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Bruce's Blog 2011

From March to August every year, Bruce travels to Odonrossey Village,  a rural pottery village in the Tonle Sap region, about five kilometers outside of the town of Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia.  There, he works with the artisan-potters in the Village, teaching them modern methods for creating their pottery.    Together, Bruce and the area potters have created a new line of pottery which blends their historical pottery with innovate designs and newer technology.   Bruce shares the projects progress along with stories of life in the village through his blog. 


July 17, 2011 - The last installment

This has been a shortened year this year due to circumstances beyond my control but much was accomplished. The first project was to put a new roof on the shop. This took the better part of a month. Second was to develop some glazes that would work with the clay that is avaliable in Kampong Chhnang. This is still a work in progress as most glaze as color development is. One of the criteria was to use natural local clays in the glazes which in itself creates many challenges. In the short time I had we came up with 6 glaze recipies that were winners and almost 100 that were not. Along with playing mad chemist in the countryside, pottery had to be produced. It has been a good example of multi tasking under very primitave conditions. The KAP team is some of the most talented potters in Udonrossey. One of the goals for KAP is to get fair trade prices for their work and also be an advocate for the artist to get better prices for their work. On average KAP is paying it's artists 50% to 100% more than the current market prices but the work is of a much higher quality. The increases in their incomes ends up having a positive effect through out the village. Pottery sold to export markets will bring better prices for those involved in the KAP project. To do this a higher standard of quality has to be the norm.

Attached are some pictures of the last firing. This is a small example of what we are producing in Kampong Chhnang. Aree is Gapow's daughter and is modeling some pottery. Most of this pottery is going to the USA to be test marketed. Khmer Artisan Project is on the edge of entering a new phase. Before KAP has been in the development phase but now we are ready to produce. Pottery making in Kampong Chhnang is becoming a lost art. Most of the women who make pottery are in their 40's and 50's. There are next to no younger women taking up the art. There is no money in it and is very hard work. Khmer Artisan Project is showing a whole group of younger women pottery making is fun and can make good money. There are people out there who want to take up the art, the economic incentive just needs to be there. Khmer Artisan project is showing a younger generation the skill so the culture and art are not lost.

Khmer Artisan Project is almost completely self funded by Bruce Fairman.In the USA KAP is a Non Profit Corp. so all donations are tax deductable. If anyone is intersted in becoming a supporting member of Khmer Artisan Project donations can be made through this website. I hope all have enjoyed the pictures and seeing a distant part of the world. Khmer Artisan Project is a small organization but has effected many people's lives for the better and will continue to do so

Sample Products


July 7, 2011

The other day we did a firing in the big kiln. The second chamber was a bisque firing and the first chamber was a glaze. I don;t have any kiln shelves right now so it was only one layer of glazed ware. I either have to go to Thailand or Vietnam to get kiln shelves or any other supplies. Before and after the firing pictues for the glazed ware. The bisque load had an amazing amound of product. Ming is sifting through the bisqueware to sell.. The last pictue is some of the finished glazed ware. Now I am facing a small mountian of bisqueware to glaze.



July 1, 2011

We have to new members of the KAP team. Jua and Det Lon are superb at wheel thrown forms and carving. We fired the bricks in the elephant kiln. Ming is stoking the kiln. This is rice planting season. Gapow, Chea and their friend Supea are coming back from the rice fields at the end of the morning. Gapow finished 200 little turtles. They are to cute. Ming is sitting next to part of my glazing project. After the bricks were fired we could use some of them to make a new bag wall. The last one fell over when some big vases melted into it last firing. Sok Nep is building a new bag wall. Me decorating one of the large vases. Tomorrow we fire the big kiln. I am only firing one of the big vases just to make sure it does not melt. Hopefully the firing will go as planned.


June 27, 2011 - Prototypes

Here are some of the finished prototypes. Next is a real production run.




June 20, 2011 - Kitchen

For those interested this is my kitchen. It is outside to it does not get so hot. Sok Nep carving the turtle shells.Ming forming smaller turtles. I am glazing in the middle of an afternoon shower. It is really nice when it is raining at the shop very cool at least for Cambodia.The last step for making the turtles is burnish them with a small stone. Yesterdays project was cutting up 4 ox carts of wood. Needless to say it was very sweaty. The first samples of elephants. We have a new staff member. Her name is Chia. She is very good at hand building and she is making the elephants

Kitchen Sok Nep carving turtles Ming forming smaller turtles
Glazing during an afternoon shower Burnishing the turtles Wood
Elephant samples   Chia making elephants


June 20, 2011 - Morning Commute

For those wondering what the commute to work is like here the following pictures were taken going to the shop. This is one of my favorite times of the year because the rice fields are flooding and the young rice is beginning to grow.




