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New ceramics from artists' designs

GERMAN Technical Cooperation (GTZ), a nongovernmental organisation that specialises in technical cooperation for sustainable development, last week revealed the winners of a pottery design competition it had sponsored with the aim of promoting clay products from Kampong Chhnang province.

The organisation issued a call last month for art students at the Royal University of Fine Art, Norton University and Setec University to submit drawings of original designs for clay pots, jugs and other objects.

The winners’ drawings were taken to Kampong Chhnang province, where potters made real products based on the designs.

Peter Bolster, the GTZ team leader in charge of the Private Sector Promotion program, said the competition was aimed at raising the living standards of people in Kampong Chhnang province by promoting the production of pottery there. “We wanted to offer more chances for the potters to get new, creative ideas, which is a requirement for the market,” he said.

Prum Samay, a 25-year-old student from the Royal University of Fine Art, submitted two drawings that won the first and third prizes. “It took me a long time to explore ideas after I heard the competition announcement in February, but once I got the ideas it only took one or two days to make the drawings,” he said. He said his first drawing, which won third prize, was “not so inventive”, showing a design for a jug with artwork on its body.

“My second drawing was also a jug, but it consisted of two connected containers and also included artwork. This won one first prize,” he said.

“I invent by inserting Cambodian art styles into my designs so they look attractive,” Prum Samay said. “The artwork was inspired by traditional art seen on the walls of ancient temples and Buddhist shrines.”

If coming up with the initial designs was a challenge, the next step in the process was even more difficult.

Eour Nara is a 25-year-old potter from Andong Russey village in Kampong Chhnang who turned Prum Samay’s second drawing into a tangible object. She said potters in Kampong Chhnang province usually follow “old models” to produce traditional clay pots, cookers and other objects.

“This was the first time we tried to shape objects based on drawings. At first I was afraid to try because the drawing looked complicated, and the art looked very flowery,” Eour Nara said.

Despite her initial misgivings, she decided to try. She spent two days with Prum Samay, discussing the shape of the jug and the decorations. In the end, they succeeded in producing an attractive product.

“I guarantee the jug will never leak, but there are some problems with stability. I hope to update the design and make a higher-quality product for my next project,” she said.

Eour Nara said she believes the competition will help raise awareness about clay products, enabling potters to boost their sales. “We don’t have many customers now, maybe because they don’t have a clear idea about what we’re producing,” she said.

Competition organiser Kang Proeung said about 75 students submitted a total of 120 drawings for the contest. From these, a nine-member jury chose 25 drawings from 19 students for consideration. These 25 drawings were taken to the villages of Andong Russey, Trapang Sbov and Banh Chhcod in Kampong Chhnang province, where 25 potters each chose one drawing to work on. Six prizes were given – three for designers and three for potters – with first prize in each category earning US$300, second prize $200 and third prize $100.

Chan Sorey, the secretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said at the awards ceremony on March 19 that she admired the ability of the potters – most of whom were women – to create new designs. “In this free-market era potters cannot follow the old models all the time; otherwise, they cannot compete with others,” she said.

Bong Savath, rector of the Royal University of Fine Arts, said pottery is a traditional art form in Cambodia that dates back more than 1,000 years. He added that clay artefacts are found at ancient sites throughout the country.

“Clay has been used to make pots and ceramics for a long time, and it’s even been [used] to make devotional objects to bury with corpses,” he said. “I admire potters in Kampong Chhnang province because they’re not only earning money from pottery but also playing an important role in continuing an important part of Cambodia culture.”

German Technical Cooperation also announced that a similar competition will be held in the future for silversmiths in Siem Reap province.

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