The Story of Ardmore

IT BEGINS...

1985

The Ardmore studio is founded in 1985 by Zimbabwean-born ceramic artist, Fée Halsted. It is started on the Ardmore farm, at the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains.

BONNIE JOINS ARDMORE...

1985

Later that same year, Bonakele (Bonnie) Ntshalintshali, who was born on the farm and 18 years old at the time, begins a ceramics apprenticeship under Fée. “Ardmore became a success because of Bonnie’s craftsmanship, skill and meticulous attention to detail.” – Fée Halsted. Ardmore also exhibits at the Cape Town Triennial.

AWARDS AND RECOGNITION...

1988

Bonnie receives the Corobrik National Ceramic Arts Award. The detail of Bonnie’s Lobolo tableau illustrates the captivating naivety of her art. The work is now in the collection of the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg.

PACKING A PUNCH...

1989

Two sisters, Punch and Mavis Shabalala, join a growing Ardmore team. Each develops a unique painterly style. Plate, 1990, was sculpted by Mavis Shabalala and painted by Punch Shabalala. Artist Phumelele Nene tragically dies of AIDS, becoming the first of many Ardmore family members who would succumb to the disease.

JOSEPHINE JOINS ARDMORE...

1990

In 1990, Fée and Bonnie jointly win the Standard Bank Young Artist Award, an incredible achievement for both artists. Josephine Ghesa also joins Ardmore. Unique and haunting, Ghesa’s work is described by Chicago University Dean Carol Bekker as “some of the strongest work I’ve seen”. Self portrait, 1990, is sculpted after her arrival at Ardmore, with her baby tied to her back in traditional style.

CHARLES GREIG JEWELLERS...

1991

In 1991, Bonnie's work is selected for Aperto Venice Biennale. Charles Greig Jewellers also begin purchasing Ardmore in the early 1990s and have been great supporters of our work ever since. The first display of Ardmore ceramics in the jeweller’s upmarket stores appears in 1991. Since then, Charles Greig and Ardmore have collaborated on many other events.

THE ARDMORE TEAM...

1992

By 1992, the Ardmore team includes (back, from left) Nhlanhla Nsundwane, Phineas Mweli, Beatrice Nyembe, Paulina Hadebe, and (front, from left) Mavis Shabalala, Matrinah Nsundwane, and Josephine Ghesa.

THE SEFAKO MAKGATHO EVENT...

1997

Organised by Eleanor Kasrils, Ardmore presents a 400-piece event at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria. Opened by South Africa’s first lady, Ms. Zanele Mbeki, the event is sold out.

ESTABLISHING THE ARDMORE EXCELLENCE FUND...

1999

Bonnie Ntshalintshali, Agnes Ndlovu, Phineas Mweli and other artists die of AIDS-related illnesses. The virus would claim the lives of scores more artists over the next two decades. Ardmore establishes the Ardmore Excellence Fund which provides ARV medication to AIDS sufferers, assist artists with medical expenses, education, funeral costs, basic nutrition and cares for orphans whose parents died of AIDS.

STEADILY EVOLVING...

2000

Ardmore continues to evolve, producing more bold, vibrant and engaging designs such as the Zebra soup tureen and ladle sculpted by Beauty Ntshalintshali and painted by Mavis Shabalala.

THE ZULU HISTORY COLLECTION...

2001

Ardmore creates a collection on Zulu history and culture, focusing on the Anglo-Zulu war and influence of the French military in Zululand in the late 19th century.

A GROWING TEAM OF ARTISTS...

2004

The Ardmore team continues to grow, and now employs close to 70 artists. More men joined Ardmore as they begin to realise they could return to the countryside and earn as much as women artists do. This fosters a creative and energetic spirit which places Zulu women and men on equal footing. The Men event is hosted at Gallery on the Square and is a wild success. The Insect Teapot is sculpted by Sfiso Mvelase and painted by Zinhle Nene. Christie’s hosts landmark auctions of Ardmore ceramics in London, describing them as “modern collectibles”.

ARDMORE'S NEW HOME...

2005

Ardmore moves its studio from Champagne to Caversham in the Natal Midlands, with new stables, ceramic workshops and a gallery building, which houses the Bonnie Ntshalintshali Museum.

CONTINUED EXHIBITIONS...

2008

A landmark occasion for Ardmore, as Eleanor Kasrils arranges for a large exhibition of Ardmore work to be held at Groote Schuur, the historic home of Cecil John Rhodes. The 400 piece event, opened by Dr Lindiwe Mabuza, is a stunning success. The Bonnie Ntshalintshali Museum also reopens in 2008. Each artist is commissioned to produce a replica of a work made by Bonnie, or to create a new piece inspired by her creativity. One of Ardmore’s most celebrated artists, Wonderboy Nxumalo, dies of an AIDS-related illness. He used the monkey as a metaphor to illustrate his message in the AIDS-awareness works he created from 2000 until his death in 2008. His works continue to be exhibited at museums and galleries across the world.

