Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Support Local Arts and Crafts

We will remember them

Sometimes we have to face reality, however hard it may be. For World Aids Day on 1 December 2010 I would like to pay tribute to people that somehow or another touched my life. Some I have known personally, others were an inspiration to me, and your legacy will always remain with me.

Sadly the ceramic world have lost many great talented people to HIV and AIDS.  Their untimely deaths left us with a sad loss of talent, but we will always remember them by the great work they produced.

According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.4 million people living with HIV, including 2.1 million children. During 2008 some 2.7 million people became newly infected with the virus and an estimated 2 million people died from AIDS. Around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 and are killed by AIDS before they are 35.

Angus Suttie
United Kingdom
1946 - 1993

Ian Godfrey
United Kingdom
1942 - 1992

Matthias Osterman
1951 - 2009

Bonnie Ntshalintshali
South Africa
1967 - 1999

Read more about artists from Ardmore that died of AIDS

Barry Douglas
South Africa
1949 - 2008

Unfortunately I could not trace any ceramists from the USA that was lost to AIDS. If you perhaps know of anyone that I have omitted, please feel free to add their names in the comment box.

Under the Hammer

I found some interesting ceramics that is going on auction this month
Stoneware Bowl by Tim Morris

Earthenware Vase by John Newdigate

Preview Wednesday 1 December 2010
Auction Saturday 4 December 2010

Get more information here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Battle of the Sexes

Since time immemorial the differences between men and woman, which is not just the physical aspects, have become the source of somehow heated debates. It also inspired many authors to put pen to paper about the subject, the most referred to published works that come to mind is the 1992 book by John Gray ʻMen are from Mars, Women are from Venusʼ and ʻDefending the Cavemanʼ, a comedy by Rob Becker that first premiered in 1991.

In the feminine piece, I decided to use pretty decorations in the background, obtained by impressing antique wooden fabric printing blocks from India. The repetitive pattern on the rim is inspired by the Michael Graves design for Alessi, where he used raised studs in an all metal tray, I used metal screws in the clay. During firing the screws started melting and gives an interesting texture.

The quote ʻAnd crawling on this Planetʼs Face, a species called the Human Raceʼ comes from the Rocky Horror show. Men often refer to woman as ʻa different speciesʼ when they do not understand their behaviour.

In the masculine piece I used a more industrial background, reminiscent of chicken wire, often used to cage animals. The architectural elements symbolises strength associated with the physical side of men. The crack in the rim, unacceptable in utility ware, have been accentuated rather than repaired, and reminds of the ʻunacceptableʼ behavior of men when they feel they want to break free from their expected caged existence.

The quote is from ʻRespectableʼ by controversial German born American author and poet Charles Bukowski:

ʻI do not want to be respectable,
I want to live my life to the full...
...Iʼd rather live alone and drink until
I find somebody whoʼs on the pillʼ

Despite of disgust and disbelief, men and women still find a happy medium and can coexist in relative harmony fulfilling each otherʼs various needs.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When Kitch becomes Cool

After complaining to a friend the other day about a totally unrelated matter, he recommended a Chinese herbal remedy. ʻWhere would I find that?ʼ I asked. The best place would be China Mall, according to him, and off I went.

The last time I saw so much kitsch under one roof was when I exhibited at a trade show in New York. There was so much bling that you needed sunglasses to find your way around, which incidentally is sold there too, every fake designer brand imaginable, competing with each other in both authenticity and the lowest price tag.

Believing deep in my heart not all things can be bad, I decided to explore. Places like these are invention opportunities and I started thinking of what I can do with what. I ended up buying strips of plastic runners, ʻbeautifullyʼ finished in silver and gold. It was so bad, I couldnʼt resist the temptation to buy one in every design possible. The shop assistant was totally confused why I only needed half a meter of each, surely I had bigger tables?

The reason for that is that my slab roller can only accommodate that width, and I will use the sheets to add texture to my work. Wonderful things can happen when you just open your mind.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Opening Sunday 28 November 2010 12h00
Artspace Warehouse
3 Hetty Avenue, Fairland
Artists: Angela Banks, Jaco Benade, Poorvi Bhana, Nellien Brewer, Genevieve Chorn, Ronél de Jager, Deon de Lange, Jessica Foli, Lance Friedlande, Amber-Jade Geldenhuys, Kim Gurney, Rosemary Joynt, Reneilwe Mathibe, Richard Markham, Lerato Motau, John Vusi Mfupi, Zwelethu Nanise, Adele Oldfield, Nicci Olivier, Gretchen Parrock, Landi Raubenheimer, Sidwell Rihlamvu, Margot Rudolph, Sally Rumball, Pat Sithole, Anne-Marie Tully, Engela van der Hoven, Leonora van Staden, Thelma van Rensburg, Graeme Watt.

