More Fired Up

31 May - 17 June 2012
Main & Mezzanine Galleries

'More Fired Up' – a group exhibition of contemporary ceramics is being presented by the KZNSA Gallery as an extension of the 'All Fired Up: Conversations between Kiln and Collection' exhibition which was showcased recently at the Durban Art Gallery (DAG).

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This exhibition rekindled public interest in ceramics and due to public demand the KZNSA, working together with the DAG exhibition curator Jenny Stretton (Curator of collections) is presenting a reconfigured collection of ceramic works.  Having long outgrown the title of ‘pottery’, contemporary ceramic art is a fusion of art and science as its practitioners devise ever-more innovative ways reinvent their clay.

The invited artists are either lecturers or  MA graduates from the Ceramic Departments of both Durban University of Technology and University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg.

Stretton believes that ceramics have a special role to play because ceramic art is three dimensional. “It has more claim to the immediate dynamics of society than other visual art forms: it intrudes, demands space – almost as people do, and can alter its form as one circles it. Ceramics in broader society has become one of the darlings of the material sciences, chemists and physicists, who use ceramics to create jet turbine blades, flexible springs and semiconductors.

Set in the context of South Africa in 2012 – a transforming social and political landscape, the shift in subject matter for artists is striking. Almost without exception, the artists speak of the transformational power of the kiln – it is a magical sacred space that has no master, manipulating elements at an alchemic level – God knows what Faustian deals are done as the artist closes the door of the kiln! 

Participating artists are, Juliet Armstrong, Kim Bagley, Ian Calder, Astrid Dahl, Carla da Cruz, Leanne Frisinger, Raksha Gobardan, Carol Hayward Fell , Isaac Nkosinathi  Khanyile, Fahmeeda Omar, Mhairi Pattenden, Sharon Weaving, Clive Sithole, Georg Hendrik  Stroebel, Martha Zettler. Included in the ‘More Fired Up’ reconfiguration are art works by students of some of the above exhibitors.

The exhibition will be opened by Jenny Stretton, The Durban Art Gallery Curator of collections.

Juliet Armstrong
Artist's statement


Creativity for me is a stream of consciousness within a certain medium. I decide on an idea and then try and work it out with the materials I have. I do not work to a specific outcome but enjoy playing with the clay (medium) and pushing it to its limits within the original idea. Ceramics really has no limits and it is silly to think if you are using the medium you have to stick with that source as inevitably your initial idea is only a starting point and the eventual finished item will have evolved beyond that limitation and become something new. I have an idea and then ‘walk’ through the idea with different possibilities until I reach a conclusion. This may have evolved beyond my expectations or original intent.

As a ceramist, form is an integral aspect of my work as it occupies space three dimensionally. The work I make cannot be separated from this property. I rely on the translucency and brilliance of the bone china I make up and if I do use tonal variations it will be to specifically to offset the vibrancy/ light reflection/changes from different light sources.

Most of my work is profoundly influenced by my research into Zulu material culture and the pottery made for the drinking of utshwala. However, these pieces do not directly reflect this research, although the finished items are containers and could be used for a ritualistic drink. Currently I am working on vessel-like forms which contain space within the fragile parameters of the form. These are not necessarily functional although they could be used for an elixir of sorts, depending on the occasion. My work does not rely on so called ‘traditional techniques’ as I am trying to invent new ones. The only aspect of my work that is ‘traditional’ is the fact that it is put into a kiln and fire it to make it to watertight and durable. I use very little clay in my ‘body’ as it is mostly bone ash. Consequently I have to invent new methods of making the mixture usable, so that it can be formed and fired. I use a mixture that I have devised of bone ash, feldspar and white clay which when fired to a high temperature becomes a glass like substance. This looks more fragile than it is, but these are the qualities for which I strive.

Through my selection from the DAG collection I wanted to show that clay can be used in many different ways and it does not have to look perfect. In fact I have chosen work that is not industrially made, that has an element of ‘mistake’ from the hand or the head as seen in the Sevres glazes. In so doing the forms become an extension of myself, imperfect, translucent forms with attachments taken from a South African coastal shipwreck in 1552.

