The day you decide to jump into something new, a widespread feeling of excitement, joy and apprehension makes you understand that a new chapter begins in your life. That’s what happened to the 8 trainees who have been selected according to several tests, such as general knowledge questions, drawing and clay modeling.
Thus, the first day was coming. Brune, the ceramic trainer, also felt a bit of stress and she was very glad to start teaching and to pass on her savoir-faire/passion.
Before starting on-hand exercises, the trainees carefully listened to general safety instructions which they would have to apply during their training, and in their future job. They were very careful and quiet while Brune, Khoeun and Kiri explained them the working rules in the workshop. Kiri, the workshop foreman, and Khoeun who ensures the translation in Khmer, work with Brune to help her teach her techniques efficiently. Obviously, no explanation must be forgotten in the translation. The quality of the training and of the forthcoming products depends on their teamwork and cooperation.
After assimilating theory, the trainees were able to go on the next step: observation. Everyone around the big table looked thoroughly at Brune at work. No one wanted to miss out one thing she did. At first, the class was very quiet, no one dared to talk, but after, it became livelier: some of them asked questions to be sure they understood well. It was nice to see such enthusiasm from the trainees.
What they have learnt:
- As a start, they had to make a plaster plate following those steps:
- Take some clay and knead it to put air bubbles out.
- Flat the clay thanks to the wood rods and a rolling pin.
- Cut pieces of clay to the length you want.
- Make a square with your 4 pieces, similar to the drawing you did before.
- Join them on the corners and make sure they stick well to the table.
- Prepare your volume of plaster to make the plate.
- Put it on the formwork (clay square).
- Let it rest until it is warm and solid.
- Remove the clay around the plate.
- File and polish each side to make it smooth and straight.
- Carve the edges diagonally
Then, the trainees practiced by themselves to see if they properly assimilated the way to do a plaster plate. Some of them already distinguished themselves according to the trainer. Indeed, some are better when it deals with mathematics while some have a kind of ‘manual intuition’. Nevertheless, everyone gives his/her best and wants to do it right. At the end, they were proud of what they were now able to make.
After the workshop’s floor was cleaned by everyone, Khoeun made a short summary with the trainees to see what they remembered from what they have learnt the day before. It was important because this day’s lesson was the continuity of yesterday’s: making the plaster plate’s mould. Also, Brune inspected the trainees’plaster plates and told them what they could improve next time. According to what she saw, she already thought about the skills of each trainee and about their work division/responsability in the workshop.
Some steps were the same, like doing the clay formwork and prepare the volume of plaster. But at first, they had to coat the plate with a liquid called ‘lubricerafine’. This is used to prevent the plate to stick to the plaster mould. If you skip this step, you never manage to remove your plate from the mould. Then, it is pretty much the same way to do.
It is a bit tedious when you make it for the first time, but after some time they will not need long time to make a perfect plaster mould to create their ceramic products.
Trainees’ feelings about their learning
Sek Mach, 21 years old.
She knows very well Artisans Angkor because of her sister who has been working in the company for over a decade, as a stone carver.
Mach already came to see her workplace and visited the workshops in Siem Reap. She likes the company for the working conditions it provides to its employees and for what it does to revive different kind of traditional Khmer crafts.
Mach has already some sensibility for craftsmanship. Indeed, she is a wood carver. She worked in a company for 1 year, sadly there was no more work for her and had to find another job. Nevertheless, it was not easy because she had no qualification. That is why she decided to apply for working at Artisans Angkor.
When Mach heard that Artisans Angkor would open soon a ceramic workshop, she was immediately interested in training on another crafts: ceramic. It was something she did not really know, but she wanted to try something new (and different from her sister’s job).
Mach really likes craft and she thinks Artisans Angkor is the best place for her to become a real craftswoman and develop her professional potential and skills. According to her, Artisans Angkor is about delivering long term economic prosperity for Siem Reap. Once she will work in the company, she will not be afraid anymore of losing her job. Thus, this new workshop is a great opportunity for today and for her future.
Also, Mach found those first days of training really interesting. She definitely prefers when she can practice herself what she has just learnt. But, she appreciates the way Brune teaches them her savoir-faire. She takes time to explain and wants the trainees to ask questions to their Khmer trainers if they do not understand something. This is something important because Mach is not so comfortable with mathematics.
On one hand, Mach was a little bit afraid because there were some things very technical to do. On the other hand, she felt happy because she managed to do other stuff with more easiness. Mach is a ceramic trainee who seems really conscientious and gifted. No doubt she will be a great craftswoman.
Cham Rang, 19 years old.
He heard about Artisans Angkor from some inhabitants of the villages around Siem Reap and he found this company very appealing.
At first, he was particularly interested in the social mission of Artisans Angkor. Indeed, Rang wants to find a steady employment to help his father earning money for their family. His father works very hard every day, yet he cannot satisfy his family’s needs. Rang cannot afford to study for years.
Then, he wanted to apply to Artisans Angkor to become a qualified craftsman. Since he was young, he has liked trying to create something with clay. He also draws what inspires him. That is why he feels attracted by doing craftsmanship.
Thus, Rang has a natural gift for crafts and he thinks that Artisans Angkor can help him reveal and enhance his talent. To date, he never made something in ceramic. Nevertheless, he wanted to take the opportunity of the opening of the new Artisans Angkor’s workshop to receive quality training on crafts. He chose ceramics because of his drawing and manual skills.
Besides, Rang was really excited for the first training day. He did not have any concern or any apprehension. On the contrary, he could not wait to learn and work in this beautiful workshop. He seems to be at ease in class and pays a lot of attention to Brune’s demo. For now, Rang finds the class not too difficult to understand, except mathematics! Indeed, he stopped at the secondary school. So, when he has to measure how much plaster he needs to make his mould, it takes more time. However, there are only a few calculations, once he understands them, it will be like an automatism for him.
Also, Rang likes very much being a ceramic trainee and he cannot wait to work as a real craftsman. To him, Artisans Angkor is about providing under-privileged people the opportunity of doing a great job, even a career. Indeed, he thinks that Artisans Angkor is a company which has a bright future ahead of it!