Carving in Cambodia’s Capital

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!

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Heng Hang Ry’s souvenir stone and woodcarving shop. He kindly invited my to take a look around his workshop, a 30 minute tuk tuk ride from the shop

Heng Hang Ry

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Heng Hang Ry and his woodcarver deciding his next piece to carve. Heng Hang Ry now predominately works on commission based carving and pays his carvers between $300 – $400 per month (apparently a good wage in Cambodia for a woodcarver).

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 completePhnom Phen Carving DSC08549 DSC08560Heng 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.

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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.
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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. DSC08985After 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.

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Woodcarvings in the local tuk tuk
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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.

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