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2010 Blog

September 12, 2010

We fired the kiln one more time. Many modifications were made to the kiln. The kiln closed up and pre heating. On day number one was just a pre heat. The second day the kiln gets fired. Nothing goes to waste. Ming is sifting the charcoal from previous firings to use for cooking. Stoking the kiln is hot business. The logs are heavy and the opening to the fire box is small. Afternoon showers are very welcomed. Rain or no the work does not stop. Cleaning out the ashes from the fire box is very hot business. When it is pouring everyone seeks shelter from the rain even Ming's baby cow. At about 10:00 at night the kiln is just about done. Everbody takes turns throwing wood into the fire box. It is so hot that it will burn the hair right off your hands and legs if you get to close.

Kiln, closed and pre-heating Ming sifting through the coal from previous firings.
Stoking the kiln Heavy logs/small kiln opening
Cleaning out the ashes is a very hot business. Ming's baby cow seeking shelter from the rain. Taking Turns throwing wood into the fire box.


As soon as the kiln was fired I went to Vietnam for a pottery exhibition. It was very interesting. As soon as I got back it was time to open the kiln. Loosening up the first bricks was hard with just bare hands. The kiln fired for 16 hours and got to about 1150 celcius according to the pyrometer. When we opened up the kiln it was obvious the kiln got much hotter. There was a few terracotta bricks the fired to a beautiful high gloss iron glaze. First glance at the kiln it was a disaster but there was a silver lining. The stain I had been using turned into a beautiful pewter glaze. Many pots melted and were a complete loss. The wrong clay was used for the high temperatures. Even the melted pots were pretty cool. The assortment of pieces were pretty nice. My favorite was the last picture. Classic Khmer decorating with modern glazing techniques.

This is the last installment for this year. In five days I fly back to make pottery in the USA. A brief over view of what happened this year.

First of all a toilet and septic was built. It has been a real luxury having the toilet and shower.

Second we built a 480 cubic foot kiln from scratch. We dug the clay to make the 5000 bricks and then built the kiln. The really good part is that it works very well now.

Third was we have finally developed a competitive line of artifact looking pottery that at least in my book is very beautiful.

With all these projects we have made work for 20 plus individuals that live in Odonrossey village working at the shop. The core team of talented potters has really coalesced and work as one unit very well. It is about making fine pottery not just about the money. When the last kiln was unloaded for the rest of the day people from all over were coming by to see what we were doing. What Khmer Artisan Project is doing is different and much higher quality than anything in the province.

Next year we will start production of a definitive line and start recruiting people to be students to participate. Getting people will take about 5 minutes at the most. There is a long line of people who want to participate. Many times people come and help with menial jobs just to hang out at the shop. I feel very lucky because it has really turned into a community workshop and community center.

Khmer Artisan Project is a 501 C 3 or non profit corporation. Any donations are fully tax deductible and would be greatly appreciated. To date Khmer Artisan Project has been fully funded by me alone. If you go to the website at you can learn more.

I hope everyone has enjoyed the pictures and story.


Opening the kiln First peek of the firing. Beautiful pewter glaze
Even the melted pots were beautiful Assortment of pots Even the melted pots were beautiful.
Artifact looking pottery Classic Khmer decorated with modern glazing techniques.  


August 29, 2010

The last few days have not been real exciting but lots of very had work. We cut a giant pile of wood and stacked it up so it is ready to use. About three quarters of the way thru cutting we stopped for a break. Sok Nep's barber came by so he could get a quick haircut. What service. Ming Keean is burnishing the elephant with a smooth stone to give it a polished finish. Samnang is about 4 and a half feet tall just to give the pile a bit of perspective. The first chamber is loaded. The goal is 1225 to 1285 degrees celcius. There is plenty of wood so there should be no problem reaching temprature. The second chamber is going to be the local terracotta and many people are bringing pots to be fired. I want the kiln fully loaded. In a few days we fire again.

