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Materials we use on Products

Each piece of Ardmore Ceramics begins as earthenware clay from a quarry beneath the ancient soils of Gauteng, South Africa.

The paints used are specialist underglazed paints, chosen for the way the kiln-firing process brings out their vividness and vibrancy.

For our Ardmore Design fabrics, we carefully choose velvets, silks and cottons for their “handle” – that is, the way they feel – and also for their ability to bear our beautiful, bold and bright colourways.

Producing Ardmore Ceramics

Each piece is the work of at least two and often three members of the Ardmore Studio – artists and sculptors who have worked closely together for years and developed an instinctive understanding of each other’s creative vision.

At Ardmore, we use a three-kiln firing process to achieve the characteristic look and feel of each piece. Our approach blends ancient wisdom with modern innovations – the product of our passion for, and curiosity about, the alchemy of fire, clay and paint.

The first person to work on your new Ardmore piece is the “thrower” – a curiously violent-sounding name for a particularly skilled profession. It is the thrower who creates the basic shape of, for example, the vase through the interaction of their fingers with the wet clay.

The sculptor then adds the details of beaks, trunks and tails – that is, the parts of the vase that extend beyond its conventional baseline shape.

Once all the details have been added – using a set of increasingly precise tools – there follows the crucial process of air drying. This can take anything from a few days to several weeks, depending on the size of the piece, and must be very thorough to avoid the risk of cracking in the future.

By placing pieces outside in the African sun, and around our kilns, we are able to gently yet effectively prepare them for their own journey into the fire.  

First Kiln

In the first kiln, the ceramic pieces are fired at around 1 000°C (around 1 830°F). This creates the all-important “bisque” effect – the transformation from the original grey colour to a white, shell-like surface.

Painting

Once the vase has cooled, it is ready to be painted, and the Ardmore artist chosen to work on the piece prepares their brushes and palette. Deft strokes create light and shadow, and bring fur, feathers and scales to life. Additional details are added using small blades or nails. The more intricate the design, the longer the painting process takes – as with any masterpiece, this is not something that can be rushed.

Watching the Ardmore artists at work is one of life’s joys – they seem to enter a state of flow where creation comes effortlessly, and they become one with their creations.

Second Kiln

The “warming fire” that sets the underglazed paints onto the surface of the vase. Once cooled, the vase is dipped in a bath of white liquid glaze to enhance the paint colours. The glaze can either be applied to the entire piece, or selectively to produce contrasting glazed and unglazed areas. The glazing process also renders each piece waterproof.

Third Kiln

The glazed vase is fired again, this time to a temperature of around 1 100°C (around 2 000°F) – the hottest of the three firings.

The finished vase is then allowed to cool before being displayed in our Midlands or Johannesburg stores, or shipped to one of our fans around the world.

Ardmore Design

We often take inspiration from our Ardmore Ceramics pieces, with animals and foliage being hand-drawn on art paper. These drawings are then scanned into our graphic design software so that they can be manipulated to create repeating patterns to be printed on fabric. This also allows us to add colour and emphasis.

The genius of the specialist software we use is that it retains the authentic hand-drawn feel of each element of the design – this is art by artists, not computers.

Once each design and colourway has been finalised, it is married to a series of fabric prototypes until the perfect match of look and feel is found. Our founder and creative director, Fée Halsted, personally approves each fabric before we proceed to print the rolls of fabric and then subject them to the CMT (cut, make, trim) process.

This is when local artisans and seamstresses work with the printed silks, velvets and cottons to create Ardmore Design items to beautify and distinguish your home.