Nada Spencer is a Cape Town ceramicist who works in a variety of clays. She creates a lot of porcelain slab work, stone ware, loves the beautiful warm tones of earthenware, and also does some slip casting which gets hand etched.
Each piece is subtly unique, but fitting within a family of design, acknowledging both her design training, and her personality. Bowls, platters, beads, pendants, sculptures; the forms are more varied than the clays and techniques she uses. Etching, carving, drawing, painting, dipping etc; the decorating techniques as varied again.
The reason for all this variety is simple. Nada gets bored with repetition and needs to have variety to continue being creative. She said this potential for variety and the ability to “form my own canvas” were what attracted her to ceramics in the first place.
But don’t worry, the variety of her methods does not result in a chaotic mess. Even her small studio, which is ver obviously used and loved, has a unity and harmonious order that shows that her maturity is beyond her 30 years. This unity and harmony flows generously through all her work. You can feel how much she loves her studio time.
A closer look at her studio revealed that she takes this passion far afield, sourcing the textures for her slab work from her children’s play ground, kitchen, grocery stores, per stores, hardware stores, and far more unexpected places than those. Take a look at some of the ‘textures’ I found carefully filed away in drawers.
Among the reasons she listed for loving her work, were her ability to watch her children playing in the garden while she works, her ability to be flexible in her hours, and her ability to work with her hands. However, she does express a sense of sometimes being torn between her work and her kids, as I think all working mothers do regardless of their work.
Her early struggles in ceramics focused around finding a suitable studio to teach her. More recently, they have been around setting up her own studio. Learning how to use her own kiln was quite a steep learning curve. It was always a surprise when she opened it after a firing, and she still gets a few surprises.
Nada Spencer is significantly inspired by birds and South African flora in addition to the textures already mentioned. She creates her own texture stamps, and I personally love her grey protea sketches that she has been doing since her beginner day. This is why she is currently exhibiting along with others at the Rust-en-vrede Art Gallery on Wellington Road in Durbanville till the end of May. The exhibition is themed South African Flora, work is for sale, and there is no entrance fee.
Nada also participates in the Potters Markets @ Rondebosch Park(cnr of Sandown & Palmyra rd) in March and November each year. The Christmas market this year is on 22nd November 2014 from 8am – 3:30pm and tends to be very popular so go early to avoid disappointment.
She is in the process of setting up her own website for those of you who are interested in her work, but cannot make it to the Potters markets or her gallery exhibits.
Other influences for her have been the quality and texture of Hennie Meyer’s work, as well as his down to earth nature; and her friend John Bouer who has not only been helpful and encouraging, but has also shown her how he tells stories through the imagery on his bowls.
Nada also said that she has learned to trust God more through this organic process of becoming a ceramicist, because she is prone to doubt herself, but that the whole journey has been planned perfectly in His timing.
How she got into Ceramics:
After getting her Bachelor of Architectural Studies (BAS) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and her completing her internship, Nada decided that she did not want to pursue architecture professionally, and went did a year at the Bible Institute of South Africa (BISA). She was still painting, and was keen to continue in the creative arts. During this time she visited Paternoster on holiday and browsed the galleries and studios where she loved the ceramics they were doing and decided to investigate this field for herself.
Upon returning to Cape Town, she searched the internet & looked for mentors to study under. The first few mentors she found were not really suited to her, but then she found Karin Scott who was a wonderful teacher & gave her a great start. Unfortunately their time together was interrupted by two pregnancies. Nada Spencer now has her own studio. She hopes that in future she will be able to expand her studio and mentor others in the mornings and evenings.
Nada’s advice to aspiring ceramicists:
“Go for it” whether you want to do it professionally or just for fun, she recommends you give it a try if you are interested, because it is a great creative outlet. She recommends you fins a studio that suits you, with a teacher who is passionate about teaching.
More about Nada:
In addition to her ceramics, Nada is a 30 year old mum of two preschoolers and wife of Frank Spencer who energetically runs a renewable energy company (Emergent Energy). Nada has spent some time working for two churches in addition to her architectural apprenticeship and still enjoys a bit of art journaling on the side. She also loves gardening with succulents, and has a few pots in her garden that she has made specially to show off part of her collection.