Artists, Interview, Online

Interview with Charmaine Haines

What is your earliest recollection of clay?

The Grahamstown Pottery, later known as Drosdty used to be across the road from my grandparents. As a child, I remember looking down into the pottery through these windows that were below street level. There would be these light bulbs burning inside moulds to dry out the slipware. I went to the convent there and the nuns would often take us on walks past these kaolin clay deposits up on the hillside. We would often scoop some up and take it back with us to model something on our return. I recognised then that this was no ordinary ground but that it was a special material with interesting properties. Today, fifty years later I am using this very same white kaolin to slip cast my ceramic pieces.

Who has been your biggest influence?            

I was extremely fortunate to study under the renowned ceramic artist Hylton Nel. Besides the focus on ceramics he instilled in me an appreciation for objects from a bygone era encouraging me to start my own collections of objet d’art even if it meant skipping a lecture to attend an auction which was the case when I was after my first Clarice Cliff bowl. This clearly ignited my interest in and ongoing fascination for Ancient Cultures, African Artifacts and Medieval Iconic Art which embodies a broad interest in the history of art and craft from ancient to industrial times.

How did you arrive at the current style that you are becoming well known for?

Ceramics is such a broad field. There are so many options of different clays, techniques, and surface finishes. All of which involve many processes and steps where in turn many things can go wrong.

Over time one eliminates certain materials and techniques more so these days where perhaps high temperatures are required given the situation of electricity in our country. I am fortunate that the white clay body I have chosen because it shows up the colours that I use is also easily recycled which saves time and fires at a lower temperature.

How have your ceramic sculptures changed over time?

Yes, they have but one often finds yourself returning to previous forms but with a new approach.

A new environment can influence the surface, but the underlying form has similar bones. I do like to work with multiples of the same form and make a series of the same shapes but varying the surface decoration. In this way one can focus just on the surface and not have to solve the form itself as it is a familiar one. It is like taking a sketchbook and drawing on the blank pages, all the same size and format that one doesn’t have to think about.

The natural Karoo environment plays an integral part in my day to day source of inspiration. It continues to be a place of extremes where the weather has a major influence creating an awareness of both life and death where small things matter.

I am surrounded by the evidence that the Karoo was once an ancient sea. Fish and birds have always been part of my iconography. Together with my portraits, they have become autobiographical design elements that repeat themselves throughout my work adding both a narrative and mythical presence to the forms.

Has COVID 19 and Lockdown impacted you, and your artwork?

Living where I do in the middle of the Karoo, I would say I have been working in isolation for the past twenty years. I would not say COVID has impacted on my artwork directly, but it has clarified what I would like to focus on in the future moving forward.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

In 2010 I was made a Fellow of the Ceramics Southern Africa Association in recognition of my contribution to Ceramics in South Africa.

In what countries, can we find your artworks?

Africa, Europe, and the US

Totem Figure with Fish Vessel

Abstract Portrait Fluted Neck Vessel

Abstract Portrait with Bird Vessel

Sounds in Solitude runs until 30 September 2020. is situated at Stanley Studios, in the creative hub of Milpark, Johannesburg. We are open Mondays 9am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 4pm. Why not pop in and have a look at the exhibition?

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