Ardmore’s story began with one woman’s journey from her birthplace in Bulawayo, modern-day Zimbabwe to KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. Not only did Fée Halsted acquire unique skills as a ceramicist, but she also discovered that she had an aptitude for finding and nurturing talent in others.
The name Ardmore comes from the first farm that Fée lived on in the Champagne Valley in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg.
Fée’s first student was Bonnie Ntshalintshali, the daughter of a farm employee. Bonnie had survived polio as a child – a condition that had left her too weak to undertake physical farm work, but which had done nothing to stunt her imagination or artistic talent.
Bonnie’s natural aptitude for ceramic art soon encouraged other members of her family to ask Fée to teach them the secrets of the studio. These farmworkers – people with a deeply rooted sense of place, and a real affinity for the landscapes and creatures of Africa – became the nucleus of South Africa’s largest and most renowned ceramics studio.
Bonnie and Fée ran the studio more as partners than as an artist and her apprentice. After her life was tragically cut short, Fée established the Bonnie Ntshalintshali Museum in her memory – the first museum in South Africa to bear the name of a black female artist.
Fée has been described as ‘a creator of artists’, and she ranks her success in empowering local artisans to share their unique takes on nature, Zulu folklore and traditions as her greatest achievement.
Under Fée’s tuition, a talented group of sculptors and painters has emerged, and coalesced around a fusion of Western ceramic techniques, the wonderful Zulu sense of colour and rhythm and their gift for design and balance.
Ardmore has given local artists the opportunity they needed to create artworks based on meanings within the context of their culture, and which have become much sought-after ‘modern collectibles’.