Please join us for this opening and bring a picnic basket, blanket and refreshments, or order from us and spend an afternoon in the gardens at the Warehouse enjoying and celebrating good art and music.  

 Exhibitions close on 11 December, re-open on the 11 January 2011 and end 29 January 2011

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sex & Drugs & Boerewors Rolls

Sex & Drugs & Rock ʼn Roll is a song written by Ian Dury and composed by Chas Jenkel, released on 26 August 1977, initially as the B-side of the single ʻRazzle In My Pocketʼ, due to itʼs then controversial title. Banned from being played on the radio by the BBC, (and heavens forbid, the verkrampte SABC) the song was never really a chart topper, but became an anthem of the Punk Rock Era.

The title is a modern day interpretation of the term ʻWine, Woman and Songʼ, and the lyrics is often misinterpreted as that of excess, whereas the song actually is rebelling against the mediocre 9 to 5 existence of the masses.

“Hereʼs a little bit of advice, youʼre quite welcome, itʼs free,
Donʼt do nothing that is cut-price, youʼll know what theyʼll make you be:
They will try their tricky device, trap you with the ordinary,
Get your teeth into a small slice, the cake of liberty”

With my bowl, which would initially be viewed as quirky, I would also like to challenge the mediocrity of suburbia in South Africa. The blue and white decoration, reminiscent of Delftware, which is actually kitsch, but rather collectable, is such a predictable element in suburban interiors.
Fitting with our modern lifestyle, sexual intercourse is redefined as a form of recreation, unlike other mammals where they purely engage in it for reproductive purposes. The use and abuse of drugs also becomes a daily routine, ranging anywhere from basic vitamin supplements, birth control, tranquilisers and sleeping tablets to more hardcore substances. Fast food, of which Boerewors Rolls are South Africaʼs contribution, become very predictable, you know exactly what you will be getting, it takes thinking out of food consumption and preparation, thus reflecting on our mediocre predictable lifestyle

Xmas Gift Fair

Pictured above is me setting up my table at the annual Out of the Box Xmas Gift fair. Please join us on 12, 13 and 14 November at 305 Long st, Ferndale, Randburg. From the N1 motorway, take the Malibongwe offramp, turn left at McDonalds, then right after the Ford garage into Long street, no 305 is on the left hand side. 

You will find a great selection of South African Arts and Crafts, it is the ideal opportunity to buy unique Xmas gifts and thereby help underprivileged people. All proceeds in aid of the Out of the Box Skills Development centre.

'Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime' - Chinese Proverb.

Enquiries - Nina 083 583 5383

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Still blowing my own trumpet

I have just finished assembling and painting the next batch of Vuvuzela vases and switched on the kiln for the first bisque firing. These will be glazed and fired during the week and then despatch them to various galleries for the Christmas season. After that is a new classicaly shaped vase and large wok shaped bowls. All are the same yet each one is different.

Friday, November 5, 2010

101 Uses for a Dead Vuvuzela

One of my favorite books as a young man was Simon Bondʼs ʻ101 uses for a Dead Catʼ. First published in 1981, it sold over 2 million copies in 20 countries. The collection of macabre cartoons give suggestions to a question that plagued humans for centuries: ʻWhat do you do with a dead cat?ʼ It depicted bodies of cats being used for various purposes, like doormats or pencil sharpeners.

With the advent of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, South Africaʼs contribution to the headlines was an annoying plastic trumpet, the Vuvuzela, that could wake the dead. Most people, like myself, immediately thought of a way to recycle the plaguing little souvenir by threatening to bury it in a very undesirable place. The only question was should it go in thin side first, thick side first, or sideways.

Forgotten by most by now, the Vuvuzela has found found its final resting place in bargain bins in souvenir shops, covered in dust between other memorabilia, or for the more eco-conscious citizens, dutifully deposited in a recycling bin.

A strange quirk of mine to try find the good in anything bad, my Vuvuzela ended up in my studio. The pleasing curve of the design translates well into elegantly shaped necks for classical vases. Textured slabs of clay are pressed into basic shaped casting moulds, trimmings of clay are pressed into classically inspired sprigmoulds which are used for feet and extra embellishments. The Vuvuzela is then covered with dampened strips of newsprint (as the wet clay would adhere to plastic) and torn strips of clay is then formed around it. Once the piece reached the desired hardness, the Vuvuzela is removed, pieces are assembled into an elegant vase. The final piece is then treated by decorating it in the same manner as my current body of work. As themes change, so will the decoration, evolving the look continuously.

