Ceramic Studio - Stylistic influences


If any one person had a profound and lasting influence on all those involved at the Ceramic Studio it was John Adams, a ceramicist, who became Headmaster of the Durban School of Art in 1915. He abandoned the traditional Victorian style of tuition which had involved the copying of "old masters" from postcard reproductions. He insisted on drawing from life as the foundation for all techniques, and broadened the syllabus to include a wide range of subjects other than painting- sculpture, stained glass, lace making, embroidery and, in particular, pottery. His zest and energy inspired intense loyalty amongst his pupils. As far as pottery was concerned, they inherited his love of architectural faience, pictorial oxide painting and lustrous, colourful glazes. He pioneered clay research in Natal, experimenting with numerous samples, preferring a deep terracotta which he used for all his work in South Africa. His memorial at St Mary's Greyville was probably the first so-called Della Robbia work produced in South Africa and was designed in collaboration with AR Martin and OJP Oxley, both lecturers at the Durban School of Art. After leaving South Africa in 1921 he joined Harold and Phoebe Stabler at Poole's Potteries which then became Carter, Stabler & Adams Ltd. Various former students who went to Britain to study visited him at Poole's where he was involved with the making of the Durban War Memorial. Mary Stainbank, amongst others, was shown this highly ambitious and very controversial sculpture while it was under construction.

[Extracted, edited and expanded from Dr Melanie Hillebrand. 1991. The Woman of Olifantsfontein – South African Studio Ceramics. Cape Town: South African National Gallery. pp 6-7]