From Capodimonte to Hummel to Lladro to Wedgwood, the world does not suffer from a lack of fine pottery. These venerable manufacturers produce modern collectibles in signature styles. Is there room for yet another manufacturer, another source, a new style? Zawadee believes that the verve and whimsy of it ranks with the settled elegance and the studied cuteness of other famous manufacturers.
The magic of pottery lies in its ability to remain useful as well as decorative and to explore a variety of shapes and express myriad motifs. Ceramics combines decorative qualities with utility.
Located in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa, the artisans who create masterpieces that draw inspiration from the dramatic environment that includes beaches, mountains, and savannah populated by big game. The region’s northeast is home to rhinoceroses, lions, and giraffes. Colorful traditions of native peoples, such as the Zulu tribes, also add inspiration.
The Origin of South African Art
Art in South Africa goes back 4,000 years to dramatic cave paintings created by the hunter-gatherer societies that populated the region until displaced by colonialists in the 1800s. Artistic appreciation took a distinctly European turn in the early colonial era as artists painted and sculpted their visions of the newly discovered territories replete with exotic flora, fauna, and people. That European influence continued into the 20th century with Cubism, Impressionism, and Expressionism that ranged from cool, serene, and distant to bold, vivid, and personal. Art in the latter half of the 20th century adopted a more intimate focus, and Western society largely ignored native artists.
Even the European-born and classically trained artists who brought their Western ideals to South Africa could not escape the impact of African forms on their creations. The melding of European craftsmanship with African verve and motifs created a distinctly exotic, exuberant, graceful, and even whimsical style that finds wide acceptance and appreciation today.
South African art echoes the plants and animals indigenous to the continent’s sub-Saharan expanses; it pays homage to nature and the earth from which the raw materials of pottery come. Much of it favors visual abstraction, which applies well to the design practical objects, such at pitchers and platters and candlesticks. As dramatic and bold as the continent itself, it captures attention with fluid forms, bold colors, and rhythmic patterns.
The patterns found in nature and in everyday life make their home in the ceramic bowls, jugs, vases, platters, and other objects produced by the Ardmore Studio. Glazes draw the eye with lush color and expressive detail while pottery molded into realistic or fanciful shapes add fluidity and energy to the finished hard forms. Until one sees the incorporation of these shapes and patterns, one cannot understand how natural forms apply to our lives.