"Working exclusively with bone china I am intrigued by the interplay of light with my work.
I use a number of surface treatments to enhance the ethereal quality that I am aiming for."

TEACHING

My relationship with clay began over 40 years ago and I have been teaching pottery for almost as long. Knowledge and skills transfer and are what make teaching an important part of my own journey. Read more

WORKSHOPS

I run a numerous workshops covering a wide range of ceramic processes and techniques. If you are interested in any of these please contact me for dates, times and rates etc. Read more

MENTORSHIP

The Mentorship Programme is an opportunity for discussion, assessment and feedback. For many this has been a turning point in their ceramic journey. Intended for anyone wanting to engage with their ceramics in a more adept manner. Read more

ABOUT ME

Born in South Africa in 1948, clay seems to have always played a role in my life, even though I was in my early twenties when the bug first bit. I remember I had been making pots for about a year when I was offered my first exhibition at a local ceramics gallery. The exhibition, by all standards could best be called a moderate success, but it marked the beginning of my life in ceramics.

At that time everything available locally was earthenware and I was seduced by the Anglo-Oriental stoneware glazes which were more often than not, reduction fired. I was determined to achieve these results in my electric kiln, even though I had never made a glaze in my life. Not only did I have to develop my own glazes, but I simultaneously started exploring local reduction. I remember a ‘celadon’ type glaze I produced using coal ash that I used for a number of years. I also made saturated iron glazes that worked well in combination with the ash glaze. In the mid 70’s I recall seeing images of crystalline glazed pieces and I set out to produce these myself. I was determined to use only local materials and I remember I struggled for over a year before I achieved the first results with crystals that were visible to the naked eye. I clearly recall the elation and I went on to produce many crystal glazed pots which I exhibited not only in South Africa, both in Johannesburg and Cape Town, but I was privileged to be asked to hold an exhibition at the South African Embassy in Japan.

Next on my agenda was porcelain, and my aim was to produce a translucent body from the materials available locally. This proved to be quite challenging and I worked for a number of years with a variety of bodies producing less than the desired results.

Early in 2000 I was employed to lecture at the then TWR (now University of Johannesburg) and it was at this time that I enrolled for my B Tech Ceramic Design. This was when my experimentation with bone china began, and I produced a body of extreme whiteness with excellent translucency. My early work in bone china was pierced and sandblasted. On completion of my B Tech, for which I gained a distinction in ceramic practice, I started experimenting with soluble salts. This still occupies me today and it seems that after all the experimentation I am finally making the work I want to be making. I find the soluble salts to be so different to the oxides with which one usually colours ceramics, not only their subtlety but also the way they gently permeate the surface of the work creating a watercolour effect.

Continuing in this vein my fascination with mark making is an avenue which I am always keen to develop and much of my present work is decorated using layering of ceramic pigment and resist techniques.

I have garnered several accolades for my work. Two of the most important of these being; in 2008 I won an award of merit at the Corobrik National Ceramics Biennale held in Johannesburg, South Africa, and had a piece of work selected for the 5th World Ceramic Biennale, in Korea 2009

In 2010 I was accepted as a member of the International Academy of Ceramics, and was also honoured as a Fellow of Ceramics Southern Africa.

My commitment is to the pursuit of excellence in my work, and in this the importance of the journey exceeds that of the destination.

TESTIMONIALS

Where was the turning point with my sculpture work? I can answer this question by thanking John Shirley for the Mentorship Programme I attended. What was a hobby became a full time art. In the programme I was forced to concentrate on how I could fill my needs to make heads that appeal to the viewer. I have learned to value other participant’s views of my work as well as their input.
MONICA VAN DEN BERG

MONICA VAN DEN BERG

Sculptor
I joined John’s programme when I was a little uninspired with the work I was producing and was feeling quite directionless... John helped me to put my ideas into focus, plan what I wanted to achieve and getting me to take the steps to achieving what I had wanted. The encouragement that he offered helped build the confidence that was needed to change direction and try unchartered waters so to speak.
DALE LAMBERT

DALE LAMBERT

Ceramist
John's Mentorship Programme has been a catalyst to starting my small ceramic business. The program offered practical tools which helped give me the confidence to turn my craft into a business. By critically analysing my own work, I was able to clarify a lot of the reasons why I make the work I make. I'd recommend the course to anyone wanting to take their ceramics to the next level.
NICI BROCKWELL

NICI BROCKWELL

Ceramist

CONTACT

I would love to hear from you. Use the form below to contact me.