Mr. Svay Sareth is the Artistic Director of Artisans Angkor, and always endeavors to create contemporary designs that are deeply related to Cambodian culture. All the people in his department are artists or designers, and concentrate Artisans Angkor’s different skills in handicrafts: wood & stone carving, lacquering, jewelry, silk painting, ceramics, ornamental painting and silver plating.
Sareth & his team of 29 have been working on the conception of the New Crafts Collection (2017-2018) - available in-store since August 2017 - for months. He took time to expound what the main goals of this beautiful collection were, and to detail some of the processes; he is the one talking through this article.
A breath of fresh air
Why did we create a new collection? Because we really had to refresh our offer by proposing new original designs. But even if we based this new collection on the current market needs, it was above all a tribute to Khmer traditions and cultural identity.
In this collection, we also tried to mix different materials: for example wood or stone with silver, Ceramics with wood, and so on.
When authenticity meets modernity
It is important to remember that our work & designs are always related to one of the following trends:
- The Patrimony collection (100% traditional items): for these products, we use exclusively local symbols, colors, shapes, materials… to put it in other words, this collection is entirely inspired by traditional arts & crafts.
- The half-traditional / half contemporary collection: here, we still use Cambodian traditional symbols, but we customize them in terms of materials, colors and patterns.
- The Contemporary collection: this category is the most complex, because we have to create 100% new products and designs. An additional training is also needed for our artisans in that particular case.
Artisans Angkor’s 2017-2018 collection showcases craft pieces that belong to all three categories.
However, in any cases and even for the contemporary collection, we always get our inspirations from the local Fauna & Flora, the traditional daily objects (tableware, farming equipment…) used by our people, and we constantly strive to highlight Khmer patrimony. Even if we are increasingly working on modern designs and collections, we have to stay committed to our cultural identity.
For example, our Lotus ceramics tableware collection (contemporary collection) features very unique reliefs that recall the shape of Lotus leaves.
A colorful rebirth
The choice of the colors always depends on the object’s meaning.
When it comes to sacred figures, we need to keep in mind all the philosophy that was built around the symbol during centuries. For Buddha especially, we cannot just use any color! We must choose sober and Zen shades, colors that remind us of meditation, and of the peacefulness emanating from the Buddha.
It is essential to respect our stories and legends; a color can be beautiful aesthetically speaking, but it is not truly beautiful if it does not respect the symbol it tries to highlight.
Here are some of the new tints we implemented for this collection:
Jewelry: our most recent craft
In 2015, we wanted to develop a new craft, because we were willing to give additional job opportunities to our artisans working in the silver plating sector. The interesting part about this is that the techniques of silver plating are really close to the techniques of jewelry. In order to maintain our artisans’ skills, but also to make they learn more techniques, we decided to specialize in jewelry and to transfer some of our silver plating artisans to the jewelry workshops.
Our Jewelry designer, Mrs. Alice Varini, also takes her inspirations from Cambodian nature and from motifs & arabesques that can be seen on the Angkor temples. She is handling the training of our artisans in this refined craft as well.
As a Conclusion…
We needed tons of time, discussion, preparation and passion to create this new collection. Months of hard work (sometimes a year) are necessary to complete such a project, from the first idea to the final in-store display.
We also had to transfer the knowledge and know-how from our department to our artisans (to train them to new techniques, to the use of new materials…). It is not just about the conception, it is also about the nurturing of talents.