 

Kim Bagley
Artist’s statement


My heritage as a potter is grounded in the area I grew up in, KwaZulu-Natal, the place I learnt my craft (Centre for Visual Art, UKZN, Pietermaritzburg) and in the studio pottery that attracted my attention in local museums, notably the Durban Art Gallery and the Tatham. It was within these environments that I fell in love with clay as a material.

Looking through the Durban Art Gallery collection, the surface of Claassen’s
Pietermaritzburg junction: XIII (1990) caught my eye. The skilful, expressive use of engobes, slips and mineral oxides on the tense terracotta form is a subtly graded patina that suggests the passing of time. This piece speaks eloquently of the stark beauty of clay surfaces and embodies the legacy of modernist teaching practices in studio ceramics at the CVA that began with Hilda Ditchburn. Even today this legacy remains influential to CVA ceramics students and recent graduates, such as myself, through an emphasis on form and craft.

Conventionally, clay is mostly used by studio potters as a thin skin - formed by the hands, and perhaps with a few tools. The earth’s crust is also like a skin or a vessel form around the magma mantle. Clay can be an eloquent visual language for speaking about the igneous mass that it comes from. Clay is also a fitting medium for expressing a moment, and with it an implied movement. Whether this movement is the dynamism of a leaping animal or the geological slowness of gradually cracking earth, it can be captured permanently in clay as it changes to ceramic during the firing process. Though the moment is often captured faithfully, the material changes that take place during firing can yield surprising results and the moment of raw beauty is altered forever. In Rummage/ Rheumage moments in my process have been captured as images.

The potential to capture movement, tension and contrast through form and texture is evident in Mariti’s bull form. I was drawn to the scraped, glazed or vigorously combed surfaces that demonstrate the materiality of clay. The stoneware form shows the global, cross-cultural nature of most ceramic practice in Southern Africa. In medium it suggests the Anglo-oriental and in form it could be read as simultaneously local and Minoan. While my initial response to this piece was a visceral and tactile, it reminds me of complex role of global
influences and colonial history on creative production in Southern Africa and as it continues in our digital age.

 

Ian Calder
Artist’s statement


In Durban Art Gallery’s permanent collections, I was inspired by many examples of historical ceramics to create my own painted maiolica work.

Intricately decorated Isnik earthenware plates from Turkey first caught my eye and  imagination. In Audrey Frank’s painted ceramics, I was fascinated with the historical connections in her work, as she had first studied at Durban Art School’s Ceramics Department, then worked as a qualified ceramist at Olifantsfontein’s ‘Ceramic Studio’, and later taught and inspired Hyme Rabinowitz in Cape Town (before he came into prominence as a leading South African stoneware ceramist).
The vivid cobalt blues painted on Chinese export porcelain wares from Colonel Whitwell’s original bequest reminded me of the small fragments of porcelain, with their sky-blue brushstrokes, that continue to wash onto the seashores at Port Edward today from the Sao Joao shipwreck of 500 years ago.

Amongst more recent works in the Collection I enjoyed the rotund forms and modelled motifs of Nesta Nala’s izinkamba, and was inspired to make a base with geometric patterns  –like the carved rosewood bases on which many old pots are placed- for my own vase to stand on.

The painted vases designed by the Poole Pottery ceramist, John Adams (who  established South Africa’s first college ceramics studio in Durban almost a century ago) led me further into my creative challenge of recollecting personal memories (indigenous lilies, hilltops, vleis, woven patterns) and assembling them into a new ceramic work.

Astrid Dahl
Artist’s statement


My love of working with clay and creating forms all began when I met my ceramic lecturer, Hendrik Stroebel at Technikon Natal in 1995. Hennie was and is of great inspiration to many of his students and gave us the opportunity and encouragement to explore and create using clay as a language of expression. Hennie’s love of form and design have always inspired me and continues to do so. On a particular occasion a group of African women came and taught us the traditional coiling method and it was then that I truly found my vocabulary.