EXPANDING HORIZONS...

2010

Fée is honoured by Philadelphia-based Women’s Campaign International for the difference Ardmore’s work has made in the lives of rural women in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Ardmore launches its experimental design collection, a range of luxury lifestyle items including the Qalakabusha sofa. This new venture is made possible through a generous grant by the Business Trust’s Shared Growth Challenge Fund, and has since grown into a separate business. Ardmore also exhibits at the Sculpture Objects & Function Art (SOFA) fair in New York and Chicago, and the Global Africa Project event at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.

COLLABORATING WITH PATRICK MAVROS...

2012

Ardmore has an incredibly busy year, introducing the Ardmore Aviary at Cellars Hohenort. Ardmore also begins a collaboration with Patrick Mavros, the highly regarded Zimbabwean silversmith, and Fée's brother-in-law. The Patrick Mavros flagship store in London hosts an Ardmore event in May every year, helping to bring Ardmore to a new international audience. Later in the year, they show The Grand Carnival at Charles Greig, The Mauritius Forbes Mavros Ardmore Show in Terre Rouge, and Endangered Species at Patrick Mavros London. Ardmore also celebrates 25 years with the book, Ardmore: We Are Because of Others. The first fabric designs are launched with Mavromac.

LAUNCHING ARDMORE DESIGN...

2013

Ardmore launches its new design company, Ardmore Design, that translates the bold Ardmore Ceramics designs onto fabrics, furniture and homeware. Ardmore exhibits “Back To Earth” at the Gerisch museum in Hamburg, Germany. 2013 is once again filled with wonderful exhibitions all over the world: Monkeys and Magnolias in London at Patrick Mavros, Crocodiles and Curiosities at Charles Greig, Hyde Park to Terre Rouge les journées de la céramique Paris. Ardmore also shows their bold artworks at NAADA faire and Cora Sheibani, London. Ardmore artists also create powerful artworks for The COP-17 Exhibit at William Humphreys Gallery in Kimberley, a powerful comment on the positive and negative forces in South Africa.

EXHIBITIONS AND HONOURS...

2014

Ardmore continues on its incredible momentum from 2013 and takes its Great Herds exhibit to Cellars Hohenort, and then on to Nairobi, Kenya and later London. Ardmore Design shows at 100% Design and Design Indaba. The Birds of Africa exhibition is a riot of colour. Fée also receives her honorary doctorate from UKZN in Fine Art. This is an incredible honour and well deserved for someone who has dedicated her life to her art and her community. The Animal Botanicals show in London is a fantastically whimsical take on Africa’s Fauna and Flora. The Vienna Art Show featuring South African Art showcases Ardmore as part of their exhibit. Ardmore then goes on the road and shows the Christmas Exhibit in Zimbabwe.

30 YEARS OF ARDMORE...

2015

Ardmore celebrates its 30th anniversary by hosting a series of events in South Africa and abroad. The Animals and Botanicals exhibition is a fantastic celebration of South Africa's Fauna and Flora at Cellars. Our themed exhibition, Parrots and Pomegranates, exhibits at Christopher Greig, Hyde Park, Johannesburg.

FASHION WITH HERMÉS...

2016

In February, at Cellars Cape Town, the Kalahari Cats exhibition enthralls the Cape visitors. It is an iconic year, with the collaboration with Parisian fashion house, Hermés, resulting in the launch of two scarves, La Marche du Zambeze and Savanna Dance. The Great Zambezi Exhibition at Mavros London is followed by Fée winning the Mbokodo Award for her contribution to art in South Africa.

NEW FRONTIERS...

2017

2017 sees the first ever Cole and Son collaboration with Ardmore in creating its wallpaper collection, which is launched at Cellars Cape Town, and later in London, at Mavros with the Savuti Dance Exhibition. The O'kavango Exhibition also launches at Christopher Greig, Hyde Park.

CELEBRATING FÉE...

2018

Ardmore launches the Voyage of Discovery exhibition in celebration of Fée Halsted reaching her 60th year. It is celebrated with hot air balloons and discovering new corners of Africa. This exhibition travels to Mavros London and Charles Greig, Hyde Park, Johannesburg.

EXHIBITING GLOBALLY ONCE MORE...

2019

In 2019, Ardmore reaches new heights with the Pride of Africa Exhibition which travels from Cape Town to the flagship store of the Mavros Family, in Fulham Road, London. The Kingdoms of Africa exhibit also brings a golden touch to Charles Greig, Hyde Park, Johannesburg.

NEW CREATIVE HEIGHTS...

2020

Ardmore launches the Sabie Fabric Range that Fée conceptualises while in the Sabie region of the Kruger National Park. The COVID-19 lockdown months result in some of the most exquisite artworks the Ardmore artists have ever produced. Their masterpieces demonstrate how, even through the toughest times, positive creative energy and hope prevails.