Donvé Branch: I’m a Potter. Not a Ceramicist. I’m not sure why I make the distinction, but it is visceral! Initially I thought that, perhaps, it was simply that I THROW. That I love the feel, rhythm and life of throwing, and of making multiple forms and refining their shape. Through this process, I became critical of form. But rural African people don’t throw clay on a wheel, and yet they are the original potters. So, perhaps, I’m a potter simply because I love to express myself only through clay and spend my life trying to transform it into art. By this distinction, Ceramicists are artists who, perhaps only temporarily, use clay to express artistic ideas. But for me the Clay is the ‘raison d’être’, it is the earth through which I express my desires. It allows me to say: “I am a Potter”."
Charmaine Haines was born in 1963 in Grahamstown and trained under Hylton Nel at the Port Elizabeth Technikon and obtained a Higher Diploma in Ceramic Design in 1985. She lectured in Ceramic Design until 2002 when she relinquished her post to devote herself to producing her own work. Working within the realm of figurative clay, Charmaine uses both abstract and stylized symbols and motives to embellish both her sculptural and utility forms. Vessels are thrown and altered to incorporate sculptural and semi-relief elements. Coloured stains and natural oxide washes are used to enhance the manipulative and expressive quality of the clay surface. She has participated in numerous exhibitions in South Africa and overseas. Recent exhibitions include a solo exhibition at the Associació Ceramistes de Catalunya Gallery. Barcelona. Spain. Her work has been selected for several Biennales namely, the Internationale Ceramique D'Art Biennale, Vallauris, France, the Johannesburg Biennale and as a finalist for the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum Biennial Exhibition in 2006. Her work is represented in numerous public and private collections. She returned to South Africa in 2008 after spending three years in France and now lives in Nieu Bethesda. In 2010 she was made a Fellow of the Ceramics Southern Africa Association in recognition of her contribution to Ceramics in South Africa. Living and working in Nieu Bethesda, I continue to explore my ongoing fascination for Ancient Cultures, African Artifacts and Medieval Iconic Art which embodies a broad interest in the history of art and craft from ancient to industrial.
The natural Karoo environment plays an integral part in my day to day source of inspiration. It continues to be a place of extremes where the weather has a major influence creating an awareness of both life and death where small things matter. In 2001, Charmaine vacated her respected position as lecturer in Ceramic Design at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to devote herself fully to the production of her own work. In 2002 she relocated to the small Eastern Cape Karoo Village of Nieu Bethesda where she establishes a successful studion and Gallery. Here she found renewed inspiration for her work in this adopted environment, which she describes as 'sympathetic'...allowing for a more direct relationship with materials and consequently, being increasingly in touch with her expressive self. In 2006 Charmaine and her family relocated to France to take up the challenge of establishing them selves in the European Art Scene. In 2008, after a successful trip, Charmaine returned to the Karoo, South Africa, to work in her Nieu Bethesda studio once more. I’m surrounded by the evidence that the Karoo was once an ancient sea. - fish and birds have always been part of my iconography. Together with my portraits they've become autobiographical design elements that repeat themselves throughout my work adding both a narrative and mythical presence to the forms.