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Clementina Ceramics

Clementina Ceramics may have started in 2001, but the brand's proprietor and visionary has been working in the field for over 20 years. Trained at Wits Technikon, now the University of Johannesburg, Clementina van der Walt obtained her National Higher Diploma in Ceramics in 1984 and continued to lecture in their Ceramic Department until 1988. 12 years after starting a production studio in Paarl in 1989, Van der Walt moved to Cape Town and started creating unique dinnerware in addition to other bespoke ceramics. Van der Walt says she's always had an interest in tableware. 'I love the fact that someone drinks out of my mug on a daily basis and that it enriches their life with pleasure, enhancing a positive sense of being alive,' she says. But this artist makes a whole lot more than mugs. Cups, plates, bowls, decorative plates and composite tile panels are handcrafted in her Woodstock studio with the help of two assistants, Adonis N'sele Mumpango and Sandile Cele. Unlike other utilitarian ceramics, Van der Walt's work isn't out to mimic everyday crockery. Instead her approach to bespoke dinner sets is an intentional backlash against the sterility of mass production. 'I deliberately emphasise the handmade and irregular quality of each piece,' she says. 'The commercial dinnerware which one finds in home ware stores is often well designed and well made. However, in a way, it can be quite sterile and exude a sense of  "the same", impersonal, too slick and with no sense of a person behind the items.' Priced between R6 000-R40 000 – depending on quantity and additional items – each service is a tactile piece of art which enhances the daily rituals of eating and drinking. While more expensive than your standard dinner service, Van der Walt uses the simple analogy of home-baked bread versus government loaf: 'Both fulfill the same practical purpose, but are worlds apart in terms of aesthetic and meaningful human experience.' In addition to creating bespoke ceramics, Van der Walt takes on custom projects based on her existing range. 'Although it is not branded like Louis Vuitton, the custom design gives the items added financial value,' says Van der Walt. 'The client gets a dinner set which has been made specifically and only for them – making each piece feel special and meaningful.' Clemetina Ceramics are made from charcoal earthenware clay with a variety of underglaze colours and monochrome glazes. Pieces are made by slip-casting in moulds, slabbed clay pressed into moulds or are hand-constructed or wheel thrown. You can purchase the bespoke ceramics from Clementina's shop at the Old Biscuit Mill. For more information visit clementina.co.za. Text: Bianca Packham