The Story of Ardmore

Ardmore Ceramic Art is a story about the Zulu people whose sense of rhythm, color, dance and song, as well as the spirit of the African imagination, is exerting its influence on the other continents of the world.

Word of Ardmore has spread far and wide and those who believe they have the talent arrive at the Ardmore studios either in the foothills of the Drakensberg or the rolling hills of Caversham in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Many have little knowledge of sculpture and painting and mostly no experience of ceramic art, they learn quickly and within a short time develop their own particular styles of sculpting and painting.

Their patience and extraordinary ability to pay attention to detail gives rise to artwork of tremendous charm and beauty. The creative talent of the artists, their learned skills and their desire to succeed, have resulted in their earning a special status amongst their friends and families and becoming known as the `Isigiwili’, which describes their abundant good fortune.

The traditional Zulu method of firing clay pots is to use cow dung and wood kilns. At Ardmore the artists have been introduced to electric kiln firing, ceramic paints and glazes as well as the technical skills needed to utilize modern ceramic equipment and materials.

The integration of traditional cultural skills with the advantages of western technology has led to the development of a unique art form which has earned Ardmore’s ceramics the description by Christie’s of London as `modern collectables’.

When Ardmore first opened the doors of its ceramic studio, the ceramics were produced mainly by women. Gradually, however, their male partners realized that they, too, could work with clay under the scenic backdrop of the Champagne and Cathkin mountain peaks of the Drakensberg range located in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. These men have transformed Ardmore’s conservative functional earthenware into a more sculptural and courageous art form.

The women, in turn, have responded to the new creative energy that has flowed into Ardmore and, of their own accord, have modified their style of painting. Their fine feathering, scaling and bead- and basket-like patterns now enhance the form. Ardmore has evolved into a true unique sculptural art.

There seems no limit to the ability of Ardmore’s artists to sculpt clay or paint in a kaleidoscope of colors that conventionally would never be juxtaposed. But they show an ability to draw on greater resources of creativity that both surprise and delight viewers who often share a chuckle in appreciation of the humor depicted in their work.

Whether the artists draw from the natural world or Zulu folklore or use the self-confidence gained by their exposure to an admiring audience, their artistry is continually being raised to higher levels and has earned a description of `fine art’.

These art pieces can be found on auction at Christies and Bonhams in London, in galleries in New York, Cape Town and Johannesburg, in both public national gallery and corporate gallery collections in South africa and in many private collectors homes across the globe.

Continue to read more about Ardmore's history.

“It is very pleasing to note that these exceptional talents, which would have otherwise withered unseen in the wildness, have since emerged to become significant contributions to contemporary South African arts and culture.”
South African Former First Lady Zanele Mbeki