Saturday, April 4, 2009


Ceramic flower by Astrid Dahl

Captivated by the exquisite clay vessels of Astrid Dahl, an artist living here in KwaZulu Natal, I began noticing work by other artists who are inspired by organic plant forms. Each artist I discovered creates unique clay pieces so beautiful that I just sit back and look in wonder.

Astrid's extraordinary plant forms took off after Neville Trickett (of Saint Verde fame) stumbled upon her work. He showed her a collection of photographs of magnified flowers, buds and seed pods by botanist Karl Blossfeldt which inspired pieces like the vessel above. The rest is history. One can now find Astrid's work in Liberty of London and Amaridian, New York

Ceramic Plant Forms by Astrid Dahl. (Photo montage from 2Modern DESIGN TALK)

Memories by Betsy Nield

Another artist from South Africa, Betsy Nield who's "porcelain boxes represent the re-used boxes stashed into the back of a dark cupboard, containing our cherished mementos, and they have no colour because it is dark a cupboard. The platters symbolise a vessel containing our memories such as the brain. And of course the leaves are our dreams and memories themselves; cherished and stored away or on display; some whole and strong, some fragile and broken."

Pods by Alice Ballard

Alice Ballard's textured pods had my fingers dancing to touch. 

"My art is a reflection of my relationship with natural forms. These forms come to me on walks, while I work in my garden, on visits to the produce section of the grocery store or, appear as gifts from friends who share my fascination with beauty inherent in Nature's abundant variety of forms. To be more specific, it is often the metamorphosis of Nature's forms, as they change from season to season, that attracts me. I am endlessly drawn to that universal world in which differing life forms share similar qualities. Tulip bulbs and the human form for example share many of the same sensual qualities. I spend countless hours contemplating a particular form in order to feel its energy. It becomes a Zen-like connection not unlike a mediation. Next I will begin to draw the form, trying to capture the essence of what I have felt and observed. Then I begin to bring this form to life in clay. As an artist, I hope that those who choose to connect with my work can share some of the harmony and tranquility I feel through the creative process. Perhaps, at the very least, the viewer will give those small, often unnoticed forms in Nature, a second glance." - Alice Ballard

Pods by Alice Ballard

"The grand magnolia trees are just one example of a neighbourhood subject I use often in my work. I collect all parts of this magnificent tree from the leaves to the flowers, petals, pods, the branches, the protective petals around the flower buds, etc. My own garden also offers constant inspiration for my work. Fabulous forms reveal themselves every season. The first hostas begin to push through dark soil as an early reminder of spring. This is followed by a full array of buds, flowers, leaves, branches and pods. My neighbourhood and garden never disappoint me when it comes to the inspiration they constantly offer."

Various small pieces by Alice Ballard


  1. Yes - I do want to touch, stroke, explore and discover these elegant, delicate, masterpieces! They are as perfect as nature itself...

  2. These are exquisite, I marvel at the amount of African talent that exists. BTW, my Natural Fashion book arrived, and each page finds me holding my breath - it's so beautiful! Thanks for the tip, it will be a book I return to again and again.

  3. Alice Ballards work is exquisite, but I'm blown away by Besty Nield's boxes - they are over the top! thanks Robyn!

  4. goodness, the first few forms look like they've been made out of paper. the pods look good enough to be eaten the last pictures are poetry. i'll have them all please!

  5. If I hadn't read your words, I'd swear the pods were real. Jaw-dropping talent.

    Really enjoyed the spiral post, too. As always, thanks for expanding our horizons.


  6. Robyn...this art is amazing! WOW. I really love the shapes and forms.
    Betsy Nield is just incredible...those boxes grab me too!

  7. Karin, the pods look as though they should nestle in the palm of your hand but I think they quite large pieces.

    Grrl, it's so different having a book to dip into whenever you feel like it. (It takes me such an age to download photographs on the internet. It's time to get Broadband!)

    Jeane, there's just something about boxes each containing memories!

    Priya, the wow factor of Astrid's work is the size of these pieces.

    Shelly....jaw dropping...exactly!

    Jo, I thought you would say! :-)

  8. You are like a magpie you collect the most amazing links to arts and crafts and then delight us. Wow the pods are magic.

  9. I LOVE Astrid's vision. So strong and so amazingly delicate at the same time.

  10. I love this work and the way the artists are able to capture something of truth; our thoughts in symbols, deeper, richer and engaging. I really love the boxes of thoughts in the back of the dark cupboard, and the pods are exquisite. It is so much fun to visit your blog Robyn! Thanks.

  11. love this collection robyn,they are amazing.oh i cant wait to get my hands on clay again.someday i guess.
    you are a grand lady,thanks for passing by my blog and leaving a comment.