The classically inspired end piece will be enjoyed by the new owner with a totally new emotion, not even remotely associated with that annoying piece of history

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rare Wedgwood sold on Auction

A rare Wedgwood vase in the 'Fairyland' design recently sold on auction in Johannesburg for the huge sum of ZAR 90 000. The vase is vary rare, and is highly sought after by collectors all over the world. Standing 59cm tall, it features dragons and fairies on a blue lustred background.

Manufactured by the Wedgwood factory from 1915 to 1929 after original designs by Daisy Makeig-Jones (1881-1945). Makeig-Jones’ novel designs were far more than ‘pretty patterns’. She prided herself on creating stories and hidden worlds with fantastical themes, using rich jewel-like colours and imaginative details. Her work appealed to the public possibly as they offered a form of escapism during the difficult post-war years.

Wedgwood stopped the ‘Fairyland’ lustre ware line in 1929 due to an apparent lack of interest. Today the enthusiasm for Makeig-Jones’ work is as strong as it ever was, possibly even more so than when the designs were first introduced in the 1920s. Interest in the artist’s work has been further enhanced by various Art Deco exhibitions featuring examples of her work including one at the Victoria and Albert Museum in September 1990.

Recent Ceramic Exhibitions

I decided to attend a few ceramic exhibitions recently with a group of friends. Most of these were held in Pretoria, are they becoming more culturally aware than Johannesburg?

The first exhibition was by young artist Corne Joubert, held at the association of Arts. Corneʼs whimsical miniature tiles were meticulously arranged in box frames, each group to tell its own story. I was pleasantly surprised by the different textures and techniques used. This is definitely an artist worth watching.

 The next exhibition was the complete Corobrik collection. In conjunction Ceramics Southern Africa, this is a public collection that represents the history of ceramics in South Africa. It was great to view pieces in real life that was only seen on photographs before. Disappointing was the way some pieces were displayed in glass cabinets, competing for attention with the draped fabric that surrounded it. I was also shocked be the badly repaired kiln crack on a Hilton Nel piece (was that done by the artist or by someone else?) Overall an interesting exhibit and definitely worth the visit.

Johannesburg saw the group exhibition by Kendal Warren, Tania Babb, Wendy McLachlan, Loren Kaplan and Carol Hayward Fell, held at Objekt. Visiting this store is always pleasant as there is so much creativity to see. Unfortunately I only received notification of the exhibition after it opened, I am not sure if some pieces were already sold and went with the buyer, but were rather disappointed in the amount of work by some artists, Kendal Warren were the only one that was well represented, and it was good to see some of her vessels, as it is always her wall pieces that is normally on show.

Back in Pretoria again is the work of master potter Andrew Walford. I am not a great fan of the Anglo Oriental school, although I originally trained in it, but I can appreciate the work and am totally amazed by the skill employed by the old masters, which is sadly lost in the younger generation. Just as impressive is the owner designed house of Ora Joubert, where the exhibition was held. With being a great admirer of architecture, this was a very inspiring visit.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Industrial Evolution

I started using metal pins to aid in constructing my work. Working with a very poor clay it helped in keeping joins together while I wait for the pieces to stiffen. This brought me to the idea of using the metal in a decorative way. First screws were cut shorter and thesewere used where pieces of clay were joined together. After firing the metal reacted to the heat enough to give an effect of the piece being excavated after many years, which ties in with the overall look of my current work. Although the metal transformed, it was keeping it's shape and is still strong enough not to disintegrate over time.

The idea led to further exploration, and borrowing from Michael Gravesʼ design for Alessi, the screws were used in a grid on the rim of platters similar to raised studs on the trays. Liking the idea of the metal in combination with clay, I set off to the closest haberdashery shop where I found a whole new world of eyelets, studs and zips that will be incorporated in the work, much to the confusion of shop assistants that could not understand why I am concerned about a specific colour to match my handiwork.

My training many years ago in the Jewellery Industry came to good use, even then I was more interested in the tarnishing of metals rather than a highly polished surface. This idea will take me further to exploit the use of metal with ceramics, picking up all weird and wonderful pieces wherever I go, hopefully to find its way into some masterpiece along the way.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

2010 Juried Exhibitions

Once again it is that time of year when Ceramics Southern Africa has their Regional and National exhibitions, and once again it has provoked a fair amount of controversies and discussions.

I was fortunate enough to have work selected for both of these exhibitions, and once again does the question arise why does certain works, sometimes questionable, get accepted and others, often good pieces, not. Also why are certain people asked to do the selections and what qualifies them to make those decisions?

