From bare earth to art: my culture inspires my creative process

When Andile Dyalvane and his business partner Zizipho Poswa founded Imiso Ceramics in 2006, little did they know that within a decade his decorative, clay artworks would be featured at prestigious design and art exhibits around the world as part of the Southern Guild showcase, or as part of the Iziko National Ceramic Museum’s Collection. He sheds some light on his creative process in the decorative arts and ceramic making as one of Cape Town’s heavyweight designers.

In ceramics, as in most practical crafts with manual handwork, undertakings begin with seeing. Visual influences while growing up in the rural Eastern Cape, in a family that practices the traditions of Xhosa culture — herding livestock as well as having Anglican religious affiliations — my boyhood days were filled with playing between clay ravines and carving hiding places through the valleys. Clay, which is my primary material for artistic expression, was readily available and making cattle figurines to play with was a common activity for us kids of Ngobozana village. My craft therefore is one that captures the layers of my life experiences and heritage.

The concepts for my designs always have roots in the environments that I experience, whether from my traditional Xhosa background, urban studio workspace and surrounds, artist residencies, travel and my days as a student. My ideas for my ceramic designs are inspired by Africa and her artefacts, just as my favourite artistic icon, Pablo Picasso, was.

I visualise and sketch and from that apply various techniques to the clay such as coiling, throwing, press-moulding and slip-casting to create a variety of shapes and surfaces. From this technique I’ve created three collections at my and Zizipho Poswa’s Imiso Gallery, namely Views From the Studio, Africasso and Scarified.

Imiso Ceramics’ workshop and gallery is based at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, where a saturation of designers and crafters have their studios in nifty spaces. It’s an area of yuppie street smarts and underdog hustles, old industry and decay, as well as trains clucking through the concrete and metal of warehouses, not to mention cafés that serve the best coffee. The Neigbourgoods Market is buzzing at the Old Biscuit Mill on Saturday mornings, where artisans spread their goods carefully on innovative displays, adding another layer to this dynamic neighbourhood.

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