Internationally acclaimed Potter Andrew Walford has been working in his mountain top studio overlooking the Shongweni dam and game reserve for nearly 40 years. He arrived in Africa in a wooden airplane in 1947 and except for a brief stay lecturing at the art school in Hamburg Germany in the Sixties he has been working and dreaming in the paradisical green hills of Kwazulu Natal.
Andrew has been making wall tiles for almost the whole of his 40 years production life but over the years his techniques have changed and style become more refined and varied His large metre high tiles are made from a paper clay mixture and include shredded paper and porcelain and stoneware clay They are decorated with gigantic Japanese brushes and often include splodges of indigenous wood ash glaze and evanescent celadons or Chinese Chuns which change with variations in light and season, echoing the ever changing light on the sandstone krantzes and fields of burnt sugar cane surrounding his workplace. The natural colours on the pots are reminiscent of reflecting afternoon sun and shadows on the cliffs rising steeply next to his home.
The tiles range in size from small detailed 75cm squares through 120 x80cm to the real jumbo tiles 1mx80cms. Another style is very visible at the I.C.C. in Durban.They are inspired by “Isikothi” ,the traditional Zulu beaded wedding cape. They comprise layers of stoneware and porcelain and pressed coloured clays, and are embellished with Zulu beadwork .The small tiles have a special use as a skirting embellishment or set in the floor as threshold detail as splashbacks in kitchens and bathrooms or as a support to the ever popular hand thrown handbasins . These can be made to any size and can stand on or be set in to any working surface.
Andrew digs his own clay high up on a wild windswept ridge in the Kwazulu Natal Midlands and meticulously prepares it by hand to his own requirements. Water used is from a spring near his home and many of the glazes are from ash from the burnt grasses. His enormous oil burning kiln takes 24 hours to fire and reaches a white heat of 1380 degrees C. It is a reduction atmosphere which needs constant attention during that period to starve the atmosphere of oxygen and at the same time keep the heat rising gradually .The length of flame is critical and the amount of smoke can change in seconds from a wisp to a black cloud when not controlled. It then takes 3 days to cool before he gingerly starts to take the first brick out of the door to see the results of two months work . Andrew holds regular open days at his home and studio and is now holding exhibitions in a similar casual atmosphere in other parts of South Africa . He has exhibited worldwide from Japan to U.S.A. England Holland and most recently in Berlin Germany.
Andrew works in the Japanese tradition inspired by the spectacular indigenous bush surrounding his home and workshop . He follows an inner, somewhat Eastern philosophy .He is never separate from trees, birds and all pervading Zulu Culture. Andrew has however always worked inspired by a Japanese ethos both in his meticulous method of working and in his use of minimalist brush strokes . He has recently been described as Natals Zulu Zen Potter!