[image: Rhonda Riche]
Here we are at the end of August and we here at Covet Garden are taking a moment to reflect back on the summer of 2015. And I wanted to share my favorite discovery of the season: This terrific tureen from Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio.
I spent the season preparing for a big move, so rehoming my stuff was my big goal. At the same time, hunting craft shows, antique markets, yard sales and thrift shops was my favorite way to release stress. I had given myself a strict “one in, two out” policy when it came to these excursions, meaning that for everything that I bought; I had to get rid of two others.
But when I saw the colorful, covered bowl pictured above, I couldn’t resist. With it’s lush foliage and wonderfully realized animals, it just felt so alive! I also couldn’t wait to get home and research its origins.
Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio began in South Africa when a young fine arts grad and ceramicist named Fee Halstead started her first studio on her husband’s farm, Ardmore. There, she also taught pottery making. One of her students was a housekeeper’s daughter named Bonnie Ntshalintshali.
As they worked together, Halstead explored the limits of shaping and working with clay, while Ntshalintshali experimented with traditional Zulu themes. Soon it became obvious that by working together, the pieces that they created transcended the world of craft and folk art. And in 1990, they won the Standard Bank Yong Artist Award.
Halstead and Ntshalintshali also wanted to share their good fortune with others in the community, and began mentoring other artists in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, many of whom were affected by the AIDS epidemic (Ntshalintshali died of the disease in 1999). Paulina Ntshalintshali Hadebe, Bonnie’s stepsister, sculpted my find.
The Ardmore artists all work independently — The studio provides training, mentorship, materials, tools and a market for the pieces they produce. The artists also work collaboratively, with ceramicists sculpting the clay and painters lavishly decorating the designs with bright, bold colours. Collectively, the artists tend to depict the local flora and fauna, but thematically the pieces reflect their own experiences rather than the traditional Zulu vernacular.
As a result, these unique pieces have become highly desired and collected by museums. Helen Mirren and the signer Sarah Brightman are also said to be fans. And in 2008, a vase by Ardmore artist, the late Wonderboy Nxumalo, brought in R200, 000 at auction in Johannesburg.
For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to find an Ardmore at a thrift shop, you can order pieces through Ardmore’s online shop. The Studio also ceelbrated their 25th anniversary in 2010 by launching the Ardmore Collection, a line of fabrics and furnishings based on their distinctive and exuberant designs.