Lessons with the Masters

On July 31st Marge,Lynne, Ann, Joe and I had the wonderful opportunity to have private drawing lessons from one of Yary’s professors.  He is now retired from the Royal University for Fine Arts (RUFA) but agreed to to give us the honor to be taught by him anyway. Professor Saman told us that during the khmer Rouge, while he was working in the rice fields he saw vegetables in the  rice fields that were represented in Angkor Wat carvings. That even in that horrific time he still managed to think creatively and see beauty through those  extremely brutal conditions.

Professor  Saman arrived promptly at 9:30 to the hotel.  We gathered tables together and chairs in the lobby to create our own drawing studio.

With pencils, paper, straight edges and sharpeners we sat anxiously waiting to begin to learn authentic Khmer designs.  These designs go back to the 8th and 9th centuries.  They can be found on temple walls of Angkor Wat, Bayon and  many others.  The skill to create is not easily learned we found out as we began to follow the Master.

thumb_DSC01069_1024.jpgLynne is totally focused.thumb_DSC01067_1024.jpg

Yary works along side his teacher. Now the Master instructing the Master.









Everyone is getting ready and excited to learn and create.thumb_DSC01084_1024.jpg

Khmer Chhan flower commonly found carved on temple walls and now used for decoration on buildings, hotels, museums and restaurants.



The master at work.thumb_DSC01085_1024.jpg


The lesson lasted 3.5 hours but we all could have gone on for many more.  It was such an honor.  The best part is that Yary Livan comes back to the states and works with me and my students.  It will be so exciting to see what we will do.

Simplicity Speaks Volumes Komp Chhnang, Cambodia “Pottery Village”



As I was looking through my photos on the way back to Siem Reap, I came upon this one. This one is one of my  favorites.  I started to reflect on the reason why? This was taken in Kampong Chhnang the Pottery Village.  Could the reason be I love pottery and creating from clay?

I began to remember how the cover came to be placed where this was taken, I placed the cover there, it was to one of the pots created by the potter who lived in that location. It sat on the table, bed, place to take a nap or display wares.  The table rich in texture is made out of bamboo cut from somewhere in the village.

The wares being hand made pots, pigs, elephants, various size vases and much more.All the pottery is created by hand, no electric or kick wheels.  A simple stump cut just to the right size for the individual potter. The clay she uses to create is  dug from the ground only a few feet away.  The clay is taken from a site that has been excavated for clay for generations.

The “clay pits” as they call them are cavernous, the men dig and climb into these pits to dig the clay out, but we were told “not during the rainy season, too dangerous.” The pits can collapse and people have died this way.

We had a chance to actually see the pits and look at the clay in it’s raw form. This clay has a golden reflective quality but is used primarily for making cooking pots for use all over Cambodia.

The process, creation and wares look simple but take a full day just to create five pots at $.75 each, which generates $5.00 a day.  We spend more on a cup of coffee, yet each pot is perfectly shaped as if it was thrown on a pottery wheel.

Some of the potters are second and third generation potters, taught by mothers and grandmother and sometimes great grandmothers. It was an honor to work alongside this individual potter as we walked around in a  circle and as she guided my hands, I felt like one of the luckiest art teachers in the world.

“The lid sits alone on the bamboo table

Sweat poors from her brow

Her hands move swiftly and gently ”

The cover sitting on the bamboo surface looks so simple but it is everything but. ” It represents culture, skill, survival, community and life.”





July 22-23, 2016 Battambang


We took a boat ride for seven hours from Siem Reap to Battambang.  The journey took us on a ride down the Tonle Sap Lake.    Along the way we took in sights of floating villages, vegetation, waving children and boats passing by.  The floating villages have been in existence along the Tonle Sap for many years.

Long pontoon boats speed by us with rickety motors pushing them along the silt dense water. Some boats are out to fish, some to sell wares and other just cruising aimlessly.

The young children see us coming from a distance and begin to wave frantically as we pass by… Maybe we are the attraction not them?


You spot reddish brown fishing nets set along the banks lined with vegetation in hopes of catching something to sell or eat. At points nothing but vegetation and water surrounds us.

Then you hit another “village.” Everyone on our boat is in different stages of thought, some quiet, some chatting, reading, taking photos or staring off trying to take it all in.


The ride has been informational but also difficult culturally to absorb. This experience and many others we have had will take months if not years to sort out and process.



We spent the next day visiting a Temple that Yary went to school.  We also had the chance to pay respect to Yary’s Grandfather’s Stuppa.  It was great to see Yary have a chance to do this.  The Monks also chanted prayers and blessings.




The carvings and designs covered the walls, ceilings and floors of the temple.

The walls told the story of the Buddhas’s lives.







The wild ride begins…..




The night ended with an amazing display of nature.  One Million bats emerging on their nightly feeding frenzy.



Preah Vihear

Most incredible day.  We traveled to the Provence of Preah Vihear located on the Thai border.  The temple located on this mountain is called Silea Kiri Svarale Wat.

This temple is significant because it has been a location of great controversy for more than sixty years.  In the 1940’s the French Government made a decision to give land and on that land a temple that was part of Cambodia.

Cambodia decided to contest that action which ended up in the World court.  The world court ruled in favor of Cambodia due to the fact the temple was located in Cambodia.

Thailand was not happy with that ruling and a unrest broke out.  This has continued on with the Thai government tearing down part of this temple with the help of elephants and looting the artifacts from the temple itself.

Soldiers continue to live along the border to protect the temple and at times fighting will break out again.  As you travel up the road to the temple itself by pick up truck you see bunkers, and soldier’s homes.

It has only been within the last year the temple is open to tourists.  We loaded the trucks and decided to take the trip and be part of few who has had a chance to see this national relic.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preah_Vihear_Temple












View from the top at the temple we traveled the road you see way down there.




Headed back down to the pick up trucks.






J. G. in various locations


J. G. hung out with the Large reclining Buddha in Phnom Kulen. He has done alot of hiking with Mrs. Miller.  The temperatures have been high and humid.  It is like being in a sauna 24/7.  The reclining Buddha is carved out of a large rock a top a mountain.






Kulen Mountain and Lingering with the Lingas


Today we traveled 2 hours outside of Siem Reap to Kulen Mountain.  Kulen Mountain is significant for a couple of reasons; It was the place where they quarried the stones for Angkor Watt and it houses a large reclining Buddha that is carved on top of a massive rock.

The only access road to the mountain is privately owned, which means you have to pay a toll to the owner.  Once you get past that check point the road get very windy and bumpy.

You have to be at the top by 11:00 because the one way up becomes the one way down. Needless to say some of our stomachs were a bit uneasy by the time we reached the top. The trip was a success and we all weathered the road, and heat.








1,000 Lingas at Kulen Mountain.  Carved into a river bed.

Learning the Hard work of Rice Farming.




One pleasant surprise we had on the journey back was to be able to try out hand at carrying a load of rice plants.  A local woman was kind enough to let us have a try.


The team is on the move

JG is having a great time in Cambodia. He says hello to all of you.


Mrs Miller was honored to visit The            American university in Phnom Penh.

We practiced our Khmer with the students attending the University.  We had the opportunity to present the school with a carbon fiber violin, which an hour after the presentation was played for us by one of the students at a classical concert.