Breaking the mold

WORDS Michelle Marais PHOTOS Letitia Lerm

Housing a range of endearing ceramics, the lovely new Ceramic Factory recently opened in Johannesburg’s Linden. Following hot on the heels of The Whippet, the suburb is abuzz with excitement.

Previously known as Clayze Potteries and Supplies, and focussing primarily on hobbyists, the business re-launched in December as Ceramic Factory and now manufactures a range of over 120 of its own products, including everything from basic essentials to quirky items such as robots and owls.

“While developing the range we continued to manufacture for young South African designers,” ceramicist and owner Rial Visagie says. “March served as a huge cornerstone for the company when we launched our new range to wholesale at SARCDA (the toy, gift and decor trade show), and a week later we opened our first showroom and retail outlet in Linden Johannesburg,” he continues.

VISI couldn’t help but corner the man behind the brand to ask him a few questions.  

Being a self-taught ceramicist, would you agree that a lack of formal schooling allows an artist to see outside of the proverbial box?

I think any person that has the opportunity to freely exercise creative freedom would challenge the medium they work with, irrelevant of their background. I’m fortunate to have a support network that believe we can do anything in ceramics, even if it means trial and error. My mentor in this case has been my life experience.

How would you describe your design ethos and how do you apply this in your design process?

We want to develop products that are fun and functional for South Africans from all walks of life. I love it when people walk into our shop and start to smile when they see our products. The viewer needs to relate to the collection, and a portion of the range needs to evokes nostalgia, making the viewer feel comfortable and at home. Our world can be so serious, and we need to laugh more.

It’s a known fact that we’re greatly influenced by our surroundings. How do you find working in Linden and what excites you about the suburb?

Linden welcomed us with opens arms and just after a few weeks it feels like home, not only to me, but the whole team. The flowers and well wishes we received from citizens and storeowners in Linden were most surprising. It’s like a small village in a big city, ready to be discovered. We are excited to be part of the growth in Linden, being a part of rediscovering the neighbourhood. I love the excitement of the potential while maintaining the feeling of a small village. I’m also inspired by the fusion of old and new – from the trendy people in Linden to the amazing heritage that’s still there today.

Ceramics of the past were mostly of artistic and domestic value. How does one stay on trend nowadays and ensure a growing client base?

The past few months I’ve learned to let your creativity flow freely and trust your gut. Listen to what people around you are saying, and the rest will follow. As long as you stay relevant, you will be on trend.

Ceramic Factory has already achieved so much in just a few months, but what would you describe as your dream for the brand?

I want to establish a fun brand to be used in South African homes throughout the country. My dream for this brand is to always be fun, innovative and relevant through good quality and affordable products. Who knows, maybe we will penetrate international markets sooner than you think. However, we are also extremely excited to launch our high-end brand called Citizenship on the 29 May. With this range I allowed my serious twin to came out and play. Yes, I am Gemini.

Ceramic Factory is located at Shop 59, Fourth Avenue, Linden, Johannesburg. Stay in the know of their new products by liking CeramicFactory on Facebook.