Sok Nep's haircut Ming Keean polishing and elephant Wood Pile
Samnang near the wood pile Second Chamber - Terra Cotta Firing  



August 22, 2010

The new kiln is working but not as good as I would like. The kiln developed many cracks that had to be fixed. The first picture is a twilight delivery of clay in the middle of a thunderstorm. The kiln can hold a lot of pottery. The next two pictures is the pottery ready to be loaded. After it is loaded the door is sealed up with clay . At the higher temperatures smaller wood burns better. Another wood delivery. On a hot humid afternoon nothing beats a shaved ice to cool off with.

Twilight clay delivery Pottery ready to be loaded into the kiln Pottery ready to be loaded into the kiln
Sealing the kiln door with clay. Another clay delivery Shaved ice vendor


Apart from firing the kiln we had a Buddhist ceremony called a Songatean. Many people from the village came for the ceremony.After the Buddhist ceremony in the evening a feed of boiled pighead is on the menu. Surprisingly enough it is very tasty. The next picture is a couple of the local potters. The firing turned out good but the kiln had some problems at the higher temperatures. It was almost a full load in both chambers. A couple of pictures of the finished pieces. One of the problems was that the kiln was choking at higher tempratures. The solution was to open up the openings between the different chambers. This meant chiseling through about 8 to 10 inches of hard fire brick. The chisel was a bit from a jackhammer and a 5 pound sledgehammer.All I can say is tunneling out of a brick cell would be really hard work. I spent 6 hours on Saturday making the rubble pile in the kiln. Sok Nep came late in the day and finished. In two weeks we fire it again

Buddhist ceremony Pig's head Enjoying the after meal celebration
Local potters Finished pieces Finished piece
Modifying the kiln Sok Nep finishing up the modifications



August 2, 2010

The final test firing was a few days ago. The kiln got up to 1100 C. At that point we had to shut it down because the timbers around the chimney were to close and were catching on fire. For the lower tempratures we used large logs and when it go very hot we started using the smaller pieces of wood. The day started out hot and then turned rainny. Usually there were 3 or 4 people working on the kiln at a time. The picture with the guy with the t shirt on his head is wearing a Cambodian fire suit. The only thing really fireproof was the gloves theat I brought. Ming, Paula and Sok Nep were finishing some pots that will be fired in a few days. The last picture is a small planter that was in the last firing. It has no glaze or stain. It is just raw clay. It seems that at about 1100 degrees celcius the iron amongst other things melts. This planter instead of being terra cotta turned into a nice peice of stoneware with a wonderful finish. In three days we fire the beast again

Final Test Firing of the Kiln Test Firing of the Kiln Another Rainy Day
Usually there are 3 to 4 people working at the kiln
Ming, Paula and Sok Nep finishing pots Small Stoneware Planter  


July 21, 2010

The kiln has been for the most part completed and ready to be fired. Ming was very happy to have the kiln building coming to an end and we getting the shop back to normal rather than a brick factory. Ming is trimming some of the jars she made. We were a little short on wood so we got an extra tuk tuk of wood delivered. Ox cart is the main delivery method. The jars Ming is making starts out as a pinch pot then coils paddled flat to make the form. The main fire box was really blazing and VERY hot. Paula works in a local garmet factory and works 6 days a week sometimes 7 days. It was her day off and she came to the shop to make clay and lids for Ming's jars. Paula is a very talented potter but she cannot make enough money doing pottery to help her family. On this day she was very happy to get her hands dirty in the clay again.

Completed Kiln Ming trimming some of the jars Wood delivery
Ming working on jars Main fire box Paula making lids for jars


Ming and Paula working together. Widows in Cambodia shave their heads. This lady is the oldest potter in Odonrossey at 80 years old. She uses a wheelchair as a walker because last year she had a stroke. She still works every day.One of the things I am very happy about is the shop is a local gathering place. People are always stopping by to see what is going on at the shop. A nice collection of jars drying waiting to be fired. Power is actually coming to Odonrossey. Here they are installing the main power lines. A far cry for the USA. Notice the home made bamboo ladder. Some of the local peanut gallery. Samnang and her friend coming to inspect progress at the shop.
In the end the kiln got to about 1800 F in the first chamber and 1200 in the second chamber. The main reason was so many unfired bricks getting fired. Some modifications are going to be made to the kiln and week after next it will be fired again hopefully to 1250 C or about 2300 F

