My first afternoon in Siem Reap I took a modified motorbike (with an attached canopied trailer) “tuk tuk” to the Artisans Angkor establishment. As I jumped off the tuk tuk and stepped under a small gazebo in the sculpture-bedecked courtyard I was assigned a free tour guide and started toward the silk screen painting section. Artisans Angkor was first created to provide a place for disabled peoples (most deaf and/or mute) to learn a traditional craft and have a place to work and earn money.
There were all different kinds of crafts being practiced: silk screen painting, enamel work, metal-working, rock carving, and wood carving. In the silk screen building I learned how the women would first stretch out fine pieces of silk that they had woven from fresh silk grown on their silk farm 20km outside of Siem Reap. They would then trace scenes and images taken from old carvings at Angkor onto the silk and then begin the slow, laborious task of hand painting in all the aspects of the paintings. Upon the walls were large posters that depicted the Khmer alphabet in sign language as well as the English alphabet. On into the next room we went, where we saw a group of young women scrubbing away at enamel painted squares of wood with sandpaper and water, getting rid of excess paint. These women were very interested in talking with me and through the limited signs my guide knew, the women and I talked about where I was from, how old I was, how many siblings I had and the same of each of them. The third room held about six men hammering away with recycled motorcycle spokes at small circular pieces of discolored copper. These would soon become hollow boxes of all shapes and sizes and figurine elephants. The fourth and final rooms held the stone (sand and soapstone) and wood carvings. Both men and women did these carvings and they were also replicas of the carvings and statues found at the Angkor complex.
The large gallery at the end held every sort of art that I had seen along the tour as well as many different variations of silk products from the silk farm: bed covers, scarves, glasses cases, suits, dresses, pillows, and much more. When I went up to pay for the few small souvenirs I had picked out, I was given a brochure and was told that all the proceeds went to keeping Artisans Angkor up and running and employing the artists.
All in all, a very neat place to visit in Siem Reap to see the local artwork and art types.