Q&A: Clementina van der Walt
Updated: Oct 2, 2019
"“My intention is to ‘seek the sacred in the ordinary’."
"The ceramic discipline, with cultural and historical links to rituals of everyday life, encompasses society, religion and philosophy. The archetypal significance of the home, as a point where our spiritual and earthy lives interconnect is where I have attempted to explore these ideas"
Clementina van der Walt is a well-known South African studio potter, based in Cape Town, who has in the past four decades lectured, run a production studio and held many one-person shows. Together with her partner Albie Bailey, they run Clementina Ceramics Studio and a separate store in Woodstock Cape Town, South Africa.
Clementina's distinctive tableware is an antidote to the ever-increasing information overload of this cyber age. Applying techniques of press moulding, casting and throwing she uses earthenware clays, slips and underglazes to create her striking collections that draw aesthetic inspiration from the patterns, colours and textures in the urban African and rural landscapes.
Captivated by her work, using colour like no other, we put 5 questions to Clementina to find out more:
You mention how the rituals of everyday life inspire the creation and development of your pieces, how does this interact with your works?
Clementina: I love the William Morris quote ‘Have nothing in your house that that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ For me, the act of eating and drinking is special. It may encourage mindfulness and aesthetic awareness. I love that people use for example my cups and tell me how that act enriches them often on a daily basis.
Could you unpack further the statement to ‘seek the sacred in the ordinary’?
C: This kind of ties in with my above answer. The ordinary, everyday activities are opportunities for awareness and mindfulness. Every moment is a gift of life. Drinking and eating the substances which nourish our bodies can be further nourishment for our souls if we are aware and thoughtful.
Drinking and eating the substances which nourish our bodies can be further nourishment for our souls if we are aware and thoughtful.
You mention how your works encompass society, religion and philosophy, how do these elements connect with your work?
C: I think the practice of making tableware, utilitarian items, is linked to social customs in various cultures. Even choices of food and recipes may centre on the types of dishes to be used. And then social events take place around the meals. These may be everyday, or they may be ceremonial. The ceremonial activities extend to various religious ceremonies like Easter, Christmas, Hannukah, Eid and so on. The tableware I make though is not designed for any particular cultural practice but can actually be used in many depending on the philosophy and life-values of the end user.
What first lead you to engage with the medium of clay?
I was first introduced to clay in a hobby class. I was fascinated by the alchemy of clay and how the basic elements of life are all part of the ceramic process - earth, water, air, fire
You reference the influence of colours of urban South Africa, could you describe the details that drew your eye?
I started my career in Johannesburg where I was inspired by road markings e.g. zebra crossings, yellow lines etc. and the bright colours of Ndebele (not really urban!) and architectural colours and industrial forms in the city. The Southern African light is particular, it is much harsher than that of the Northern Hemisphere. Bright colours reflect favourably.When I moved to Cape Town, I found the light quite different, and the landscape softer. So that also influenced my palette. In addition to this I spend a lot of time in the Klein Karoo which is rather arid and that inspires more earthy colours. So it’s all a bit eclectic!
Questions by Ava Howard