Bold and Delicate


An old tram factory in Woodstock houses the light and airy studio and workshop of Clementina van der Walt. A group of skilled ceramic craftsmen are working the clay and carefully finishing the products.

At the time of my visit, right after the Design Indaba Expo in Cape Town, the studio is packed with boxes coming back from the fair. Clementina decided to make a ‘design statement’ at Design Indaba with a beautiful selection of ceramic masks in rich and earthy tones.

What is remarkable about Clementina’s work is that she is working simultaneously as an artist making unique pieces and as a more commercial designer producing tabletop ceramics in series. Her studio is full of neatly stacked boxes, full of bowls and plates, ready to be shipped to Lagos, Nigeria. Clementina is not only successful in the local market in South Africa with a successful retail outlet in the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, Cape Town: she also exports her designs worldwide.

For me, Clementina’s work stands out because of her remarkable sense of color and texture. Her ceramics are often imperfectly shaped, and have a rough texture, but at the same time they are very delicate. Her products have a distinct color, because of the dark colored clay she starts with. Clementina uses glazes to cover part of the base, often light blues, greens or yellows that create a beautiful contrast.

For the masks Clementina exhibited at the Indaba, she chose matte and metallic glazes to bring out the details in the features of the faces. The colors she used are muddy and earthy browns, typically African, but because they are used in a combination with bright reds and cobalt blues, they make a very contemporary statement.

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Irene Vermeulen is founder of and is specialized in handmade design. She is based in Amsterdam, but travels the globe to spot the latest trends in handmade and sustainable design. With crafts exporters as well as importers, brands and retailers, she works on developing new products for the interior. The Craftscurator Trend Guide on handmade design is published every year. Irene regularly gives presentations on design and sustainability, and guides co-creation workshops.