I moved to Nottingham Road in the Midlands in 1999 with two other friends to take up work in a bronze casting foundry. There I crossed paths with 'design guru' Neville Trickett who introduced me to the botanical photography of Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932). This triggered the start of an evolving journey with clay.
Blossfeldt's monotone prints determined that I would work with white clay as I feel it creates a pure canvas for light and dark to 'shape' the piece. This approach captures the presence of the flora which inspired it. Whilst I start with a drawing, the piece transforms in the making process; clay, to a large degree has a life of its own.

I like Rebecca Mtibe's pieces as she is presenting a concept of something within the vessel. This is exciting as the 'inside' is as of much interest as the outside. In my work the strategic use of negative as well as positive space is integral to the success of the piece.


Carla da Cruz
Artist’s statement


I’m an avid internet browser and I find a lot of inspiring and interesting information online. I also love art and reference books, particularly botanical themed ones. For me, the creative process sometimes starts here – I might see an image (or several) that begins the thought process. I will then start drawing, and try to visualise the idea as a ceramic work. Within this drawing process, I will also work out the practical and technical aspects of making the work.
My work addresses the relationships between comfort and discomfort, interior and exterior, structure and chaos. The forms I use are archetypal and are intended to evoke a sense of subconscious recognition and familiarity. The imagery is taken from and influenced by my surroundings, my interaction with everyday objects and my fascination with industrial, architectural and natural forms. I use clay as a material to explore texture, geometry, repetition and pattern found in nature and in the world around us. I am increasingly aware of the pressure placed on the environment in the name of development and industry. It is an ever-present concern which influences my work.

Form is very important in my work as it the starting point for me, then comes texture or surface. Colour (glaze) is only necessary if the work needs it. I will only glaze the work if the glaze will reinforce or add to the form/texture/structure of the piece. The definition of form is the encapsulation of space, the tangible shape of life in our three dimensional world. I am utterly fascinated with the idea of the inner workings of the natural world, why things are shaped the way they are and the question of whether are they shaped that way because of their function. The microscopic is an elusive part of our reality and is largely unseen by the naked eye.
These new works are an exploration in porcelain, of my perception of the vulnerability of the natural world. The ‘bodies’ of the pieces are made using simple bowl forms as moulds. Within these bowl forms, I have used paper-thin porcelain to construct complex and delicate organic formations which allude to biological organisms. Thus the body becomes a vessel for containment and protection of the delicate and fragile detail inhabited within.

I am drawn to Juliet Armstrong’s mastery of bone china. Her work is highly refined, finished and perfectly formed. The forms she constructs are light and delicate as well as having an enduring strength. The piece ‘White vessel’ displays delicately modelled thorn protrusions on the outside of the vessel. The piece I made in response to Juliet’s work echoes her bowl form. I positioned the thorn elements on the inside of the form; slightly bent as if folding inwards. I consciously subverted the function of the bowl in placing the thorns on the inside and by hanging the work on the wall.

 

Raksha Gobardan
Artist’s statement


My work is a construction of my cultural identity, firstly as a South African of Indian origin and secondly as a female. I have developed a visual language based in Hindu iconography and spirituality and which draws on other cultures that have influenced me and formed a vital part of my South African identity. I strive to create a connection with a local, contemporary South African reality since we are a product of the time and place we live in.
I am working on a series of old doors selected to show the patina of time and the history that eachone embodies. Working with the rough surfaces of these rectangular shapes, I juxtapose and insert small refined details of various mediums such as clay, broken tiles, African beadwork, old brassware, copper wire etc. I enjoy working with the malleability of clay. I am able to create individual pieces of different sizes to embellish the wooden surfaces that I work with. I love the use of texture, detail and precision in my work and this often takes on an obsessive dimension. Smaller textured details are created with a plaster-of-paris mould. I work spontaneously allowing the element of chance to influence my work process. Background colour is muted to allow the mosaics to dominate. When I  undertake large-scale commissions mosaics feature prominently in my artistic practice. The clay pieces are often high-fired terracotta or smoke-fired earthenware.
The doors being an aspect of architecture form a link with my Masters research which documents and evaluates the use of ceramics as an aesthetic element in the Durban landscape. I also see the doors as symbolically linking to my identity; the idea of entering or exiting evokes strong emotions and in my case a sense of new beginnings as I have recently stepped into the position of wife and mother; these are new roles that I will be investigating and exploring in my work.

