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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ceramics centre fires up kilns

Ceramics centre fires up kilns

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NGO seeks to revive techniques of ancient Khmer pottery-making

Photo by: Peter Olszewski

A kiln is fired at the National Centre for Khmer Ceramics Revival.

THE National Centre for Khmer Ceramics Revival fired four of its kilns simultaneously for the first time ever on Monday, in preparation for the International Khmer Ceramics Festival on December 14-29.

Centre director Serge Rega led the difficult task of maintaining all four kilns as they fired the pottery inside.

In order to ensure the kilns would be firing maximally and simultaneously, he had to begin firing the 'bouribox', or firebox, over 24 hours before the event began. This kiln employs modern techniques of woodfiring and burns at 1,300 degrees.

"I want to host more events like this in the future as we learn how to manage the kilns together," he said.  

"It's hard work, it involves a lot of wood, and it's very hot."

In addition to the bouribox kiln, Rega also ran a pit firing kiln, which uses copper oxides to create flashes of colour; a reduction kiln, which produces black pots by trapping carbon; and a bisque firing kiln, into which most pots must pass for the first round of firing.

Normally, Rega and his team of about 15 employees and trainees fire only one kiln at a time. "We decided to fire all four at once," he said, "because we have a lot of products right now and we hope to sell them."

Rega used his own funding to create the centre as an NGO nearly two years ago, to conduct research and training in ancient Khmer pottery and glazing techniques.

He has been unable to secure more funding for the organisation and is in the process of privatising his organisation.

"We do replicas of ancient carvings and produce contemporary objects, always with Khmer character, and find a way to market those items.  I need to balance the NGO's goals of training and research with the practical need to earn a profit."

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