Ming and Paula working together Oldest potter in Odonrossey. She is 80 years old The shop has become a local gathering place
Installing main power lines Collection of drying jars waiting to be fired Samnang and friend inpsecting progress at the shop


June 28, 2010

The new kiln is almost done. All that is left to do now is the chimney. The first two pictures are a lady who sell these gultinous noodles in palm sugar and condensed milk. It is the afternoon snack. Cost 500 reil or about 13 cents. The last chamber of the kiln is getting it's arch form constructed. The arch chimney and floors are all that is left and the kiln will be finished. The back view of the kiln and an overall view of the grounds. The final arch completed. Hopefully within the week we will be firing this monster of a kiln.

Glutious noodle vendor Glutious rice in palm sugar and condensed milk Kiln
Constructing the arch for the last chamber Overall view of the grounds Kiln from the back



June 15, 2010

Work continues on the kiln. It is beginning to look almost like a castle. Actually some of the kids play in it like a giant playhouse. It has been very humid and hot. Me in front of the kiln. Laying brick is messy business. The construction moves on. Samnang getting stuck in the firebox. Some local ladies making a pottery delivery by hand cart. It was a peaceful hot and humid week until Saturday afternoon

Kiln Playhouse aka Kiln Bruce in front of Kiln
Brick laying Kiln Samnang
Pottery delivery by hand cart  


Ming Keean has been enjoying the glasses I bought for her. After lunch she is lounging reading my English/Khmer dictionary. Then it started to cloud up. You could hear the rumbling in then distance. The hotter and more humid it is the stronger the thunderstorm. This was the worst on I have ever been in anywhere. It got worst after I took the storm picture. Forty to fifty mile per hour winds and horizontal rain. The entire shop was swaying abouut 6 inches and creeking horribly from the wind. I thought the shop was coming down. We got some braces in place to shore it up a bit. 45 minutes of pure hell. At least it was cool. As soon as everything was fortified work continued on the arch for the first chamber. It definately was not a boring week.

Ming Keean Storm
Storm Shoring up the shop Work continues during the storm



June 7, 2010

The bricks for the kiln have been made and now about half of them will be fired. The first picture is a local cat that hangs out at a restaurant. The second picture is wood being cut for fuel to fire the bricks. The primary firebox opening has an arched opening. the third picture was planning it out. Then the completed arch. Stoking the elephant kiln that is full of bricks is the next picture. The next picture is the beginnings of the first of two firing chambers.. This is continued in the next email..

A typical clay delivery by ox cart for someone. This guy is not playing in the mud but mixing the mortar for the bricks for the kiln. This little cat has decided to be the Khmer Artisan Project mascot. The kiln is beginning to take shape. The kiln is going to consist of a primary fire box then the first chamber then a secondary fire box and the second chamber. It is very exciting to see it coming together.

Until next time

Shop Cat Cutting Wood for Fuel to Fire the Bricks Planning out the opening
Completed Arch Stoking the elephant kiln which is full of bricks First of two firing chambers
Clay Delivery by Ox Cart Mixing Mortor for Bricks Khmer Artiian Project  mascot
Kiln Taking Shape Kiln Kiln


May 31, 2010

It has been a busy couple of weeks wading through a pile of bureaucratic BS. Yesterday I went out to see how everything was going. Brick production is winding down. Now it is the drying and firing phase. The first load of bricks came out fantastic. A new roof is almost done to house the new kiln. The first firing of bricks was also the first firing with the elephant kiln since the air ports were added. Everyone was amazed at how the kiln fired. The draft was radically increased and it went to 1500 with just one ox cart of wood. That is 100 degrees hotter than it ever fired before with half the amount of wood. This weekend we are going to fire it again and this time I want to go hotter. It is nice when an educated guess works for the good.



