Ceramics studio firing up inner-artists

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A set of brushes and paints and some objects you can use as your canvases at the studio on Koh Pich. SUPPLIED

Most people, even those with no apparent artistic talent or ability, have the urge to create something with their own hands at some point or another. It could be a souvenir, a personal token or a gift for a loved one.

A lot of the time those projects don’t work out and are abandoned or tossed into a closet as soon as they are completed, because most people can’t transform themselves – in the course of an afternoon or over a weekend – into skilled artisans capable of crafting an object that fully satisfies their vision of what it was meant to be.

As luck would have it for these frustrated artists and wanna-be artisans, there is a middle path that one can take that affords you a large degree of artistic freedom and the ability to express yourself creatively, but it does so in a structured way with the guides and guardrails built-in to ensure that you can never totally fail on any of your projects.

Ceramik Art Studio, located at Coconut Park on Koh Pich in Phnom Penh, is a ceramics painting studio where people of all ages can learn how to paint ceramic pottery and other items and then bring their creations home with them.

On the one hand, you’re given total freedom to paint your ceramic items however you want to paint them. On the other hand, you’re able to choose what you decorate from a large inventory of pre-fabricated ceramic items.

So if what you are working on is supposed to be a garden gnome statue and a blank white garden gnome statue is indeed what you picked out from the studio’s shop to paint, then you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that the final culmination of the time and effort invested can and must only be that very garden gnome with its shapely contours – even if you somehow manage to botch the colour scheme on it entirely at the painting stage.

“We have a number of bisque-fired items for customers to choose from,” says Kirsty, the manager and arts co-ordinator at Coconut Park where Ceramik Art Studio is located.

Coconut Park is a large entertainment/lifestyle complex on Koh Pich consisting of a day-spa, dance and yoga studios, a martial arts dojo, a splash pad and playgrounds for kids, a roller skating rink, mountain bike trails, arts and crafts workshop, gardens and an open-air restaurant as well as the ceramics arts studio.

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Ceramik Art Studio provides everything you need to get creative and paint ceramic objects of all variety, including workshop lessons and helpful advice. SUPPLIED

Ceramik Art Studio first opened on February 19 of this past year but they actually had to hold their opening day event online because of the pandemic.

“Lina Lim, the co-founder of the Canadian International School, is the founder of Ceramik Art Studio. The idea for opening the studio was inspired by her experiences in Montreal.

“These ceramics arts studios are very popular in places like Canada, America and England, especially among women who are mothers and have families or careers right on up through retirement and beyond because a lot of senior citizens really love it too.

“It’s a relaxing hobby and also very social because you can get together with friends and talk while you paint.

“This is a long-established business model that has met with a lot of success in some western countries going back decades now, but nothing like it existed yet in Cambodia, so Lina Lim had the idea of creating it so that she could enjoy it as well as the community,” Kirsty says.

When the studio purchased its kiln from an Australian manufacturer they actually sent a technician/trainer to Cambodia who then taught Sora, the studio supervisor, how to work with the ceramic paints and glazes and how to operate the kiln.

“Our studio artist Jessie has been painting and drawing on various items for years using acrylics and she loves working with abstract designs and colours. That made her the perfect addition to our team and she really enjoys sharing her skills with others,” she says.

Ceramik Art Studio is currently open for ceramics painting and glazing services and activities and they also offer ceramics courses for those dwho wish to refine their skills over time and perhaps reach a more professional standard of quality with their creations.

They also do fun workshops and can be booked for events like birthdays or parties and team- building exercises.

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The ceramic items you’ll paint are often decorative like figurines or household items like mugs or plates. SUPPLIED

The studio goes out of its way to make itself welcoming and accessible to the entire community. Their paints and materials are safe and easy to work with and the interior design and ambiance of the studio is warm and comfortable.

Anyone can opt to just show up whenever the studio is open – no booking required – to enjoy some independent creative time with everything they do totally up to their whims or they can sign up for one of the guided workshops focused on a specific design or type of item to hone their skills or get helpful tips.

They currently hold a guided workshop that is open to the public once a week on Sundays, but they plan to add more to their schedule once the Covid situation improves. They also have private workshops available that patrons can book in advance.

“Every Sunday we focus on a different design to work with so if customers like the design that our artist has chosen for that week they can sign up to learn more about it. For example, some of the designs we offer here are bespoke designs by our studio artist Jessie.

“She uses her signature vibrant colours and applies them with a sponging technique to create a really cool rainbow effect over black stripes to give the items a dramatic finish. It’s a very popular design and all of the mugs they created with that method look amazing,” says Kirsty.

The ceramic items available for customers to paint cost from $3 to $30 each, depending on the size of the item and the intricacy of its detail. Use of the studio is charged at $4 per hour per person.

“That price includes unlimited access to our tools and paints, advice and guidance from our studio artist and the glazing and firing process at the end to finish it. Within two weeks they will be able to collect their finished pieces after they are fired which will make them durable and also food-safe,” says Kirsty.

Firing ceramics in a kiln is a time consuming process that requires the items to be totally dried out to begin with, which can require letting them sit for a while first in some cases.

Between two firing sessions, each batch of ceramics spends up to 48 hours in the kiln heating them up and then cooling them down gradually afterwards and the kiln can only hold so many items at once. That’s the source of the two week delay, essentially.

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This heart-shaped plate with an English name written in Khmer and a pineapple looks great and is easy to do. SUPPLIED

The ceramics shop at the studio carries loads of fantastic mugs, plates, bowls, statues and knick–knacks with design motifs like penguins, trains, gnomes, robots, ponies, flowers and fairies that customers can grab off the shelf and get started with.

Customers can also feel free to order food and drinks from Coconut Park’s restaurant Penh and have them delivered to the studio during their sessions – the staff and proprietors want you to feel totally at home there and free to express your artistic side.

“It’s been awesome. We’ve had a lot of people become return customers, which is nice. We want to do more events for adults – not just children – but it’s been tricky with the Covid situation, but now it seems like it might be opening up more,” she says.

Kirsty mentions that they are actively seeking out metallic paint options for use in the studio, but they’ve not found any yet that would be safe for kids to use.

They’ve also got some new events and programmes in the works that should debut before the end of the year and she suggests people watch their Facebook page for announcements.

Currently, due to the pandemic, the studio must adhere to all Covid-19 prevention protocols and all of their staff members are fully vaccinated, so they would prefer it if you were too in order to ensure the safety of everyone present.

“Come and paint with us! You can order delicious refreshments from Penh at Coconut Park while you indulge your creative side in our relaxing studio environment, which is professionally run by our friendly and helpful staff.

“If you’ve got an event coming up or want to book a painting date at our studio then get in touch and we’ll help you plan it all out. Otherwise, just drop by any time we’re open whether you’re alone or with friends and we’ll help you get started,” Kirsty says.

Ceramik Art Studio is open from Wednesday – Sunday from 10am-6pm and it is located on the first floor of the Coconut Club in Coconut Park on Koh Pich.

They hold guided workshops that are open to the public – no advance booking required – every Sunday starting at 11am.

For more information, Ceramik Art Studio can be contacted via their Facebook page: @CeramikArtStudio.