These exhibitions are announced with a very vague brief to potential entrants as to what the requirements and expectations are, and totally no brief to the selectors as to what the criteria of judging should be. People often make pieces which they believe the judges would like and therefor they donʼt do what they do best. When more conceptual pieces are expected, often neither the maker nor the selector have a clue what they are doing. Although judging is blind with no names on the pieces, having a distinct style can either count for or against you, with pieces compared to previous work.

A question that I ask is what the objective of these exhibitions are. Do you enter to get recognition? Then who do you get recognition from - a small group of people with fragile egos? Is it therefor not better to take the leap in the big world out there and be recognised by a much bigger audience? Or do you enter for the prize money attached? With no offense to the sponsors, without whoʼs donations there will be no prizes, the money is not a big enough drawcard for me to put in more effort than necessary. It is acceptable for me to rather enter work of consistent high quality and to be able to sell it for a fair price, that gives me both recognition from a wider audience and some financial gain.

The Gauteng Regional exhibition was one of the best presented in years, and although very small, generally had a very high standard, with some participants showing great personal growth in their work. The National exhibition, which will be held in Franschoek this year, attracted very few entrants from the Gauteng region. Was this because of the controversial selections for the regional, the fact that the two exhibitions are too close together or because of the cost involved in transporting the work? Whatever the reason, I am sure it will be an interesting exhibition and I cant wait to see the catalogue.

Artist's Statement

My current body of work is subsequent of a preceding range that depicted crime and violence in our society and our personal lives. After a serious illness, I was given another chance in life and decided to abandon negativity on all levels. I decided to also portray a more positive message with my work. The colour red, which represent blood, previously associated with death or injury, now becomes a renewing source of life. Cracks and joins are accentuated rather than disguised, and like scars on our body that heal over, also becomes part of the work giving it itʼs own personality.

The lace imprints and classical embellishments can be compared to denialism, or disguising reality, making it look pretty and less severe than it actually is. The numbers, previously crime statistics, are now random and serve to identity each piece - compared to all the numbers in your own life that uniquely identify you - identity number, passport number, telephone numbers, membership numbers, account numbers, etc.

With the technique of pressing slabs of soft clay into preformed moulds I am going back to basic clay forming methods, as I never want to forget where I came from. The sophistication lies in the way I award it my own signature. To reduce my carbon footprint I apply colour and glaze on greenware to cut out extra firings, also reducing the final temperature to give me sufficient strength and durability without compromising quality, thereby conserving precious energy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Semi Utilitarian Work

I have toyed with the idea of moving to three dimensional pieces in my new body of work. The pieces are semi utilitarian, which will hopefully explain its function by visual association, avoiding the question 'what do you do with it?'

Although it gives a nice volume when the pieces are grouped together, I will not make too many of these. It takes me more than double the time as the plates, with a price ceiling of about half. Simple calculations brought me to that decision.

I hope you enjoy these pieces, more pictures will follow soon

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mouldmaking Workshop

Being a commercial ceramics producer for 15 years taught me a lot about moulds and mouldmaking. Due to the nature of my designs, I learnt the hard way what was possible and what not, but ended up with a great range that were available in all the best stores locally and abroad. The Origami inspired vases pictures above received the Elle Decoration WOW award for South African design, which made me very proud. Sculpting the original took nearly two weeks to complete and the mould was made in five pieces. Casting was another problem, removing the mould at the correct time was crucial, else the many angles could cause cracking in the drying process.

I will be running mouldmaking workshops for ceramics upon request and will limit it to small groups of not more than four people at a time, thus you will be assured of personal attention throughout the course. The workshops are fully participating and will be run once a week over five weeks. It is suitable for people both in the beginner stage right through to accomplished ceramists. All materials are included, but tools and equipment, of which a list will be provided, need to be supplied by the participant.

This is an in depth workshop offering you the most comprehensive training in ceramic mouldmaking in South Africa. You will acquire techniques to make virtually any kind of mould. You will use traditional methods as well as the use of high tech materials used in industrial design. You will go home with three usable moulds.

  • Basic principles of moulds
  • Different grades of Plaster of Paris and their use
  • Modeling
  • One Piece drop out moulds
  • Two piece moulds with uniform thickness
  • Multiple piece moulds
  • Turning from templates
  • Mastermoulds
  • Caring for your moulds
  • Suppliers
For further enquiries and to book a date contact me via e-mail or contact me on 072 134 9613

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Returning to Ceramics

After an absence of 6 months I recently returned to my studio. Armed with clay and new Ideas, I started working enthusiasticly, only to be faced with a potter's worst nightmare - cracks. It is sad to say that we battle to find good material in South Africa, but we will persevere.

The work has been well received and will be available through Artspace, The Underberg Studio and Art Images.

I have been inspired by the work and will work on semi-utility items soon, cups, bowls and vases along the same theme will follow soon.