South African ceramicists are creating statement pieces that can take centre stage in homes from Limpopo to London
By GEORGINA CROUTH
Becoming a potter was inevitable for Sarah – as a third-generation potter, it was in her blood. After finishing her arts degree, she admits to being “clueless” about her next move. “I was driving my dad mad, hanging around the studio, so he suggested teaching me to throw on the wheel. It was the first time I had seriously sat at the wheel, and I was hooked,” she says. Sarah looks to her garden for inspiration. “The chameleons on my jugs are modelled on the Cape dwarf chameleon that sometimes clings to the restios outside my studio. I work a lot with porcelain too. The inspiration for the translucent pieces came from the shadows created on my blinds by trees in the garden.” Growing up surrounded by beautiful pots, both to cook and serve food in, Sarah has a functional approach to her work. “My kitchen, and my parents’ kitchen, is filled with a lifetime’s collection of work by friends. I collect mugs from all the potters I meet.” Having recently returned from a ceramics pilgrimage around Vietnam, China and South Korea, Sarah says she believes it will change the direction of her work.
Call 021-876-4304 or visit www.sarahwalters.co.za.
Mia Widlake’s monochromatic and witty style is inspired by old natural history illustrations, pattern, typography and people. Her collection spans ceramics, paper, cloth, bespoke and interior designs. For her ‘spoon jars’ (which we have featured as vases or kitchen utensil holders), Mia has offset pencil-drawn still-life images of insects and birds against a cream background. “I’m having a lot of fun with a bunch of new mix-up patterns, all in black and white, of course,” she says, “as well as a very special range of dinner plates – a 12-plate skeleton collection for Anatomy using old anatomical illustrations.” Based in Parkmore, Johannesburg, Mia has two young children and not much time to entertain. When her children were born, she created little bowls for each of them – one a flock of swallows, the other showing a forest of fir trees. These are used daily, “filled with light and love”.
Gemma’s quirky range offers colourful, rustic fruit bowls, jugs, bowls, tiles and plates that are painted with everything from fauna and flora to washing lines with undies and red tights. For her fine arts degree at Michaelis Gemma majored in printmaking, but her love for ceramics flourished while working under ceramics pioneer Barbara Jackson at her school in Cape Town. For the past 20-odd years, Gemma has taught and produced her own work from Jackson’s studio, which is now run by Barbara’s daughter, Martine. Gemma says mealtimes are her favourite time of day because she loves to cook and believes it’s a way of showing her love for her family. Inspired by things close to her heart, she says, “I paint the things I love. I love the small things in life, like hanging your washing on the line, sitting outside, the blue sky and the sun.”
Call 082 708 4684 or visit www.gemmaorkin.co.za.
From her Muizenberg studio, Noleen can’t help being affected by her surroundings. Her style is simple – fluid, perhaps. “A friend likens some of my shapes to a few of those found in English bone china from the early part of the last century. I don’t have enough knowledge of the time to recognise it too much. I like to keep things simple, endeavouring for balance between function and aesthetic,” she says. Maps, old sepia photographs and retro prints inform her style. “My first map pieces were from one that I had kept from some of my travels. I liked the patterns, and it was a part of my personal journey. I think they are quite beautiful, and the old theme/nostalgia idea fits into ideas I have already used in my work.” Noleen prefers eating from handmade crockery, believing that memory is central to the ritual. “It’s a different experience. I have collected other potters’ work over the years, and I have pieces that I feel quite attached to and particularly enjoy using. Sometimes a memory is involved and that’s always special.”
Call 083 456 4492 or visit www.noleenread.com.
Creators of high-end ceramics that are sold internationally, Andile Dyalvane and Zizipho Poswa of Imiso embrace their cultural heritage and the cosmopolitan milieu in which they operate. Their works are described as “sensual beauty for the contemporary lifestyle”. Both hailing from the Eastern Cape, they studied in Port Elizabeth before setting up their studio inCape Town. Andile says working with clay gives him the ability to create something “beautiful, valuable and usable from shapeless pieces of earth”. His body of work melds traditional beliefs with life in the city. In her hand-pinched African Touch ceramic range (featured here), Zizi channels her natural surroundings to create works she describes as “flirtatious, sensual and delicately sexual”. The bowls add vibrant colour for the winter months. “I’d like to think these pieces add the element of whimsical intimacy within comfort spaces,” she explains. Andile’s rural upbringing, where bread was the staple food, meant meals were cooked over the fire by Dabawo (father’s sister) or Mama.
Vegetables were freshly picked from his mother’s garden. Andile’s collaboration with super chef Luke Dale-Roberts is regarded as a good fit. For Roberts’ award-winning Test Kitchen and The Pot restaurants, Andile took his design in a new direction with his Nature’s Annual Seasons concept. His ceramics can also be seen on tables at Skinny Legs and All on Loop Street.
Photographs by GRAEME BORCHERS