Coconuts are a source of both refreshing water and delicious meat. However, many consumers tend to discard the remnants, including the shells, as mere waste. Consequently, very few people value in them.
In Kampong Cham province’s Srei Santhor district, Phon Phorn, a determined 44-year-old resident of Toang Tralach village, has been crafting products from coconut shells for over two decades.
Despite challenges, his unwavering passion for this work not only sustains him but also drives him to pass his skills down to his only son.
Phorn initially trained as a hairdresser in Phnom Penh. He had an epiphany when a close friend introduced him to the Royal University of Fine Arts, recognising its potential for his future plans.
“As I immersed myself in this craft, I developed a deep passion for it, and became truly addicted. I realised it perfectly matched my nature, which is to turn the seemingly useless into something valuable,” he said.
The craftsman has endured many challenges over the past two decades. At times, he has had to diversify his income, taking on other jobs, even working as a construction labourer to provide for his family.
But his determination has never wavered. In fact, he’s more motivated than ever to boost his earnings by continuing to turn coconut shells into ornamental objects.
Today, his livelihood hinges entirely on this business. Whether his products sell well or not, his commitment stems from his deep love for his craft.
Phorn creates a wide array of decorative items using coconut shells, palm seeds, bamboo, and discarded wood.
With these materials, he can create an impressive range of 200 to 300 unique product designs. What’s more, he’s adaptable and can meet specific customer requests, like engraving names or personalising images.
His offerings are diverse, with pieces such as ornamental ants priced at 10,000 riel, to carved coconut shells at 6,000 riel and decorative lamps ranging from $10 to $50, depending on the bulb type and size. Additionally, he boasts a variety of other items, including coconut shell turtles, bamboo creations, and an assortment of pots.
Regarding sales, the owner of this family craft business acknowledges the fluctuating demand. While it provides some support for his livelihood, these products aren’t widely recognised or popular yet. He urges everyone to rally behind and appreciate locally made products.