Interview with award-winning ceramicist Anthony Shapiro
Anthony Shapiro is a South African master-potter, who’s been creating pots with clay since he was 13. Although he is currently the Managing Director of Art in the Forest, in Constantia Nek, Cape Town, he still makes time to teach and to create stunning pieces for his own ‘Ant’ brand of creations. Recently, BigCityLife caught up with Anthony to discuss life, the universe and everything.
Celeste: First of all a huge thank you for chatting to me today. Just to kick us off, can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living?
Anthony: I make pots, sell pots, buy pots, direct and run a business that makes pots, I also teach people how to make pots. I head up a foundation that gives free pottery lessons to kids who have no access to any creativity.
Celeste: I understand you started making pots at the age of 13, an unusual step for a child that age. How did it happen?
Anthony: I started pottery classes with the local pottery teacher in my neighborhood and never really stopped. I got bitten badly by the pot bug!
Celeste: After high-school you went into law, but then ultimately decided to drop out to pursue your love of pottery asking for an apprenticeship with Kim Sacks in Yeoville. Kim is involved in a wide range of art and creative styles. What was it about her ceramics specifically that you related to?
Anthony: I was drawn to the fineness of her forms and the simplicity of her Scandinavian training.
Celeste: In 2006 you went to live in a Buddhist hut in KwaZulu Natal for 2 years and just create pots. It must have been a pretty life-changing experience.
Anthony: I had sold pots to the BRC (Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo)for a number of years but had never been there. I needed to get off the treadmill of production and take a break. I called them, went to check out the centre and the rest followed. I loved it, it was extraordinary to stop my life and take a break. I had no idea what would come next and that was very liberating.
Celeste: You are currently the Executive Director and Ceramicist for Art in the Forest. How did that evolve?
Anthony: The studio is in the Cecelia Forest at Constantia Nek Circle. I never came here to be the director at all. I came to rent space and run classes and make pots. After the first year I was offered the job. It unfolded organically. I started to tweak the product before I became the director and the footfall increased which was partly the reason I was offered the job.
We run classes from here, host exhibitions, make our own productions which we now brand as “Forestaware”. In addition to this we run outreach programs through our foundation, The Light From Africa Foundation.
Celeste: Art in the Forest is also in support of Light from Africa and you run Art Therapy workshops as well, with Tessa Whyatt. Can you tell us about this?
Anthony: Tessa runs therapeutic clay sessions with a number of partner charities. They are varied, some run for a few weeks on a weekly basis and others run for a few days in a row. The young adults, and kids use clay to express processes. Tessa creates a safe space for them and the level of trust and depth varies from group to group. We normally begin with a lunch of sorts. The kids love getting out of their home environments where they are literally dodging bullets and never get to feel a blade of grass between their toes.
Celeste: I get the feeling that pursuing passion is a really big thing for you, as well as teaching others, mentoring and helping people find and reach their own dream. How does this play out in your own life?
Anthony: I think that if you are passionate about anything and are prepared to put in the hours then the rest will follow. I love teaching, I enjoy the interaction and obviously mentoring is teaching. I believe that if you want to be a potter; then make pots, sell them at church fetes, force your family to buy them, do whatever it takes and the money will come.
Be true to your passion, no matter what. This last weekend in JHB doing 100% Design I really ‘got’ what a madala I have become in the industry. Guys who used to work for me, new kids on the block, all the crafters in the Handmade section, which was part of Decorex held their breaths as I walked past. There’s a part of that which saddens me because I don’t like all the work and feel some guys are going in the wrong direction but I can’t control all of that.
Celeste: Thank you again, for taking time out for BigCityLife. It has been a pleasure getting to know you and your work. How can people find you and learn more about ‘Ant’ bowls? Also, can you tell us a something about yourself that people don’t know?
Anthony: I am at Art in the Forest, easiest place to get to know me. Follow me on Facebook is a great way to be in the loop. I teach on as Tuesday and Thursday morning.
I am a bit of a foodie and love cooking. I’m also a serious ice cream addict!!
Photo’s credited to: Celeste Beckerling