Anton van der Merwe, award winning potter
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You know that you have arrived at the studio of Starways Pottery when you are welcomed by an antique doorway encased in textured rock walls and pillars of local timber. You have walked up the quaint hill in the secluded pine forest to get there.
Master potter Anton van der Merwe chose this environment because it embodies all the elements that combine to make up the craft of pottery - the natural beauty and tranquility of Hogsback, the potter's clay nearby, and the forest that provides both shelter and firewood.
Anton is an accomplished and award winning exponent of the "higher levels" of the craft and art of pottery. In addition to the more controlled conditions provided by electric and gas fired kilns, he loves to use the more mystic and difficult technique of wood firing and the even rarer process of reduction fired ceramic art.
In flame firing - for which Anton uses wood from the invasive wattle trees - the potter has to control much more than merely the temperature (which is relatively easy in an electric kiln). Here he has to plan and control many more aspects of the firing process, such as changes to the temperature over the firing period, and the amount of oxygen in the kiln. This is done by carefully controlling the amount of firewood that is fed into the kiln every three minutes over an 18-hour period.
The conditions inside the wood fired kiln combine with carefully selected glazing to produce spectacularly unusual - and often unpredictable - combinations of colour and textures. Wood fired pottery is characterised by the beautiful, warm "flame flashing" as well as luscious copper reds, brilliant cobalt blues, and jade celadons.
Anton feels fortunate to be a potter, producing "works of art that have the joy of use," as he puts it. He produces a full range of ceramics, from miniature ornaments to large stoneware jars for home and garden, including mugs, bowls, plates, vases, flower pots and decorative tiles. His award winning ceramics are on display in Delft, London, and many collections in South Africa.
Anton shares his expertise with others. At present two apprentice potters, Michael Haigh and Luyanda Mafika, are training with him. They learn from him much more than they would in a formal training situation. At the same time, he encourages them to develop their own, unique styles and techniques. Anton has also been instrumental in helping the Ehala Clay Modellers establish a workshop in the village of Auckland at the foot of the Hogsback Pass, enabling them to produce and sell fired clay sculptures.
Anton is also an accomplished painter in watercolour and oil. His paintings can be viewed in his Forest Gallery, near the Starways Pottery.
Starways Pottery, P O Box 43, Hogsback 5721,
Tel/Fax: 045 962 1174 or 045 962 1344; Mobile: 082 953 7840 or 082 928 5770