Encased in a glass dome filled with dried flowers and grass and decorated with beads, a pair of dolls clad in traditional wedding attire pose for a picture.
The smiley figurines are waiting for their owners, who will be picking them up any minute from Miracle Florist Design, a shop in Phnom Penh that specialises in creating miniature versions of customers to mark a special moment or recreate a specific event.
Miracle is the brainchild of Khiev Linda and Meng Sohuong, who saw a business opportunity selling miniature lookalikes of people and travelled to China to learn the intricate art of sculpting them.
After a year of training in the East Asian county, they returned to the Kingdom armed with the knowledge and the skills to open Miracle.
Linda studied technology and engineering at Western University in Phnom Penh but says he has always been passionate about arts and crafts, and that he wanted to make a living as an artisan.
“I always liked the arts and creating things with my hands,” says Linda.
When asked where the idea for Miracle came from, the 31-year-old says: “We already owned a flower shop, so we thought that creating dolls that resemble the owners was a good way of complementing our offer.”
“I think these dolls are a meaningful, long-lasting gift. It is more than a beautiful thing you put up for display. They hold the precious memories of the owners; memories that will be cherished for a lifetime,” he says.
While most shops simply import the dolls from overseas, Linda and his business partner chose to create them themselves so they can offer customers customised dolls modelled after their personal stories and appearance.
“In Cambodia, people would simply import something and then sell it. Few care, or dare, to create something themselves,” Linda says.
He came up with the idea for Miracle after he stumbled upon handmade dolls on the internet. Fascinated by the figurines, he decided to look further into them.
“I started researching. I found out that this type of realistic human miniatures appeared in England in 1993. In the beginning, artisans were making only the head of the doll. It was only later that they started making the dolls with the full body.”
But merely offering the dolls was not enough. Linda and Sohuong decided to create elaborate backgrounds and settings for the figurines.
“With the skills we learned in China and our passion for the subject, we launched Miracle about two years ago,” Linda says.
With nearly 40,000 followers on Facebook, Miracle is probably one of the most popular shops in Phnom Penh for replica dolls.
The product has proven a hit with well-off Cambodians and celebrities who buy them as a gift for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and other special occasions.
One doll costs about $50, but buying an elaborate display with a group of figurines can set you up as much as $800.
The displays come in three sizes: small (for one figurine), medium (two to four dolls), and large (more than five dolls).
Creating these dolls is a laborious enterprise. “It takes us several days to finish one. However, some customers ask for very difficult designs and for a lot of dolls. In these cases, it can take us 25 to 30 days to finish one display.”
“We make everything by hand and we use high-quality products to ensure they have a long life,” Miracle co-founder Sohuong says.
The 29-year-old, who graduated with a degree in professional communication from the Institute of Foreign Languages in Phnom Penh, says the products used to decorate the scenes come from China, Kenya and the Netherlands.
“The replica dolls will last forever but the flowers and the grass might decay over time. Our number one priority is to ensure the customers walks out of the shop with smile. If you don’t like what we made for you, we will work on it until you are satisfied,” Sohuong says.
Orders are also pouring from outside Cambodia. Miracle has customers in Australia, Thailand, Japan, Singapore and the US.
But exporting poses a problem due to the fragile nature of the product.
“The dolls and the glass dome break easily. We are still looking for ways of delivering the figurines abroad without damages,” she says.
Despite these challenges, Linda and Sohuong continue to win followers across the Kingdom and beyond. They promise their clients a one of kind gift.
“We focus on quality and creativity. Every design we make is different. If a client comes and requests the same design than another display, I suggest that they add something that makes it unique. I want each display to be special,” Linda says.
Miracle Florist Design is located on Street 199, behind Vanda Institute of Accounting. It opens from 8am to 7pm. For more information, call 015 269 899.