Poy Khet, 34

stone carver, owner of K.S. Market

I first started learning how to carve in 1999, when I was 15 years old. I come from a family of stone carvers so my brother and I were taught by my grandparents and my parents. As a teenager my days were very busy – after school in the mornings, I would carve with my family in the afternoon. In the evenings, I would learn French at the Centre Culturel Français. Whenever I had any free time, I would spend my time carving.

I used to work with my family at my village, Svoy Chanto. Then, a few years ago I had the opportunity to restore the Ba Pun temple, in Angkor Wat. I also opened my own business in Siem Reap, my workshop is at my house and I have a shop at the night market. I have two people that are currently working with me.

When I first heard about AHA’s mission, I loved it. That’s why I became one of the board members; we wanted to protect the crafts of Cambodia and help people in the rural communities to find reliable employment with a fair income. Another benefit of working with AHA is that because they have the Official Seal of Authenticity, it is much easier to ship our products to other countries. I’m currently shipping my products to khmer people in France and the USA.

One day, I would like to open my own stone carving school in Siem Reap for tourists. I learnt english a couple of years ago at the pagoda. The monks would go to university to learn english, then they would teach it to the people back at the village. At the moment, I run workshops here at the Fair Trade Village. I also give classes in Siem Reap.

For my classes, I usually have an easy flower design for my students, which takes about 3 hours to carve. If they want to, I can show them how to carve an owl but this takes about 8 hours. For the larger items the process can take much longer; for example, the Shiva heads take 2 or 3 weeks to carve. Some of my biggest projects have even taken one to three months to finish, this is the case with designs of the temples, these are very detailed and intricate. At the moment I like trying out new designs, I usually draw them first and ask people around me for their opinions, but I’ll design anything the customer wants. I can even carve people’s faces, but this is very difficult!

My five year old son is already showing an interest in learning how to carve, although just the other day I was finishing off a piece and he took a hammer and smashed it!