Tuesday, 26 January 2010

David Walters, master potter of Franschhoek

I consider myself lucky to be the niece of one of South Africa's preeminent master potters, David Walters. Not only is he a good uncle (and good uncles, like Proper Aunts, are important) but he is also a designer-craftsman of astonishing skill.

In his studio in Franschhoek, Dave produces wheel-thrown porcelain, specialising in smoke-fired ceramics and fine dinnerware.

In recent years, he's become all the rage among local restaurateurs who've commissioned him to make bespoke pieces - designed in consultation with the chefs - to showcase the fine cuisine for which Franschhoek has become so famous.  Among the award-winning restaurants David's designed dinnerware for are Reuben's, Rust en Vrede and Le Quartier Fran├žais.

David Walters
Dave invited me to a raku workshop the Sunday before last, and while we were waiting for the kiln to heat, he demonstrated his throwing techniques.

I've watched him do this dozens of times over the years, but once again was entranced watching a lump of characterless porcelain clay beneath the hands of a master craftsman: rippling and swelling like a living substance and then transmuting, in a matter of minutes, into a practical, long-lasting work of art.

Here's a video I took of Dave throwing a beautiful salad bowl > http://youtu.be/3s-7KRgpYVo 

As David pointed out in his speech, the act of making a clay vessel is one of the oldest human technologies, and I was fascinated to think that his extraordinary skills were built upon techniques stretching back in an unbroken line through the millennia.

On the same day, David presented me with the salad platter I commissioned last year (see below). Isn't it beautiful? I had asked him to put the words 'Eat up your greens' on the perimeter of the platter, but he went further and added this delicate leaf detailing, which is achieved by painting on the surface of the clay with wax, and then, when the wax has dried, rubbing away at the unmasked areas.

At the same time, I raided his shelves and borrowed a pile of plates and bowls which I'll be using in the future for the photographs on this blog.

David Walters Platter
This beautiful salad platter by David Walters.  The salad consists of sliced roasted fillet,
boiled baby potatoes, lettuce and feta, with a light lemon-garlic vinaigrette.

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5 comments:

MzHartz said...

There must be something about uncles named David that make them great. Here's some of my Uncle David's work: http://www.artscuttlebutt.com/user/gloriousmane/gallery

Jeanne said...

Oh WOW!! I am totally in love with that salad bowl, as well as the bowl with the gold interior at the top of the post! Going to check out his site now... I am a sucker for fabulous pottery.

Nina Timm said...

How lucky are you to have access to these beautiful pottery!! Great looking salad!!!

Lilian said...

We have been collecting David's works...well for a very long time!!He just gets better and better!Must be that Leo Enthusiasm!!

Annette Herholdt said...

I bought one of your Uncle David's bowls several years ago, and carried the precious pale duck-egg blue object in my hand luggage on the way home to France. It still continues to delight and pleasure us, and I often dream of going back for more one day soon!