 

Carol Hayward Fell
Artist’s statement


My Fine Art background, teacher training and my quirky sense of humour, have determined the way in which my ceramics has evolved from vessel-making into sculpture, specifically horses, now. This journey, has taken many routes of exploration and discovery. My becoming an Art teacher by default, led to becoming a Ceramics lecturer at Natal Technikon. These six happy years, brought me into contact with talented students such as Hennie Stroebel, as well as my fellow Fine Art lecturers, most of whom were also established artists in their own right.

During my Fine Art degree, I also studied a course in Classical Civilisations. Since then, the art of these cultures has continued to influence the subjects of my ceramic forms and surface decoration. Motherhood brought me in contact with children’s books full of simplified colourful images of animals and people - these tied in with similar images in Classical Art. My tall coiled porcelain vessels grew in size to accommodate bands of colourful patterns where simplified and humorous African birds and animals were incorporated into designs recalling those of Greek vase painting.

The "Fish Wife" series of sculptures were the first works where I merged sculptural form with surface pattern. My intention was to poke fun at an insult, by interpreting it in a series of artworks. By 2001 I had resumed oil painting and life drawing and also returned to teaching Art privately. In 2006, Jeanette Gilkes' drawing group was the catalyst for the first ceramic horse I made.

Making my ceramic horses has been the most liberating experience. The subject ties in with my love of Art History where horses are a subject from as early as Cave Art and Ancient China onwards. As a teenager I spent childhood holidays riding in the Berg as well as drawing horses. Horses are so noble, not only in shape but in spirit - they have been part of mans' history and appear throughout mythology taking many fantastic forms. The subject is inexhaustible; I feel I have only touched the surface in making my own whimsical interpretations of fantastic horses with exaggerated proportions and strange friends. I really can't foresee myself tiring of them soon.

Choosing works from the DAG collection was so exciting as I recalled having seen many in the past and knowing the makers. My choice was mainly sculptural with animated, humorous and quirky subjects that I can relate to. The biggest shock was seeing the horse by James Hall, an old friend of mine. I do not recall ever having seen his horse before, yet there is a similarity in shape to my own work now - I am sure we could have shared a good laugh about this!


Nkosinathi  Khanyile
Artist's Statement


Guided by dreams and visions, the technical and conceptual aspects of my work continue to reflect my role as messenger.  African spirituality is an important vehicle for me to tackle some of the most complicated, unspoken socio-cultural residues that humanity, particularly women, carry as they navigate the present democratic South Africa. 
Issues such as mass spiritual uprooting and dislocation are important reference points in my work.   On one level, it speaks from a chain of people that have come before us, not only my ancestors, but the African ancestors that lived through the liberation movement. It speaks about the number of people who got dislocated during apartheid; particularly the plight of unheard marginalized women whose children were never given proper burial and whose bones never returned from exile.  In African Queen the innumerable women and children who suffered are represented by each and every bead in the artwork.
On another level, the work invites people to look back at where they come from.  For this exhibition, we were asked to select some of the work from the DAG’s permanent collection for inspiration. Amongst the objects I selected ukhamba (Zulu pot), mainly for its mystical power, to represent umuntu (a person).  I then focused on its base; the fact that you cannot make a pot without first making the base is a profound message.
 In Isimpande the suspended elements, not quite touching the floor, speak about the uprooting of indigenous heritage by external colonial forces and also about commodification, which in many ways, has left indigenous roots hanging.  There is a sense in the work of floating people and shadows that, during the making, sparked a dialogue within my immediate community, beyond the fine art profession.  This has affirmed the fact that even though the work originates from an African context, its reception transcends its cultural context.
With my very first clay artwork, came a sudden realization that the medium actually speaks.  This spiritual energy continues to inform both my artistic practice and teaching.  When I teach ceramics, I’m able to sense the student’s spiritual vibrations just by lifting their work.   

