From The Cambodia Daily, December 12, 2000
For two Generations,
Pottery is a Point of National Pride
Jody McPhillips and Ana Nov
Dreams come in many forms, though maybe not that many
are made of brick. But in a cool glade behind Roat Sophoan's house in
this small town east of the Mekong River, a brick kiln fills one corner
of a spacious work area. Scores of clay forms are lined up everywhere:
cups, bowls, plates, vases, urns and candleholders. In hours, the kiln
will toast them to perfection.
Roat Sophoan is keeping
alive the unique ceramics style begun by his late uncle, Chhun
Photo: Heng Simith
Roat Sophoan is the nephew of the late Chhun Pok,
Cambodia's top expert in ceramics, who died in 1998 at the age of 43.
Chhun Pok, for years a professor of ceramics at the Royal University
of Fine Arts, died before he could finish building the kiln in the glade.
When his uncle died, Roat Sophoan, 31, left his own university studies
as a sculptor to take up Chhun Pok's unfinished work. With the help
of Chhun Pok's three grown sons, he completed the kiln and began to
work as a potter.
The results are featured in an exhibition poignantly
named "Ceramics from Lor Pok [Pok's Kiln]," which will go
on display at the Reyum Gallery, No 47 St 178, with an opening reception
Thursday at 5 PM. Roat Sophoan says he has come to love pottery even
more than sculpting. He hopes one day to make Lor Pok a profitable enterprise
training villagers to recreate ancient Khmer designs and firing them
at high heat to produce the distinctive green-brown glazes rarely seen
"I want to use only Cambodian materials, natural
clays and glazes," he said. The difficulty will be selling enough
of the high-quality work to support both his and his late uncle's families,
Chhun Pok's best-known work is a lotus light, a graceful
terra-cotta candle holder shaped like a lotus bud formed in two pieces.
Candlelight shines through the filigree to form dancing patterns on
walls and ceilings. But the exhibition will include much more, Roat