“The cup is the vessel we nourish our body from and I wanted to have a cup I’d like to drink out of,” says Liesel Trautman. The result of this whimsical wish was a handmade pinch pot that she christened “The Fatty” and that has become one of her most popular products.
Another outcome was more dramatic — a complete change of career for this former textile designer, wildlife artist and entrepreneur. That said, though, the designs on her porcelain — many of them portraying delicate flora or stylised wildlife — reflect both of her previous incarnations. She also uses the drawing skills learnt in textile design to decorate her creations.
While some of her work reflects African imagery and there is a strong African feel to much of it, she also draws inspiration from Victorian England and from China. “We are inspired by everything around us. It’s important for designers,” she says.
It all began when Trautman decided she wanted to create an art form that could be both beautiful and practical, nourishing both spirit and body. All her work is created with the possible purchaser in mind because “once a cup [for instance] becomes their property, it becomes something very personal”.
Trautman works only in porcelain, which is high-fired and durable, though difficult to work with. Ultimately, she says, it’s indestructible — much of what archaeologists have learnt about the lives of our ancestors they have deduced from centuries-old fragments of porcelain.
The fact that she has found her niche has not affected her search for new techniques and ever-improved quality. She is continually doing product development and research in an effort to “make something even better and more beautiful”.
But that doesn’t mean that when the new comes in the old goes out. She is a firm believer in continuity and in keeping faith with those who have begun to collect her pottery and may want to add to their collection.
“I’ve been doing the same shapes for eight or nine years. It’s a stability that’s particular to my work. It’s something I really love doing and people buy into that; they see where there’s passion and love.”
Unfortunately, since she doesn’t want to use a “middle man”, which would mean her prices would have to increase, those who want to buy her creations will have to make their way to her studio in Observatory, Cape Town, where, apart from doing business, “we’re just having fun”.
Visit lieseltrautman.co.za or 154 Lower Main Road, Observatory. Tel: 073 275 9494