  12. i'm amazed and awed by the intricacies these artists achieve in clay!

  13. Thanks for this. Neat discoveries and inspiring links to explore.
    violette de chicoutimi

  14. Clay is incredible, isn't it? I want show this ceramics to my wife who adores such works. Wonderful stuff--thanks for highlighting it here.

  15. What amazing ceramics - such beautiful shapes, textures and colours. I'm so glad to have found your blog (came from Cathy's One Pink Goose) - I've just spent a fascinating hour or so (more so!) skimming your posts. Apart from all the wonderful art you introduce I particularly enjoyed your photos and words about your beloved little Bug!

  16. The room fell silent and hushed while I was looking at these beauties. The boxes took me out of my own thoughts...thank you for sharing these.
    I'm still so happy to have seen a Hundertwasser piece...he is one of my all time favorites artists.

  17. I love the pods by Alice Ballard... such beauty in such naturaral shapes... oh now I want to play with clay. Thank you for another wonderful post Robyn, I hope your week is beautiful! Roxanne

  18. Astrid Dahl's vase is full of one thing: poise. Yet you can almost see the finger impressions denting the perfected balance.

    then that little one, it looks on the bottom image like an oyster with a pearl.

    will have to return to explore more of the links... have a good good good day * :)

  19. Wonderful post as always Robyn. I just badly want those pods. They are incredibly beautiful and tactile (but I cannot tact I have secreted Alice Ballard's website away for when I have time for a coffee and a browse.

    I also love those wonderful white organic porcelain forms. The one that resembles a dress with a ruffled lace neck, tiny waist and tulip skirt is bliss.

  20. Blu, I love being a magpie!

    Chris, you've hit the nail on the head. Astrid's pieces do have that strength even though they are delicate. Like a sunflower I saw on the highway pushing it's way through a tiny hole in the asphalt.

    Thanks Leslie, the way I feel about many of the pieces I post here is something I can't quite put into words. They just blow me away.

    Megha, I thought you would love these pieces. I miss "seeing" you but understand how busy you are. Maybe one day soon you will get back to clay. You've certainly got a feel for it.

    Julie, they are all quite exquisite aren't they?

    Violette, glad you enjoyed them.

    Mmm, clay is another avenue I would love to explore.

    Mary Ann, they do have that effect on one....such beauty!

    Roxanne, I feel the same way....itching to play with clay, but I have so many ideas I still want to do with wood. Not enough hours in my day!

    Mansuetude, I've been thinking about you for days....will pop over to your blog.

  21. Hi Caroline, glad you found me so that I could follow you back to your blog. From Cardamon chocolate to Marlon the Claw and oragami butterflies to batik classes......I enjoyed my visit. they do need tacting don't they??

  22. The purity of form is brought out in spectacular fashion in the work of Astrid Dahl and Alice Ballard's work is no less.What a treat.

  23. once again you are the grand source of inspiration and beauty.

    thank you.

  24. Oh Wow!
    These are all so fabulous and sensual. I would love to be able to run my fingers over the pod's beautiful surfaces. And the boxes of memories made my heart jump a little. Love that.
    Have you ever seen Micheal Sherrill?
    Amazing surfaces. Amazing organic clay sculpture. One of my favorites.

  25. I'm in awe of Alice Ballard's pod pieces. Not to mention all the other great works you show. I try hard not to look at your blog unless I have plenty of time because you send me to such terrific places.

  26. Maya, a treat indeed!

    Thank you Michelle.

    Leanne, I followed your link and at first didn't think that the pieces were ceramic. Amazing work...thanks for the link.

    Don, I know the feeling....not enough hours in the day.

  27. LOVING the Alice Ballard pieces. Yummy. I'd like one of each.

  28. i love Alice's work! and all the clay work at the beginning of this post. And the pods have completely stolen my heart. They look like what they are. A labour of love.

  29. Earthmother, we'll share them!

    Vineeta, each piece is so unique...I love them all!

  30. Hi Robyn!

    Another visual treasury for us to savor. Yes, Alice Ballard has divine work, but I must say I was taken with the last image of Astrid Dahl's that you posted. All of them, really. How wonderful!

  31. Did you say they were made of clay !!! WOW. The pods are my favorite in this series for me

  32. I can't believe the first few are clay. They are so delicate!

  33. The pods are spectacular.

    Thank you for showing me a world of art Robyn that I wouldn't have seen otherwise.

    I will be always hoping that your husband results are good.

    Have a blessed Easter.

    Love Renee xoxo

  34. ARE these made out of clay?????????? all of them?