I finished my stay in Phnom Penh by wandering around a huge sports arena called the Olympic Stadium (although I don’t think Cambodia has ever hosted the Olympics), it was a great way to end what proved to be an exciting place to explore Cambodia’s woodcarving. Many of the carvings I found were heavily influenced by the famous religious temples at Angkor Wat in the north of the country and so I set off north in search of the temples.