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Born in China more than 4,000 years ago, the use of lacquer, a drying wood finish, eventually spread to Cambodia. Traditionally, lacquer is used to protect houses, boats or kitchen utensils from dampness and insects. Lacquerware is frequent in Khmer arts for statues, furniture and theater masks, especially during the Angkor era. The tradition of lacquer work had been lost and Artisans Angkor is proud to contribute to its revival.

Techniques of application of lacquer will differ according to the medium used. The carved stone, usually sandstone, is coated with several layers of lacquer in order to smooth out the surface in preparation for the next stage of color application.

Vegetal lacquer is nontoxic and dries faster than other kind of lacquer. Between each layer there needs to be one day of drying time and the process is therefore long and requires patience. The piece is then ornamented with copper-leaf gilding.

Once the patina is applied, the lacquer is polished, the craftsman or woman performing this operation with the palm of the hand.

Each artisan has his own way of working and each piece is truly unique, bearing the mark of the craftsman who produced it. With lacquer and the drying requirement, patience and timing are what make the difference. For big pieces such as statues and bas-reliefs, the process can take up to 200 hours, excluding drying time.

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