Ardmore Ceramic Art is an internationally acclaimed ceramic studio, based in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. The unique and vibrant artworks have become a representative of South African art. At an auction in London dedicated to Ardmore; Christies defined it as “a modern day collectable”.
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Ardmore Ceramics at a glance...
Ardmore Ceramic Art is an internationally acclaimed ceramic studio, based in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. The unique and vibrant artworks have become a representative of South African art. At an auction in London dedicated to Ardmore; Christies defined it as “a modern day collectable”. Prices may differ due to availability.
Uplifting and empowering Ardmore’s artists and the local community have been a priority since Ardmore Ceramic Art was established by Fée Halsted in the 1980s. In November 2010, Fée Halsted was honoured by the Philadelphia-based Women’s Campaign International for her “inspirational work” in empowering the women of KwaZulu-Natal. Previous honorees include Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
Ardmore has always had an open door policy towards people who want to learn and develop their creative talent and earn a sustainable income through art. In addition Ardmore assists the artists by cooking a nutritious meal each day and providing healthcare. Training programmes have included life skills, financial planning, health and HIV-Aids awareness.
The Ardmore artists are considered by their community to be the isigweli – the fortunate ones – and have been encouraged to share their earnings to benefit others.
Fèe, through necessity, developed the exuberant exotic style that has made Ardmore ceramics famous. “I made tiles and if one cracked, I’d stick a rabbit or bird on the top to hide it,” she recalls. Their work broke from the ceramic conventions of the time: fired terracotta clay was painted with plaka paints, boot polish and oven blackeners. Glues and putty were also used. Later American Amaco paints and transparent glazes brought vibrant colour and fine painting style to the ceramics.
In 1996, Fée and her family moved to Springvale Farm in Rosetta in the KZN Midlands, allowing the artists at the Berg Studio in the Champagne Valley to explore their independence. At Springvale she established a smaller studio and gallery, 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.
A few years later, Fée and her family moved to the Caversham Valley, relocating the studio and museum and building a spacious gallery and offices. This created a unique home for Ardmore and in 2009 she amalgamated the Berg and Rosetta studios here.
Ardmore’s 25th anniversary in 2010 saw the launch of Ardmore Design Collection, which translated Ardmore’s distinctive imagery and styling into functional, superb quality ceramic and non-ceramic products including dinnerware, tapestries, furniture, fabrics for soft furnishings, and more. This new venture was made possible through a generous grant in late 2009 by the Business Trust’s Shared Growth Challenge Fund.
The artists from the Ardmore studio are given training, direction, materials, a studio and a guaranteed market for their work, supported by a skilled marketing and administrative team. Over the years, Ardmore’s artists have won numerous awards and exhibited widely in South Africa and around the world. Ardmore artworks feature in leading galleries and collections, including the Museum of Art & Design in New York, the Museum of Cultures in Basel, Switzerland, and the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The acclaimed auction house Christie’s has acknowledged Ardmore artworks as “modern day collectibles”.
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