The Berg Collection by Kate Rosenberg

Cape Town ceramicist Kate Rosenberg translates the handwoven grass baskets of her childhood into oversized black clay vessel vases.

Most mornings, ceramicist Kate Rosenberg charges around on the mountain with her dachshund, Oliver. Growing up spending multiple holidays a year in the Drakensberg mountain range at her family’s cottage there – where hiking, camping and all-round bonding with nature was the order of the day – it’s little wonder that nature has influenced two of her ceramics ranges.

The Protea Collection is an obvious link – the protea is South Africa’s national flower and a feature of the Cape mountains. This range is characterised by small pieces with various protea flower designs pressed in to the clay. Her most recent range of large vessel vases and jugs, The Berg Collection, is named for the Drakensberg and as a link with her surname.

I definitely have an afiliation to these sorts of quite rustic, fertile looking shapes. I perceive them as being inspired by growing up in Africa and going to the Drakensberg. I have vivid memories of these beautiful handwoven baskets and buying them and watching the women.

“I’ve created ceramic versions of those without consciously realising it,” she says.

Rosenberg works with terracotta earthenware and porcelain white clay but predominantly with black clay. Most areas of her pieces show the colour of the clay with feature areas she’ll glaze in bright colours or metallics, or give a different finish.

“For a long time I’ve wanted to introduce a different medium into my work, and one of the mediums that I really like is perspex. It’s quite versatile and it’s clean and it’s a modern contrast to quite an African piece.”

Proteas or more abstract patterns are cut into the perspex lids – designed to fit into the opening of the large vessel vases – making them decorative elements but also functional in that flowers can be inserted through the holes for structured arrangements. She also plans to create perspex stands for the vases to slot into.

Rosenberg studied graphic design and about fifteen years ago she started doing hand-building ceramics classes one evening a week with friends at Di Marshall’s potting studio.

“We had the best fun. She had this gorgeous house up in Tokai near the forest and this beautiful studio,” Rosenberg says.

Marshall subsequently moved to George, a small city about four hours drive from Cape Town on the Garden Route, where she established her Wonki Ware dinnerware and table accessories business. Rosenberg then joined Barbara Jackson’s studio where she stayed for a couple of years. She taught beginners adults classes there and led team building sessions with her sister, Laura.

Then she took a three-year break. Now’s she back, operating from Karen and Johan Scott’s TAB studio in the Bo-Kaap, and from her studio at home.

“I love being creative and I love working with my hands. I find it very, very therapeautic.

I find it so incredible that you start with this chunk of clay and it becomes something – a desirable piece that somebody wants to buy and have in their home.

“So, that is very satisfying. And the versatility of it – that you can be so creative with such a simple medium that looks like nothing to begin with but then it evolves into whatever you want it to become.”