A lifelong passion for taking earth, water and fire and turning those seemingly simple components into beautiful objects is the core mission of Clementina Ceramics. Named for the owner of the company Clementina van der Walt, this small Cape Town-based ceramic studio, has been the vehicle through which her creativity has found expression in the global market
Like so many other South African artists, Clementina derives much of her inspiration from the abundance of nature around her, especially at her beloved Calitzdorp studio. The idea of taking what is essentially the earth, and interpreting what you observe in natural landscapes to reshape it, is primal, poetic and and a beautiful way to live. As she so poignantly says, you give your creation a “presence in the world”
We caught up with this wonderful artist who was kind enough to answer a few of our questions
Do you remember the moment when you realised that ceramics and pottery would be a lifelong pursuit, or was it a more gradual process?
I first started doing pottery in a hobby class. I was fascinated by the alchemy that occurs when a lump of formless clay becomes a permanent shape and presence in the world. I got hooked and then decided to study in a formal academic programme.
How many staff do you have and what are their roles and responsibilities in your business?
My life and business partner Albie Bailey runs the administrative aspects of the studio. We have one sales assistant, Godet Mbwaya Kamunga in our store at The Old Biscuit Mill. Adonis N’Sele Mumpango, and Euloge Modula Think are the studio assistants. I determine the designs and they follow those. They share many of the surface painting tasks, but mainly Euloge does slip casting, and Adonis does press moulding. I do most of the glazing and the one-off pieces.
I know you taught pottery for a long time. Do you ever plan to do that again, or hold workshops for people interested in this art?
I taught for 6 years. It keeps one on the ball as it were. I have done workshops over the years. But now I feel I would rather focus my energy on my own work and the studio.
Do you get nervous before a show?
No. I have done so many exhibitions. I never have huge expectations. Sometimes I think the work is good, but if there is a feeble response from the audience. It doesn’t bother me. Although of course, it’s nice if work sells…that is definitely encouraging. I love the fact that people buy and use the functional items on a daily basis. This is very meaningful to me.