ANDREW WALFORD has been working in his mountain top studio overlooking the Shongweni dam and game reserve for over 40 years.
Andrew (b.1942) studied at Durban Art School from 1957-59 and then apprenticed with Walsh Marais and Sammy Liebermann until establishing his own studio in Durban in 1961. In 1964 he travelled to Europe, where he met Bernard Leach, Lucie Rie and Michael Cardew. Staying on in Europe, he established a studio in Staufen, Germany in 1965, then taught at the Hamburg Academy of Art from 1966-68. He returned to Africa in 1968 and after travelling in Asia, meeting with Shoji Hamada, he established a new studio in the hills of Shongweni Kwazulu Natal in 1970.
Andrew works in the Japanese tradition inspired by the spectacular indigenous bush surrounding his home and workshop. He follows an inner somewhat Eastern philosophy. He is never separate from trees, birds and all pervading Zulu Culture. Andrew has however always worked inspired by a Japanese ethos both in his meticulous method of working and in his use of minimalist brush strokes. He has recently been described as Natal’s Zulu Zen Potter!
Andrew has been making wall tiles for almost the whole of his 40 years production life but over the years his techniques have changed and style become more refined and varied. His large metre high tiles are made from a paper clay mixture and include shredded paper and porcelain and stoneware clay. They are decorated with gigantic Japanese brushes and often include splodges of indigenous wood ash glaze and evanescent celadons or Chinese Chuns which change with variations in light and season, echoing the ever changing light on the sandstone krantzes, and fields of burnt sugar cane surrounding his workplace. The natural colours on the pots are reminiscent of reflecting afternoon sun and shadows on the massive cliffs rising steeply next to his home where black eagles and trumpeter hornbills live in a completely unspoilt environment.
Andrew digs his own stoneware clay high up on a wild windswept ridge in the Drakensberg and meticulously prepares it by hand to his own requirements. Water used is from a spring near his home and many of the glazes are from ash from the burnt grasses. His enormous oil burning kiln takes 24 hours to fire and reaches a white heat of 1380 degrees C. It is a reduction atmosphere which needs constant attention during that period to starve the atmosphere of oxygen and at the same time keep the heat rising gradually.The length of flame is critical and the amount of smoke can change in seconds from a wisp to a black cloud when not controlled. It then takes 3 days to cool before he gingerly starts to take the first brick out of the door to see the results of two months work. Andrew holds regular open days at his home and studio and is now holding exhibitions in a similar casual atmosphere in other parts of South Africa.