 

Fahmeeda Omar
Artist's statement


I work with mostly with porcelain which can be a trying medium. I use different methods of working with this medium from throwing on the potters' wheel (as seen with my miniature and cylinder with engraved floral pattern) to hand building (slab building and coiling). I have discovered that coiling (especially with very thin coils) the way I’ve done with my coiled vessel has proven to be the most challenging.

With the thrown cylinders the pieces are predictable however with hand building (coiling) my work does to an extent rely on chance. There are several factors that play a role when I make coiled vessels and one of these is weather. Each coil is rolled out by hand and because they are so thin they dry out very fast so it is vital to work quickly. The size and colour of the piece is also subject to chance. One piece can take anything from 4 to 7 hours and it is important that once I start a piece, it must be finished as rehydrating the clay is not an option.

I decorate my work using leaves, bark and weeds from my surroundings to express my interest in nature. Over the years I’ve experimented with colour in my porcelain work. Since porcelain is a white medium it has the ability to reflect colour successfully. I play around with the percentage of oxide or stain in the porcelain to achieve different variants of colour.

For this exhibition the work I particularly liked in DAG’s collection were by Martha Zettler, Juliet Armstrong and Andrew Walford. Zettler’s embossed pieces are inspiration for my engraved cylinder where I have carved a floral pattern into the porcelain body. Armstrong’s translucent bone china pieces inspired my ‘patched series’. I have recently been exposed to  Bonsai recently and this has sparked a growing interest in miniatures hence the selection of Walford’s work.

 

Mhairi Pattenden
Artist’s statement


Art or artefact: that is the question. In my current work I am fascinated by the motivation and decisions made by people who collect objects. Sometimes labelled as curiosities, these items were initially viewed as artefacts but may presently be viewed as art. These objects are often diverse and not necessarily related yet they possess points of reference that strike a chord with the collector. Questions of definition are not essentially relevant.

 

The selected items may seem to be diverse but are clearly related in my mind. I favour clean, simplistic forms with interesting texture and glaze effects in my endeavours to create a three dimensional sculptural form. My initial fascination began with the anthropomorphic figures found in San rock art. The importance of the Shaman shape influenced my early practice, developing into an exploration of sculptural animal skulls. This has lead me to my current investigation of trophy mounts, which embody elements of power and supremacy.

My interest in rock paintings had been piqued from early encounters growing up as my mother shared her interest in this art form. She never believed that San paintings were 'art for art's sake', but rather followed David Lewis-Williams theories and ideas that the art had a function and purpose. I remember my first visit to Game Pass Shelter in the Kamberg area of the Drakensberg Mountains as a personally illuminating experience.

I believe what is crucial to understanding our own practices is the clarification and establishment of the objects that surround us, just as, together with their beliefs, San rock art offers us a window into their world. I find Pippa Skotnes's artworks very innovative and inspiring, as well as currently having an influence on my own work in this regard.

I for one, find the ability to create an object that one is able to touch, hold, and turn immensely satisfying and rewarding.  My use of clay and porcelain therefore are natural progressions as the diverse nature of both these mediums is enormously appealing.

Topping my list of items chosen from the Durban Art Gallery collection is the female bust by James Hall. The animal elements correspond with my  influences and I feel one cannot pretend to ignore her charm and elegance.
The other piece also by James Hall was chosen purely on the basis of the glaze effect, which I seem to think has a skull like element to it. Both the works by Doreth Britschi and Mollie Fisch have a distinct refined human likeness to them, reminding me of my Shaman shapes. I suppose the metallic quality achieved by Britschi stirs my inner magpie characteristics.


Clive Sithole
Artist’s statement


Since I embarked on my career as a ceramist I have been preoccupied with the female form. Not being content with the narrow conception of beauty according to Western norms led me to explore Zulu culture and traditional life. I have, for example, been collecting Zulu artifacts such as the Zulu hairdress (isicholo) and Zulu headrests (isigqiki) and making works that reflect my interest in Zulu cosmology and finding depths of metaphor in these shapes.

