Clay spoke to me at a tender age. At 12 years old I went to a pottery class with a neighbour. When I touched the clay it felt intuitive – like I had found an old friend. I could create anything with my imagination and reveal it in this earthy, solid medium. I found the tactile and plasticity of clay irresistible.
There is much hereditary creativeness in my family. My mother and grandmother were artists – my mother a sculptor, my grandmother a painter. My father cultivated bonsai and my brother is a jeweller. Growing up in Johannesburg South Africa, my home environment was rich with art, artefacts, music and creativity. Colour was encouragingly celebrated, a country extremely colourful on so many levels.
I studied at the School of Art and Design of the Witwatersrand Technikon in South Africa – a highly acclaimed arts school in Johannesburg. I completed a 3 year diploma in ceramic art. The Clay department was transforming philosophies of clay from Anglocentric traditions, which focussed on form follows function, to approaches that drew from the conceptual and traditions of Southern Africa. We were encouraged to explore and express surface. I internalized and birthed my style from this rich learning environment which explored the decorative possibilities of surface juxtaposition with the form of the vessel. It would be hard to separate surface and form since the two depend on each other. Much of my work features the patterns and colours of Africa which I’ve discovered is deep in my bones. I have always doodled and it is a compulsion with me. Doodling is like music in that it fills space, it’s the rhythm of breath and colour is the harmony. Clay is a fascinating medium to work in as it is earthbound and organic. It has gravity, weight and memory in that we leave ourselves on the clay each time we shape or touch it. Clay transforms, literally from mud to a permanent piece. It requires fire to make it solid, static and permanent.
I have chosen to work in Stoneware. It is extremely durable, allowing for today’s conveniences: dishwashers, microwaves and ovens. I use a white clay body – a perfect canvas in the round. I create functional objects that are fairly traditional, playful and yet naive with a little twist of humour. I choose to make tableware pottery for daily and domestic use. I am a contemporary user of a traditional material. Production has always fascinated me. The repetition and rhythm of throwing on the wheel is meditative, the heart and head separate, leaving a fulfilling stillness and consciousness.
Working as a fulltime potter is extremely rewarding and yet frustrating. The tiresome debate between craft and art will never end, yet should complement one another. We can now add the design industry into this debate. With mass production challenging the maker’s significance, we can trust our importance in making quality, original and thought provoking work. The user can most definitely feel and see the difference and this enhances our lives.
I feel particularly honoured to have found my creative voice with clay. I enjoy teaching too, sharing ideas, thoughts and creative juices. When I impart this on the user, I am fulfilled.