Tek Sophorn: from construction worker to an artist at a high-class hotel

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Tek Sophorn: from construction worker to an artist at a high-class hotel

With his hands holding a chisel, a man is concentrating on sculpting an ice statue as he looks on with quiet, patient eyes. This is part of Tek Sophorn’s daily work as an artist.

“As artists, we must know our strong points,” said Sophorn.

“And the creation is very important. If we see something in our emotions, we must be able to use and make it into our own style.”

What mysterious circumstances led this man, who left school in grade five, to get the rare skill needed to make sculptures out of ice?

Unlike many artists who went to art school, Sophorn learned to sculpt from his father when he was a child in Kampong Thom. Because of poor living conditions, Sophorn went to work as a construction worker when he was only 13.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

After working as a construction worker who specialised in sculpting and painting pictures on pagoda walls, Sophorn took a job at Koh Kong International Resort Club in 2000. Although he was still just a construction worker, his curiosity led him to learn about iron repair and electrical repair.

Because of his hard work and diverse skills, he took a job at the Phnom Penh Hotel in 2006 in the engineering section. One year later, the hotel hired him as an artist when they saw how well he could sculpt when the artists were busy.

Because of his good work for the Phnom Penh Hotel, Sophorn was hired by NagaWorld Hotel in 2010. Due to his skills and success, this son of a poor farmer is now able to provide a good life for his family.

“I’m really satisfied with my job, but it is not easy because I have high responsibility in my work in order to ensure a smooth process for my company without any crises.”

Sophorn said that his job requires immense attention to detail.

“We must have willingness and concentration, and not think of other things while working. If we cannot be well-focused at the moment, we can’t force ourselves. So we should have a break to release our feelings before coming back for work.”

But when he had no money, knowledge, or skills, he said that he had to use his physical powers to work and get skills. Therefore, he had to be very patient as he struggled in his career.

“When I had trouble with or didn’t like my duties, I always thought of a job in the future that I could love, because I had no money and no knowledge at the time.”

Due to the struggles he overcame earlier in his career, Sophorn said he would like to open a training school for youths in sculpting. He is particularly interested in training youths in ice sculpting because not many people know much about it.

Sophorn also has some suggestions for youths:

“For youths who are able to study, they should try their best to get knowledge for our future. For youths having no ability to do so, they should learn a skill in life. And if they don’t have money to be trained in school, they should try their best in working and developing their ability and skills themselves so they don’t rely on one particular job.”

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