My creative process has many parts, all of which I consider to be important: sketching is vital and making small maquettes or simply playing and moulding clay is a significant part of my work – this experimentation excites me and results in a beginning.

Technique is important in my work production and I have had several opportunities to learn methods that have added to my artistic practice. I traveled to Nigeria where I learnt about the traditional techniques of the Igbo. They have a particular style of building up their Odo pots (traditional musical pots) and I was taught the building method used by the late Abuja ceramist Dr Ladi Kwali in Nigeria in the 60s by Magdalene Odundo. She showed me the technique of pulling wet clay from a lump without adding a single coil until you reach the neck. Nesta Nala too generously shared her technique: I had previously struggled with cracking and exploding bases until she demonstrated how to begin the base of a Zulu pot.

I have come to appreciate change; it is so important to embrace change because it forces one to re-examine and take new directions. Initially I started out as a sculptor being very influenced in those early days by artists such as Bonnie Ntshalintshali and Josephine Gheza and later on by Nesta Nala and Nigerian, Magdalene Odundo.
Zulu ceramic traditions did not support concept but rather function until fairly recently and this I found limiting – I strive to move forward conceptually.

 

Georg Hendrik Stroebel
Artist's Statement


At art school, although I took painting as my major and ceramics as a minor, clay became my preferred medium of expression – there was direct contact with my hands and I enjoyed the malleability of the medium. It was the same with embroidery – controlling the thread with the direction of the needle. Being left handed has also influenced my relationship with what I make. I was not comfortable on the wheel, which are for the most, designed for the right handed.

In terms of influence, each lecturer gave me something special but my most seminal experience came from Fee Halstead who at our first lesson whipped out a python skin and rolled it along with a slab of clay through the slab roller producing a textural imprint. That changed the perception of ceramics for me.

My creative process is sparked by the visual and the unconscious. I firmly believe the unconscious locks in ideas which are revealed to one as they filter through. I am very stimulated by my journeys though Middle Eastern countries and in these travels I have discovered my creative interests lie in aspects of antiquity coupled with those of the present: structure and shape are informed by embellishment and decoration mainly drawn from Craft traditions particularly those from the Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.  Persian carpets, ceramic tiles, wood carving – these are all grist to the mill.

I have developed techniques that juxtapose and contextualise the traditional and the contemporary. I make vessels with emphasis on the shape and structure – this shows my love of classical form. With the form secured, I adorn the surface using a variety of embellishments: found objects, Islamic calligraphy, portraits or cultural vignettes – these elements I work into patterns on the surface. 

I come from a family that has always processed thread in some artistic form or other: my grandmother and mother were both talented seamstresses and embroiderers and my great grandfather would crochet wall hangings and handbags with parcel string – it is part of my DNA. There is also that part of me that seeks the therapy and meditation that is part and parcel of this medium.

Paradoxically, using the embroidery process satisfies the painter in me. Irma Stern’s Zanzibar frames have influenced my practice of framing painterly embroideries in distressed, weathered frames which are made from old ladders or oriental room dividers or clay glazed with glazes that enhance the distressed finish I want to achieve.

Among my selection from the DAG collection ‘Fat Lady from Antibes’ by John Nowers piques my interest. The delicate section of dress along her stomach is so finely glazed it holds one’s attention and forces the eye to really move over the artwork. The Linnware’s plain classical shape is so timeless and their glazes enhance the shapes. The tiny turquoise Oriental vase was chosen for the deep turquoise colour.

 

Sharon Weaving
Artist's statement


Initially my work involved experimentation with surface treatment; investigating how the porcelain surface could be pierced to create interesting marks, textures and shadows.  My interest in the surface of a form prompted me to identify with the work of Juliet Armstrong and Martha Zettler.  Both ceramists have worked delicately, using different methods to create beautiful marks on their pieces. Although the marks are finely executed, evidence of shadows are distinctly visible adding to the striking nature and appeal of these works. 

