Ceramicist shapes old Cape heritage into new art

Since opening his design studio and shop, Chandler House, in Cape Town’s city centre in 2012, Michael Chandler’s ceramic pieces have attracted attention thanks to their historical references and quirky aesthetic. Underpinning it all is his interest in the Cape’s unique craft and design heritage and traditional decorative arts. He tells us more about his Cape-inspired craft.

I’d describe my work as carefully considered, made with different materials…to produce pieces that have a lyrical or whimsical appeal – or pieces that evoke our Cape design heritage in new ways.

My design and creative process really depends on each piece. Usually an idea strikes me at the most bizarre hour, and if I can, I write it down in one of my notebooks as I imagine it. I then go over a few scribbled versions of it until I’m happy with the final design and then I work with some of our talented Cape craftspeople to bring it to life. Sometimes it comes out just the way I had imagined and sometimes even better. I love working with other people – collaboration is very underrated.

I was really honoured to be featured in the book Craft Art in South Africa by Elbe Coetzee, as well as having three works of mine included in an exhibition at the South African National Gallery curated by Carol Kaufmann. I’m really excited to see that my interest in blue and white ceramics and its connection to the Cape is not just shared by others, but also being introduced to new audiences.

My shop-cum-studio-cum-gallery is located in a beautiful 18th-century Cape Georgian heritage townhouse in Cape Town’s city centre. It is positioned in Church Street, a one-way street of galleries, cafés, an auction house, jewellers, architects, design stores and more, so it’s very inspiring to be in this little hub of creativity. I enjoy bumping into all these people and sharing ideas and experiences as we go about our lives in the street.

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