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Guide to South African Pottery

Potter's Shop, Cape Town

Chris Silverston started small in 1986, selling pottery supplies and offering advice to fellow artists. Her Cape Town studio soon acquired a reputation for sustaining new talent. It's now a gallery devoted to pieces by the Potter's Workshop, a collective of potters working under Silverston's direction. Using a slip-cast method that relies on limited-time reusable m\orkshop produces hand-painted tableware that draws collectors from diverse locales such as Ghana and Washington, D.C. Silverston's emphasis on function as well as form ensures that each piece is microwave- and food-safe as well as uniquely (and beautifully) designed. "But we're quite primitive, really," she insists. "We're not a factory—there's a handmade element that characterizes our work."

WHAT TO LOOK FOR Fancifully painted bowls, plates, cups, and saucers from the workshop's potters: Fezile Ntshofu's sushi plates and fruit bowls, with their intricate geometric patterns (from $24); Sibongile Siboma's cereal bowls sporting stylized animal figures. Don't miss Majolandile Dyalvane's hand-built vases festooned with cowrie shells, or his platters decorated with imprints made from netting and fabric ($273–$606). 6 Rouxville Rd., Kalk Bay, Cape Town; 27-21/788-7030.

Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio, Caversham

A collective of 70 rural potters from a distant farming region of KwaZulu-Natal, Ardmore is famed for its detailed, highly imaginative (even naïve) ceramics, such as one piece depicting an angel riding on the back of a whale or a platter decorated with lions, giraffes, monkeys, birds, and flowers. In the style of English studio potteries, Ardmore employs "makers" and "painters" who work together to produce a single piece. Though the studio is remote—about an hour-and-a-half drive from Durban—Ardmore's coveted work can also be found in urban galleries, including Africa Nova and the Potter's Shop in Cape Town.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR Decorative jugs with animal heads extending from the handles; wonderful clay candelabra in the shape of four monkeys astride a plump zebra; and more metaphor- ical work, such as Zeblon Brilliant Msele's 1997 piece Solomon—a tableau of King Solomon, rhinos, and winged giraffes carved into a candlestick. Prices start at an average of $150 for good-quality pieces. Caversham; 27-33/234-4869; www.ardmoreceramics.co.za.

GILLIAN CULLINAN is a freelance journalist based in South Africa.


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