Further exploration of the potential to create shadows with my pieces resulted in my use of structural frames dipped in paper porcelain and high-fired.  I felt that the shadows created added an interesting dimension to the pieces; they became an integral part of the artwork filtering into the viewer’s space.  The framework characterised my pieces with a sense of repetition and regularity juxtaposed with an organic softness creating an interesting tension.  The elements of regularity, repetition, pattern and formula initiated my desire to create the framework itself.

Experimentation with the elements of pattern, formula and repetition characterising Japanese braiding, knitting and crocheting resulted in my decision to use knitting and crochet to create the desired effect. I produced knitted and crocheted test structures using material of varying thicknesses in combination with large scale knitting needles and crochet hooks to create a loose weave.  The soft structures were dipped in paper porcelain slip and fired to 1200˚C producing a brittle framework within which an organic feel and delicacy existed.  However, the textured quality of the paper porcelain camouflaged the delicate, intricate detail of the crochet work.  I experimented with engobe recipes, developing a mix which allowed for a single dipping and the preservation of detail upon firing.  I chose not to introduce colour into my pieces as I did not want to remove the emphasis from the delicate forms, the interaction between forms, the shadows created and the interaction between form and shadow. 

Through crochet I was able to create delicate frames giving rise to skeletal ceramic structures with a subtle organic dimension. The delicate crochet frames cast intricate web-like shadows which add another dimension to the piece.  I find that the shadows encourage a connection between the composite pieces within the installations and with the surrounding space, contributing to the intricate quality of the whole.

The element of chance involved in the creation of a slumped structure is an aspect I enjoyed working with.  The original paper porcelain-coated regular structures that were placed in the kiln developed their own forms upon firing.  Although the element of chance remained in my crochet installations, it influenced the end result to a lesser degree.

My creativity is initiated by a combination of ‘seeing’ and ‘doing’.  I draw inspiration from various sources and love finding different and exciting ideas created by other artists.  These ideas spark my imagination into creating, and I enjoy ‘playing’ with the various skills I have (crochet and knitting), and developing other skills (Japanese braiding) to cultivate my ideas.  Throughout my life I have been surrounded by crafters who have encouraged a love of creating and an appreciation of the therapeutic qualities of creativity.


Martha   Zettler
Artist’s statement


Lucie Rie has always been an inspiration for my ceramic aesthetic, her leanings towards a formal minimalist Bauhaus aesthetic has become my own artistic preoccupation. I am also influenced by Hans Coper and German ceramicists as I also concentrate on reserved form and refined line.

The beautifully crafted bone china pieces by Juliet Armstrong were inspiration to explore this medium and after seeing a bone china piece by Penny Le Roux with a surface design created by sandblasting at a National Exhibition at the Durban Art Gallery in 1988 I was clear in my artistic direction; I wanted to produce simplicity in form with strong translucent qualities. The mediums of bone china and porcelain medium really talk to me because they offer up whiteness and translucency.

My interests in the surface texture and pattern are achieved through geometric design and over the years the strict geometric designs I initially preferred have been transformed into more organic and sinuous lines.

When I work I fashion the vessel/object on the wheel or by hand out of clay; I then make a plaster of Paris mould of the object – casting slip is poured into the mould and depending on the thickness required I leave this in for between 3 – 5 minutes. The next process is bisque firing the work. My decoration involves the use of masking tape to isolate negative shapes after which the surface is sand blasted. During this process the negative area isolated by masking tape is removed to expose the intended decoration. A high firing of 1000 – 2000 degrees centigrade follows and thereafter I paint transparent glaze onto the raised/relief areas - this is followed by another firing and this presents a matt and glossy surface. 

My selection from the Durban Art Gallery collection includes works by Maggie Mikula, Buzephi Magwaza, Penny Le Roux and Juliet Armstrong. Each of these artists share some facet of my own aesthetic preoccupation; Mikula’s exquisite forms and cross pollination of imagery and ideas; Magwaza’s meticulous technique and detailed decorative elements and Le Roux and Armstrong’s
mastery of bone china and translucence in the medium.