There was a time, I was part of the misty Hills of Kwa-Zulu Natal. My home for three decades and the haunting call to return, is strong. There was a time I had heard, but not paid too much attention to Ardmore Ceramics, when I believed all Anglo and Euro were more than African Art – even whilst listening to Feé Halsted speak with passion about her small studio tucked deep in the Midlands. And now I must lie at her feet, in admitted ignorance and hopelessly in love with Ardmore Ceramics. Foolish I was.
Ardmore Ceramics is a love story. A collective experience. A community of faith in each other, using Art to enrich the lives of those who still have hearts open to beauty. Open to anything. South African landscape provides the inspiration and the colours remind us that this country is just that – bold, colourful and interesting. And complex. Understanding the nuances of Africa is not required, immersing yourself in her is. There are many artists at work here: some throwers, some painters, designers, idea givers – each piece is a collaboration of the parts of many, fabulous combinations and as a result we are left with the twirly, whirly rhythm of pieces created like nursery rhymes, like folklore captivating children, three dimensional gifts to spider web your interest far longer than you supposed from a cup, a vase, a piece of fabric.
A few years ago, an employee of Mavromac contacted me to find out who to contact in London to sell the new range of Ardmore fabrics. Fabrics I said, really, and the love affair, at first offish, became to tentacle towards a passion I was going to have to be cool about. Win the lottery for. As years passed, and I should have been on the ground level of Ardmore beginning, I found the treasure along with New York, London, Paris and some serious collectors. And Kit Kemp.
I have a crush on Kit Kemp. I want to be Kit Kemp with all those textiles, swatches, blank hotel spaces to play with and decorate. Tend to migrate from Ham Yard Hotel to Haymarket Hotel to fall into patterns I would never have thought to put in the same room. Found Ardmore right there, in Kit Kemp’s selection of cool stuff.
I am wondering if South Africans actually know just how great this small studio in Caversham is; the world certainly does. Forget the politics and dreary negativity, people are working on happiness here. It was not always so, but even that is alright, for Ardmore is stronger because for personal loss. Bonnie Ntshalintshali inspired Ardmore:
‘ … and in 2003, the Bonnie Ntshalintshali Museum was created to honour Fée’s co-artist and friend after her tragic death from HIV/AIDS in 1999.’ www.ardmoreceramics.co.za.
Best said in their own words:
‘One of our Ardmore Design projects is a fabric featuring designs by celebrated artist the late Wonderboy Nxumalo who embellished his ceramics with his poetry inspired by the joys of love and the sorrows of HIV-Aids – warning people about the disease without forgetting the thrill of being in love. Ardmore produces the Wonderboy Wisdom fabric with Mavromac. Proceeds go to Wonderboy’s mother and to Khazimula, a local orphanage that cares for Aids orphans and for children who have been abused or abandoned.’ www.ardmoreceramics.co.za
This story has a story, and another, and another, and makes me want to go back to the hills of the Midlands.
When it transpired that the ‘one of a kind’ of Ardmore was spotted by one of my favourite luxury brands, Hermes, well, this was like the marriage of two minds come together in design. Suddenly I felt like the bridesmaid, who hoped this would happen and now that it has, smittens at the pride of being a spectator but laments at never going to walk down the aisle – really, seriously, me afford Hermes? But ’tis not lost she says, and will not draw the nails across the blackboard when silly rich girls buy luxury items for no other reason that they are silly, and rich, because, because, this story has a new vessel – the spreading of Ardmore is a notch further in the world that matters. And in becoming more of a celebrity, the spilling of resources will trickle back to the community.
I know that few, in the morning of early sunrise on the homestead and in surrounding townships near Ardmore, will ever understand what this union is; what Hermes is, or Kit Kemp or others that promote Ardmore. Will never see New York or London and walk into shops that sell scarves at prices they will never even dream of. And that is fine – it takes both dreamer and deliverer to make a good match.
When next I am in Paris, and walking along the Rue Saint-Honorè, peering into the gorgeous window displays of Hermes – and oh, my,word – there is it, the Protea and the Giraffe – I am going to flipping burst with pride.
Here’s me thinking, and Ardmore adult colouring book?
Now that I can afford…
Visit Kwa-Zulu Natal to see places like Ardmore Ceramics, the Midlands Meander, the Anglo-Zulu battlefields. See the beaches of endless beauty, the Games Reserves, the Drakensberg and so much more. There is no other like South Africa. Contact London Green Africa to plan your trip of always wanting to return.
pictures courtesy of House and Leisure, South Africa.