June 13, 2011

After lunch I burned it off by turning over bricks. Each brick is about 25 pounds and there were 160 bricks. I did ny test firing and it turned out good so the samples had to be transported back to the shop. This is an example of turning a motorcycle into a pick up. The turtles came out great. I have about 9 glazes that are keepers and 5 more that need a bit of work. While I was writing in my glaze book I had a curious visitor. She stood there for almost a half hour watching me. She must have been bored even for a cow. Tomorrow it is off to Phnom Phen to get stocked up on supplies.

Turning Bricks Pickup/Motorcycle Turtles
Turtles Visitor  


Work continues. The clay soaked and was ready to be used. Everyone took turns making bricks. It is backbreaking work. The test kiln I have been using has an interesting chimney. It is made from a water filter and hand thrown pieces stack on top of each other. A few days ago I did a firing that had some problems and had to be done over so I made some more glaze testers. This is my portable glaze lab. I was invited to the engagement ceremony for the village chief. Not many people were inviteed so I was not going to miss it. The group of people were the cooks cooking curry noodle and fish soup.

Making Bricks Kiln chimney Portable Glaze Lab
Portable Glaze Lab Engagement Part  


June 6, 2011

I have about thirty turtles glazed and ready for firing but the small kiln is booked until Thursday. The next project is making some new bricks for the door of the big kiln. Ming stayed busy making turtles to avoid brick making. Ga Pow shoveled clay into the cement vats while I schlepped water 4 gallons at a time. I got to take turns at the well with a lady who lives across the road. She comes over about 30 to 40 times a day and fills up that small bucket. My well has drinkable water so it is a source of water for many people. When I was done with the water I went into the bathroom to take a shower only to find a couple of squatters. That is a baby Tarantulas and the can run really fast. The next day Sok Nep and I dug the clay out of the vats and added sand and rice hulls to the clay. Mixing the clay is very old school. I remember once Eric Struck and I did this at H&R Pottery when we were in our twenties. Then it was a novelty this is just the way it is done. The clay is now drying in three piles for two days then the bricks will be made. I cannot wait to do the next firing.

Ming making turtles Ga Pow shoveling clay Lady at the well
Shower Squatter Sok Nep digging out clay Digging clay out of the vats
  Sok Nep mixing clay  


May 24, 2011

May 22 started out very early about 5:30. The sun was just coming up and was already blazing hot. I stopped for an iced coffee and a bowl of noodle soup then it was off to Odon Rossey to do the first test firing of glazes. By 6:30 we had stacked all of the wood by the kiln and I might as well have taken a shower I was so wet from sweat. The kiln is at one of the shops that sells local pottery and a local dealer was purchasing some pots. Another business that is at the pottery shop has is selling palm sugar. The vats are full of palm sugar. Firing the kiln was hot business. It is in a tin building with very little cross ventilation. The stoke hole is about one foot tall on the ground. It was seriously designed for short people. That is me stoking the kiln and the next picture is Sok Nep scraping out the ashes from the bottom of the fire box. Ian Brooks a friend of mine from Australia came to watch the firing. He is sitting by the door where there is a little breeze. At the end of the firing I reduced it for about 20 minutes. The last picture is the testers. Considering I have never tried to invent and design glazes before I was very happy with the first run of testers.

On the ceramic egghead side of things all of the glazes were single fired or better said glazed greenware. Fired to 1075 degrees centigrade or a hard cone 02. The entire firing was 8 and a half hours. Tomorrow I am back to my glaze chemicals again going for a second round.

First firing test Vats of palm sugar
Bruce, stoking the kiln Sok Nep clearing the ashes Ian Brooks
Reducing the temperature of the kiln Completed testers  


May 15, 2011

Well I am back in Cambodia for a shortened season.The first order of business upon arriving was some maintenance projects. The first being putting on a new roof. It made quite a mess. The palm frawn shingles are about a meter long and are hand tied to the frame of the building. One of my main goals is to develop some glazes to use. I dug some white clay and am grinding it using a stone mortar and pestle the screening the clay through a flour sifter. The first batch of glaze tests are 15 different ones. I got some turtle piggy banks from Ming to use as testers. I painted the shells with a different glaze each. Mixing another batch of glaze is screened through my sifter. Srey Mum is a local potter she moved her wheel to the shop because it is nicer to work there. One thing I am very happy about is the shop has become sort of a community gathering place. I got access to a small wood fired kiln so in a few days I am going to fire the testers. I can't wait to see what happens.

Putting on a new roof Palm frawn shingles  using mortar and pestle
Testing the new glazes