from the Cambodia Daily, February 24-25, 2007

The Art and Craft of Stained Glass

by Michelle Vachon


Eng Lino, 15, puts the finishing touch on a stained glass artwork during a workshop at the Reyum Art School.

By 8:30 am on a sunny day earlier this month, Khin Sokhim was already engrossed in his work, meticulously cutting small pieces of glass based on a pattern he had designed.

Although he had studied various art techniques at the Reyum Art School over the last five years, this was his first experiment with stained glass.

"Ks difficult to cut the glass and set it in the lead frames," the 20 year old said.

"When if s a very small piece, sometimes I have to do it twice to cut it right, and then you have to be very careful grinding it".

Khin Sokhim and six other senior students embarked in mid-January on a stained glass workshop given at the art school by Scot Slessor, a program manager with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs on leave for a few months.

The result a series of about 50 stained glass and glass-painting works around 35 centimeters square in size. They win feature in a silent auction at the Reyum Institute's school Tuesday, and re-main on exhibit through Thursday.

Stained glass is an art form into which Cambodian artists have not yet ventured, Slessor said. "There is no Khmer ornamentation in glass. Stained glass hasn't been done here—even the Thai[s] haven't done it," he said.

Stained glass occasionally sold here for about $100 a piece tends to come from Vietnam and is not especially well made, said Slessor, who has been working with stained glass for about 15 years.

The idea of introducing Reyum's students to the art form came up when Slessor discovered the book "Kbach, A Study of Khmer Ornament" on Cambodia's traditional decorative patterns published by the Reyum Institute two years ago.

"When I saw...the book, [it] not only showed these designs, but also how to draft them," he said. 'To me, as a guy who likes to work with glass, I thought this was a great tool and decided to do a series of these in [stained glass] windows."

When he contacted Reyum Director Ly Daravufh to get authorization to use the designs from the book, they talked about stained glass techniques and decided that Slessor would give a four-week workshop at the school.

Slessor saw the project as an opportunity for young artists to put a new art product on the Cambodian market he said.


Kong Chan Na, 24, checks the glass pieces he just cut against the stained glass design he has created.


Khin Sokhim, 20, is inserting glass pieces into the lead frame or his stained glass work.

During the workshop, they studied the whole process, which begins with the artist creating a design—not overly intricate—and deciding on the pattern of colored and clear glass in which it will be produced.

Next come the tasks of cutting the glass pieces and grinding their edges in the desired shapes.

Once done, the artist constructs the design by fitting the glass pieces into lead frames, starting from the design's bottom left corner and progressively adding the pieces.

Using a soldering iron, he fuses the lead joints and fills the gaps between glass and lead frame with putty to make the artwork stronger.

The piece is then covered with whiting—calcium carbonate—to draw moisture out of the putty, and is left to dry for one day.

After the whiting has been removed, an add varnish, which is usually black, is applied to the lead and solder to give them a uniform color. The glass is then cleaned and the artwork is ready to be framed or left as is.

For Kun Sotha, 20, a Reyum school student for five years who attended the workshop, the most exciting part is seeing the stained glass design take shape.

"What I like is when you put the glass pieces together and the artwork appears," he said.

Tm quite surprised to see how much they have achieved in such a short time," Ly Daravuth said.
"This could introduce a new way to treat glass in different industries in Cambodia, in design in general as well as in work with traditional motifs."

Since no one has so far worked with stained glass, there is no color glass or glass paint available in the country, Slessor said Getting the necessary supplies from Canada for the workshop turned into a private project of both Slessor and his wife, Canadian Ambassador Donica Pottie.

Slessor and Ly Daravuth hope this first venture into stained glass will lead to a demand on the market for the young artists to get work as well as help support the school.

About 120 students from poor families, ranging in age from 10 to mid-20s, currently attend the Reyum Art School, said school director Lim Vanchan. Proceeds from the auction, scheduled for 6 pm on Tuesday, will go to the school