Out of Africa

SLOW Magazine - - Editor's Choice -

This year, Fée Hal­sted, founder and the cre­ative force be­hind the iconic South African brand, Ard­more Ce­ramic Art, cel­e­brates her 60th birth­day. Lit­tle did she re­alise, back in the mid-1980s in ru­ral Kwazulu-na­tal when she started pro­duc­ing ce­ramic art­works, that she was build­ing one of the con­ti­nent’s global suc­cess sto­ries.

Back then, hav­ing com­pleted a Fine Arts de­gree, she in­vited her house­keeper’s daugh­ter, Bon­nie Nt­shal­intshali, to learn the ways of clay. Five years later, the pair were jointly awarded the Stan­dard Bank Young Artist Award. Nt­shal­intshali would be­come one of Ard­more’s most pro­lific artists – the first of many to train un­der Hal­sted’s ex­pert hand. Trag­i­cally, she died of an Aids-re­lated ill­ness in 1999, a painful re­al­ity that would be­fall many Ard­more Artists. The Bon­nie Nt­shal­intshali Mu­seum, which is si­t­u­ated be­side the stu­dio, was opened in her mem­ory.

The mu­seum un­der­scores the fact that fam­ily val­ues and au­then­tic­ity are at the heart of the Ard­more brand. Ard­more works in the spirit of Ubuntu, the Zulu word for com­pas­sion and hu­man­ity.

The phi­los­o­phy of “we are be­cause of oth­ers” orig­i­nated with Ard­more’s hum­ble be­gin­nings in the Drak­ens­berg moun­tains and con­tin­ues to this day in the bustling stu­dio that is home to over 70 artists. Th­ese artists, un­der the guid­ance of Hal­sted and her daugh­ters Cather­ine and Me­gan, pro­duce ex­quis­ite and in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed that travel around the world.

The renowned art­works draw in­spi­ra­tion from Africa’s fauna, flora, and Zulu folk­lore, and can be found in mu­se­ums and gal­leries across the globe, with avid fans in all cor­ners. Famed Lon­don auc­tion­eers, Christie’s, con­sider Ard­more a “mod­ern­day col­lectible”.

There is more to Ard­more than clay. In 2010 Hal­sted and her son Jonathan suc­cess­fully launched a sis­ter brand, Ard­more De­sign, to trans­late the dis­tinc­tive im­agery and play­ful­ness of the ex­tra­or­di­nary ce­ram­ics into ex­quis­ite life­style prod­ucts. Look out for a brand new ta­ble linen range based on their Zam­bezi Fab­ric Col­lec­tion – el­e­gant hues and an­i­mal magic to en­hance any in­te­rior.

This fol­lows a suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion with French fash­ion house Her­mès, who ap­proached Hal­sted at a Paris de­sign show in 2013. Hal­sted’s daugh­ter Cather­ine, who heads up the de­sign team at Ard­more, is re­spon­si­ble for the cre­ative col­lu­sion be­tween the two brands – a col­lab­o­ra­tion which re­sulted in a num­ber of stun­ning silk and cash­mere car­rés or scarves, the lat­est en­ti­tled Flow­ers of South Africa. It’s no sur­prise that the French pow­er­house saw the po­ten­tial for a bloom­ing part­ner­ship: Ard­more’s de­signs ex­ude a lux­ury and el­e­gance cou­pled with a sprin­kle of African play­ful­ness that pre­tenders to the crown – and there are many – can only hope to em­u­late.

Cel­e­brated Bri­tish wall­pa­per house, Cole & Son, also recog­nised Ard­more’s star qual­ity. The Ard­more Col­lec­tion of art­works wall­pa­pers, launched last year, has been a re­sound­ing suc­cess, tap­ping into the global love af­fair with Africa so preva­lent in in­te­rior and de­sign at the mo­ment. “Cus­tomers have been ut­terly charmed by the vi­brancy and wit of the de­signs. Many have com­mented that they can’t help but smile when see­ing the pa­pers,” Car­ley Bean, Cole & Son’s Head of De­sign, says.

And that, put so sim­ply, is per­haps what epit­o­mises the al­lure of what Hal­sted and her team do so well – prompt a re­ac­tion of joy, awe, or a wry smile that stays with you long af­ter.

If you have the op­por­tu­nity to view the ce­ram­ics and fab­rics in Lon­don, Ard­more’s lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion, Voy­ages of Dis­cov­ery, will be on show at Pa­trick Mavros’ flag­ship store from 18 to 27 May – pop in and see what all the fuss is about.

For more in­for­ma­tion on Ard­more, ard­more­ce­ram­ics.co.za. visit

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