Khmer Pottery Class

After a long bus journey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap we spent the night at our first hotel, a very basic room with cold running water and what sounded like one large rat doing building work in the ceiling, or perhaps a small rat in steel toe cap boots.

I’m not picky about sleeping places but this was still a tad below par and Richard was freaking out about the rat (we also had a cockroach I named sparky). After a little bit of searching on the internet we found a much nicer hotel for a little bit more money that included breakfast.

So we got a tuk tuk to The Golden Mango Inn, we were greeted by smiling happy staff, shown to a comfortable seat and given a cool flannel and a glass of Orange juice. Post form filling and being shown to our room we relaxed showered in warm water (amazing), dressed and went down for dinner.

I spotted some tourist leaflets with things to do in Siem Reap one being a Khmer Pottery class, the Khmer ceramics center ( is one of many places working to revive Cambodian culture and arts. For $15 you can have three balls of clay and get to keep one fired piece that you make or for $25 you could have nine balls of clay and keep three pieces that you make. When we got there I got the $15 option I was led away from the shop and into the production area, sat down at a potter’s wheel (peddle power) and given a basic run down on what to do:

1, Flatten the clay into a plate shape about an inch thick, using the palms of hands.
2, Cup hands and bring the clay up into a flattened cone shape.
3, Repeat stages 1 and 2, around five to six times. This is to get all the air bubbles out so your pot doesn’t explode in the kiln, killing all the other pots, bowls or cups surrounding it.
4, with thumbs make a hole in the top of the flat cone to begin making the Bowl or cup.
5, using both hands one inside the bowl and one outside try to bring the side out and extend it upwards.
6, using a fine wire cut the top of the bowl off to produce an even flat lip.
7, using a sponge smooth the inside and outside of the bowl.
8, with a fold in the sponge smooth the lip of the bowl to a nice rounded shape.
9, cover the wheel with water and slice with the wire tight to the wheel to remove said bowl.

I make my three pieces with the aid of my teacher, who was great and basically made it impossible for me to fail. Then got a fourth ball of clay (for free) Teacher says, “This one is by yourself, I’m not helping now”. My pot turns into some misshapen blob and there is giggling from the real sculptors. My teacher came back and asked if I wanted to ‘play some more’ at this point It was clear my brain had also turned to mush. With my leg aching from spinning the wheel and my mind numb from concentrating on what I was doing we paid for the lesson plus an extra pot that I made and returned to the hotel.

This was fun and a couple days later my pot was brought back to the hotel. My only complaint was that the glaze they used on my pot is kind of butt-ugly and poorly applied. This made me sad.

SONY DSC There are the bowls, under flattering lighting.