May 16, 2010

Another week has pased and work continues. The bricks are about 75% done. Quite a pile of bricks is piling up. When they are dry they will be moved to a brick yard and fired in one of their 50 foot long climbing kilns. Construction is about to begin for the roof for the kiln. Deliveries come via tuk tuk. The wood pile is also growing for fuel for both kilns. The foundation for the new kiln is pretty much layed out. Ga Pow rarely has her hait down when I was at Ming Keeans house I thought it would make a good picture of her. Across the road the lady with the two bowls sells soup and this sweet iced noodle dish. An afternoon snack for two costs 25 cents and is quite refreshing.


May 10, 2010

The clay grinding never stops. it reminds me of old fashion knitting bees. People come sit down chat and grind clay. For the more ceramic egghead types. the first kiln would not go past 1400 degrees. it seemed to choke at around 1350. A couple of weeks ago I was reading one of my kiln books. it had designs for a Canternary Arch downdraft kiln. It was almost exactly the same as the elephant kiln. The kiln had air intake ports which the elephant kiln does not. I had Sok Nep chisel out 6 ports on the kiln. I think this will solve the tempreture problem. The chimney is going to be another meter higher also. In the afternoon a lady came by selling fried crickets...yummy. the last picture is the air ports when done. I hope my theory is correct.

Sok Nep working on the ports Crickets fpr Sa;e


April 21, 2010

Yesterday we went and got three dump trucks of clay. This is a highly refractory clay. This is what we are going to make bricks from to build a new kiln. The clay was on about the top foot of ground. Sok Nep got about ten guys and by two in the afternoon they had filled up three trucks. They started at 4 in the morning. The dirt road is the approach to the place where the clay is. It is sort of a dry flood plain where they grow rice in the rainy season. The toilet is almost done!! Hurray

Dry plain where clay is collected Road to the clay Digging for Clay
Digging for Clay Break tie Clay excavation area
Clay Truck, Clay, Workers Toliet
Bruce's toilet


April 7, 2010:

It is not easy going. This is what soon will be your toilet and shower. Sok Nep is doing a great job constructing it. Digging the hole for the septic tank was very hard and we got a couple fo day laborers to help with that part. It should be done by next week. We have also made a decision on the kiln status. It seems the bricks we used for the elephant kiln will not withstand heat over about 1500 F. We have decided to build another kiln. This time we are going to make our own bricks from a clay the is very heat resistant. Yesterday I was looking at a kiln made from these bricks and it was 50 years old and in fine condition. We are going to build a two chamber climbing kiln capable of going to cone 10 or about 2300 F. Once this kiln is built there will be no more firing issues.

Digging the hole Hole for toilet/shower Digging the toilet
Day laborer working Toilet/Shower Toilet/Shower


April 7, 2010

A quick glimpse into daily life. Just about each day I go to the market to buy some meat for Ga Pow to cook. these are pictures of the market where I buy either fish chicken or pork.

At the Market Chicken for Sale Market Stall
Market Stall Pork For Sale Ga Pow Cooking
Meal Time  


March 18, 2010:

Getting started on a new year in Kampong Chhnang. The first order of business is to get a toilet on the property built. After that the kiln will get a bit of redesigning and then make some pottery. Now it is very hot. It is dry but humid a strange combination, sort of a dust bowl effect. The rains will come soon enough.

The first picture is just how dry and hot it is. The second picture is some braizers being fired. It is sort of a modified pit style firing. A lady making some water vessles in front of her home. The other day we had a strange neighbor in the neighborhood it raised quite a rucus. Ming Keean and Paula reading a Khmer English book. Ming likes to read when she can steal my glasses. The second to last picture is the local breakfast diner. The last picture is what I have for breakfast almost everyday. It is called Ban Chao. It is a rice crape with a little ground pork and bean sprouts. One crape costs about 6 cents. They are actually quite good. I am looking forward to getting production going again.

Dry and Hot Braizers being fired Lady Making Water Vessels
Visitor Visitor Ming and Paula
Local Diner Ban Chao