You can think of Clementina van der Walt and ceramics in the same light as Cape Town and the mountain – they have always gone together and there is no way you could ever separate the two. Originally from Jozi, she studied at the Johannesburg College of Art where she went on to lecture before embarking on a 25-year journey as a freelance ceramicist.
Sitting down over a cup of tea with Clementina I quickly realised that this woman is as interesting and unique as each one of her pieces. Her studio, which can be found in the Tollgate Industrial Centre in Woodstock, streams with light and conjures up a curiosity from the moment one steps through the door; there’s a certain intriguing magic that, although difficult to place, is palpable.
Clementina admits that she loves working with clay and that even after years of doing so she still gets excited every time she opens the kiln; she explains that you never quite know exactly how it is going to turn out and this is something that she really enjoys. She also enjoys making things that people can use. Her attitude toward ceramics is what I found most admirable – she values the art of taking ‘a lump of nothing’ as she says and turning it into a ‘presence.’ She feels that ceramics have a life of their own and that they carry meaning. On this note she refers to Edmund de Waal’s book ‘The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance’ in which de Waal, a world-famous ceramicist, inherits a collection of 264 tiny Japanese wood and ivory carvings, called netsuke. De Waal, who also shares a particular sense of the secret lives of objects, set out to determine just who had touched and held them, and how the collection had managed to survive.
Clementina’s beautiful ceramics can be found her shop at The Old Biscuit Mill, where she also stocks a number of products that complement her work.
A visit to her studio is by appointment only unfortunately but she will be having an exhibition and open day this Saturday, 11 May from 11am to 3pm, and I highly recommend you jump at the opportunity. Exhibiting artists are: Albie Bailey, Peta Becker, Erica Elk, Tessa Gordon, Heartworks, Andrew Lindsay, Hennie Meyer and, of course, Clementina van der Walt.