Sculpture at Wat Salakphet

‘Wat’ is Thai for temple, and Salak Phet is the fishing village down the road from Salak Kok, where I am staying on Koh Chang.

  After my first week on Koh Chang I went down to Salak Phet to see the temple that was built over the last couple of years. I was very impressed with how elaborate the temple was for such a small town. The temple is surrounded by a giant snake, and each corner has a god representing north, south, east, and west.   Here is the impressive entrance.

After walking once around the temple I noticed that some parts were still unfinished.

As a sculptor, this is actually a great opportunity to learn more about how the Thai sculptors work. It is a combination of modeling and sculpting cement, and mold making. Everything is added directly to a steel armature and built out. In the photo above, you can see the armature of the elephant still exposed, as well as the partially finished underlying form. When I walked into the inner courtyard I found more clues on how the sculptures are made.

It looks like for ornaments/elements of finer detail, small molds are made for fast application. For example, above you can see leftovers from the scales on the snake. I imagine it’s the same process for all of the little ornaments. They are applied to a built out form.

So I imagine that for the snake, first they made a long, rolling tube-cage out of steel rod, and then wrapped that in chicken wire, then applied the first coat of cement. After achieving a uniform shape, they then started adding the scales with little plaster molds for days and days… a little silly, but more direct, and probably faster for unique sculptures like these. There is also a second kind of white cement, which is kind of a mix between plaster and cement, which is used for the detailed top layer in places where the molds don’t fit, like when the snake bends around a corner. It’s very interesting to see, and I hope the sculptor comes back soon, although it looks like he left in a hurry…

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