Ardmore Ceramics

Esteemed passengers will disembark Rovos Rail’s luxury train accommodation at the foothill of the dramatic Drakensberg Mountain; this is where they will pay a visit to the famous Ardmore Ceramics Gallery and learn about the inspiration behind the world-famous ceramic collection.   

The story of Ardmore Ceramics began in 1985 when Fee Halstead-Berning lived on Ardmore Farm in the Champagne Valley. Sheltered under the shade of the majestic Drakensberg Mountains, this quaint farm provided a tranquil haven for Fee Halstead-Berning to continue making art – in this case, exquisite ceramic designs evolved from her Fine Art degree and two-year Advanced Diploma in Ceramics.

Once she realised her calling, Fee decided to find herself an assistant. This deciding moment in her career arrived in the form of Bonnie Ntshalintshali, a keen student who had suffered physical ailments from polio, but showed a natural and unique aptitude for ceramic art. By 1990, Fee and Bonnie had jointly been awarded the Standard Bank Young Artists Award and their work rapidly began to transcend borders, appearing in galleries internationally and attracting the undivided attention of the fickle art world.

When browsing the gallery, passengers aboard the African rail tour will catch a glimpse into Fee’s vibrant world. Both Fee and Bonnie’s expert crafts broke from traditional ceramic conventions; never before had fired terracotta clay been painted with plaka paints, boot polish and oven blackeners. Later, the talented team brought in American Amaco paints and transparent glazes which encouraged exuberant colour usage and intricate painted designs to their art.

The fantasy and sheer fun of the ceramic pieces helped the girls’ popularity soar and the word began to spread that there was a lot to learn from Fee and Bonnie. Soon, Ardmore Ceramics had aspiring artists from far and wide arriving in the foothills of the Drakensberg to learn and develop their own style of sculpture and painting.

Today, Ardmore Ceramics tells a story that goes far deeper than simple ceramics; rather, it has become a story about the Zulu people, whose sense of rhythm, colour, dance, song and imagination exerts its influence through art. The fine integration of traditional cultural skills coupled with western technology has earned Ardmore Ceramics places in galleries and auction houses all over the world, coining the name ‘modern collectables’.