Ardmore Ceramic Art was established by Fée Halsted on Ardmore Farm in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains of KwaZulu-Natal, where she lived after obtaining her BA (Fine Arts) Honours degree and lecturing at Natal Technikon. Here she met Bonnie Ntshalintshali, daughter of their housekeeper, whose polio meant that she was unable to work in the fields.
Fée and Bonnie quickly developed a synergy and under Fée's mentorship, Bonnie's natural skills as an artist blossomed. Five years later, in 1990, Fée and Bonnie were jointly awarded the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award, the first such artistic partnership to be recognised. With this success came the demands of creating ceramics for their exhibition, so Fée offered other local women the opportunity to train at Ardmore, producing pieces to generate income for the fledgling studio. Fèe, through necessity, developed the exuberant exotic style that has made Ardmore Ceramics famous.
Ardmore Ceramics work broke from the ceramic conventions of the time: fired terracotta clay was painted with plaka paints, boot polish and oven blackeners. Glues and putty were also used. Later American Amaco paints and transparent glazes brought vibrant colour and fine painting style to the ceramics.
In 1996, Fée and her family moved to Springvale Farm in Rosetta in the KZN Midlands, allowing the artists at the Berg Studio in the Champagne Valley to explore their independence. At Springvale she established a smaller studio and gallery, and in 2003, the Bonnie Ntshalintshali Museum was created to honour Fée's co-artist and friend after her tragic death from HIV/AIDS in 1999.
A few years later, Fée and her family moved to the Caversham Valley, relocating the studio and museum and building a spacious gallery and offices. This created a unique home for Ardmore and in 2009 she amalgamated the Berg and Rosetta studios here.
African creativity, which is filled with passion, is bringing a new meaning and relevance into the lives of people of the western world who, all too often, have little time to pause and celebrate the beauty of nature. Ardmore is about life. It is colour, humour and the unexpected. Magical little elephants wear cloaks of flowers, spots and stripes, and leopards are frozen in the moment before they catch their prey. Colourful, imaginative, vibrant, delicate and dramatic - these are just some of the hallmarks of the artworks that have garnered international awards.
Ardmore is not just about ceramics. It is about the artists. Exquisitely handcrafted and highly detailed figurative works and functional ware are created by more than fifty artists who draw on Zulu traditions and folklore, history, the natural world and their own lives for inspiration. Each has been inspired by the creativity of those who have gone before and, in turn, pass their knowledge on to others. Most of all, the artists have been encouraged and exhilarated by those who applaud their work. Working in the true spirit of 'Ubuntu' - we are because of others.
In turn, it is the lives of the ceramic sculptors and painters of Ardmore that fire the vision of the woman behind it all: FéeHalsted is an artist whose love of teaching and determination to fight poverty and HIV/AIDS have set others on the path of creative self-discovery and ultimately worldwide acclaim.
Ardmore's 25th anniversary in 2010 saw the launch of Ardmore Design Collection, which translated Ardmore's distinctive imagery and styling into functional, superb quality ceramic and non-ceramic products including dinnerware, tapestries, furniture, fabrics for soft furnishings, and more. This new venture was made possible through a generous grant in late 2009 by the Business Trust's Shared Growth Challenge Fund.
The artists from the Ardmore studio are given training, direction, materials, a studio and a guaranteed market for their work, supported by a skilled marketing and administrative team. Over the years, Ardmore's artists have won numerous awards and exhibited widely in South Africa and around the world. Ardmore artworks feature in leading galleries and collections, including the Museum of Art & Design in New York, the Museum of Cultures in Basel, Switzerland, and the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The acclaimed auction house Christie's has acknowledged Ardmore artworks as "modern day collectibles".
Ardmore ceramics can be found in several major public and private collections and museums worldwide and have also been given as state gifts to visiting dignitaries and heads of state, among them Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac, Queen Elizabeth II and Empress Michiko of Japan.
Museum of Arts and Design, New York
American Folk Art Museum, New York
Ford Foundation, New York
Wiener Museum of Decorative Arts, Florida
Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Switzerland
Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg
Durban Art Gallery
Carnegie Art Gallery, Newcastle
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Pretoria Art Museum
Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg
ABSA Art Gallery, Johannesburg (Including the Volkskas Bank Collection)
Telkom Art Gallery, Johannesburg
Coca Cola South Africa Art Collection, Johannesburg
South African National Gallery, Cape Town
Webber Wentzel Collection, Cape Town
King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth
William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley
Fine Art Portfolio and its galleries, The South African Art Collection at the Clock Tower, V&A Waterfront Cape Town, and The Vineyard Gallery in Franschhoek, Cape Winelands, is proud to be one of the single largest representatives of the Ardmore Ceramics Collection. Both of these art galleries host permanent exhibitions of ceramic artworks for sale, In addition, the full collection is available to view and buy online via Fine Art Portfolio's website. Their collection is ever-growing as new works are added constantly, keeping the exhibitions fresh and interesting.
Each ceramic masterpiece is signed by the two artists that create the artwork - the sculptor and the painter. Furthermore each Ardmore Ceramic purchased from Fine Art Portfolio is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity and value, for your insurance purposes. Professional custom packaging and crating, together with worldwide courier delivery ensures your chosen Ardmore Ceramic reaches your home or office safely and securely.