I have so many posts in the tubes but I’ve been so busy getting ready to leave PP that I think they’ll be delayed a few days. In the meantime I have a few shorter posts I wanted to get up– including this one on my recent trip to see the Khmer Ceramics Revival, a center in Siem Reap focused on Khmer ceramic techniques and reviving ancient Angkorian ceramics techniques. You can read more after the jump.
Above: Shelf of completed ceramics at the Khmer Ceramics Revival in Siem Reap. (Warning: Archaeology dorkiness ahead)
The Khmer Ceramics Revival is located on National Route 6 on the way towards the airport in Siem Reap. They have a large sign saying “Khmer Ceramics and Bronze Revival” but the Bronze part of it doesn’t seem to be up and running. I was met by the French owner and an enthusiastic Khmer woman who gave me a short tour of the ceramics area which is basically in the backyard of a little house.
Above: Looking out into the work area of the Khmer Ceramics Revival towards the firing kilns.
The KCR gets their clay from a variety of sources in Cambodia and they had an area where they were soaking the clay in water and then drying it out. Below are some chunks of clay on a table ready to be used.
At another station they had some examples of older Angkorian and pre-Angkorian pottery forms that they were replicating. Khmer ceramics were both made by hand and on a wheel but it appeared that at the KCR they were focusing primarily on wheel-made ceramics. For a small-donation you could even try using their pottery wheel yourself.
Above: A large wheel-made pot in the foreground with some typical Angkorian style long-necked ceramics in the background.
Below: A cooking pot sits on another ceramic stove.
Another type of ceramic they were experimenting with were mold-made ceramics. They had several types of molds (including this replica of a relief from Angkor Wat) which they pressed clay into (see blurry picture below) and then fired.
They also appeared to be making another type of mold-made ceramics where you the clay is liquified and then poured into a mold. After leaving it in the mold for a while the clay dries (and then is fired? I’m a bit fuzzy on the final steps). Below are some molds filled with this liquified clay or slip.
The KCR has several kilns and growing. One is a large open-fire kiln that was probably commonly used to fire pottery in the past.
There are two other closed kilns they used for firing the ceramics and a second firing for the glaze.
The KCR is also experimenting with different glazes. Here’s what a bucket of the glaze looks like before they apply it to the ceramics.
This is a pile of ceramics that were misfired, broken, or mistakes. There were several piles of these lying around the workshop. As an archaeologist it is always exciting and interesting for me to see things like this in “real life” because these kinds of mistakes are the types of things we see in the archaeological record that alerts us to the presence of a kiln site. Take, for example, the heaps of “mistake” ceramics that I saw on Kulen mountain near the Angkorian kiln site there.
-The Khmer Ceramics Revival website has lots of info and neat photos. Definitely worth visiting in person and online!
-The Center for Khmer Studies in Siem Reap is having a conference in just a few weeks on ceramics. Too bad I will miss it. The conference schedule is here.
-There have been several ancient kiln sites that have been excavated. Here’s a link to one being studied by the Apsara Authority.