Growing seeds

Combining delicate floral forms with vivid abstract patterns, Potterseed ceramics have a sophisticated African feel about them. We visited the Cape Town studio.

When the robots at Google Analytics recently reported that “Potterseed” is one of the most searched terms on we headed out to Muizenberg to find out more about the Potterseed ceramicists.

What we found was a bright, light and industrious studio where beautiful ceramics are made, but also where creativity and skills development are highly praised.

There to greet us was Chris Silverston, founder of the Potter’s Workshop and one half of the Potterseed collaboration.

Potterseed started as the collaborative effort of Silverston and Kate Carlyle of Mustardseed & Moonshine. As long-time friends and creative contemporaries they found synergy in each other’s work.

Where Mustardseed & Moonshine’s work was characterised by flowers and other botanical forms, bright colours and sophisticated design are what distinguishes the work of Potter’s Workshop.

Started in August 2011, the collaboration essentially brought together Carlyle’s shapes and Silverston’s decoration to create something bespoke, colourful and true to form. Silverston says of the collaboration that they “loved the outcome” and worked together on turning it into a successful creative venture, namely Potterseed.

Potterseed came to life as a series of garden-inspired ceramics that combines delicate floral forms with vivid abstract patterns, to a unique and colourful effect.

For both Silverston and Carlyle, the birth of Potterseed was a form of “regrowth”; a way to renew their creativity.  And the public reaction to the collaboration was more than just a little bit enthusiastic.

A series of unfortunate circumstances necessitated Carlyle to hand over her part of the collaboration to Silverston, who now works to ensure that Carlyle’s unique creative touch can still be seen in many of the Potterseed ranges.

Potterseed now lives on, inside the Potter’s Workshop at Silverston’s studio. And beyond… Potterseed exports to Australia, Europe and will soon be entering the American market. In January 2013, with assistance from Wesgro, Potterseed exhibited at the New York Gift Fair for the first time, where the response to the designs were overwhelmingly positive.

The fact that the work appeals to a global audience is something Silverston ascribes to its “sophisticated African feel”.

Her own passion and enthusiasm for Potterseed’s products and designs are infectious: “ I look at it and my heart gives a little leap!” she says handling some of the cups and platters.

“People want something that has an individuality about it. And it’s bright and colourful – another thing that appeals to people,” Silverston muses.

Silverston is equally vocal about praising the good work the 23 artisans she employs does. Most of the workers she employs have had no formal training in the creative industry but her belief that “anybody can learn anything, as long as they are in a safe and secure environment” manifests in a conscious effort to create a happy, clean, positive and productive working environment in the workshop.

The well being and development of her workers is something that Silverston cares about deeply, and actively encourages them to take pride in their creative work. She explains that the artisans work on a product from beginning to end. “This adds the individual touch to the piece and gives them a sense of ownership.”

Skills development is also important at Potterseed. While the artisans are given much free reign in the decorating of the products, Silverston makes a point of encouraging them in their creative endeavours by regularly having constructive critiques of the work. Discipline is equally important to Silverston, and another virtue that she seeks to instil in her workers.

The result is that the work, in Silverston’s words, are a “mosaic of different designs”.

The mosaic extends to the representation of people in the studio. “It’s an absolute privilege to work in a multicultural environment,” Silverston says. This open-hearted approach to her employees and the creative process, combined with her unique ability to “pull the best out of people and give them an opportunity to shine” is clearly visible in Potterseed’s work. 

And not only is it getting better, it's also getting bigger; Silverston in the process of buying the workshop next door to expand the business!