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THE ART OF

ANTON VAN DER MERWE

STARWAYS POTTERY  |  HOGSBACK, SOUTH AFRICA

" Our gold is not the common gold!” This is the cry of yesterday’s alchemist heard today by fire potters and other artists of precious artifacts made from base material. Around this planet, mud and stone have been transformed for many ages, by potters and artists, into works of art by management of materials and the fire. “Nostrum aurum non aurum vulgaris est!” is the working principle of the alchemist of then and now who seeks to find the spirit in the material.

In 1976 Anton walked up a forested path in the mountains of Cape Town. There he found Hyme Rabinowitz and Esias Bosch giving a workshop to members of the then Potters Association of the Cape. The wonderful way in which these men related to each other as craftsmen, related to the clay, the fire and the curious people this went in deep and Anton decided to make pots professionally.

In 1977 Anton built his first woodburning Raku kiln and with the help of enthusiastic students started the journey into the Romance of the Fire.

Potters Hyme Rabinowitz and Esias Bosch passed on to Anton and many others their own influence from the European Crafts Revival as well as deep influence from the Japanese Mingei Tradition through potters like Bernard Leach, pioneer potter Michael Cardew and Soji Hamada. Hyme Rabinowitz continues to mentor a generation of potters in South Africa today including Anton.

During a self-imposed apprenticeship, Anton related to other South African pottery and fire enthusiasts namely Bruce Walford, Steve Shapiro, Barbara Robinson, Paul Pepworth and Craig Leslie and they profusely and generously helped Anton.

Anton started a private teaching practice in Cape Town teaching pottery, painting and sculpture in the evenings to adults as well as teenagers and primary school learners. At times this school had a total enrolment of forty-five to fifty adults and fifteen children. This lasted for ten years and produced five full time professional potters and ceramic sculptors.

Anton walked up another wooded path in 1992 in Hogback Eastern Cape. Gwyneth Anton’s helpmeet and wife was born in Alice, Eastern Cape. On holiday and on quest to find the right environment for woodburning they ended up in the magical forests of Hogback Eastern Cape. The property Starways was purchased that afternoon.

In 1996 Hyme sent Anton the plans of a kiln designed by Joe Finch, the plans of which were kindly published by Joe in British Ceramics Review magazine of that year. Starways Pottery begins to produce high-fired woodburnt stoneware pots in 1996.

Art Motivation

Anton started painting in his teens and was privileged to attend Pretoria Boys High School where he received further tuition in the art of watercolour and History of Art. At age sixteen was locked into a tool shed with some oil paints during a wild holiday in the bushveld town of Tzaneen in the Northern Province of South Africa.

Anton’s Aunt, Liz Gerber, who had been taught by an English lady, Mrs.Mary Stillwell, who painted lions roaring at the sea and other Victorian Romantic images of the time, turned the key of the shed. A page of a calendar of prints of paintings by Tinus de Jongh was ripped off and he was told to ‘do’ it. After being showed how to mix the paints, turpentine, linseed oil and how to begin to lay the paint down, Aunty Liz locked the door behind her.

Before he knew it, it was lunchtime. Since being let out of the tool shed Anton has continued to paint.

Anton now has pottery and paintings in major collections around the world and has exhibited in London, The Netherlands, Kyoto and Italy. He now regularly sells and ships artworks from his Hogsback studio to anywhere required by clients.

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Relevant keywords for this website which may not appear in the text above include South Africa artist, art pottery, watercolor artist and unique stoneware. Anton, in his ceramic studio, is also involved in Raku firing and contemporary ceramics glazes, and he produces collectors items which are an inspiration to art potters everywhere.

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