Meet the Maker: Hylton Nel

Meet the Maker

Ceramic artist Hylton Nel bears all the qualities we look for in an artist and we're excited to introduce you to Hylton's work as we 'Meet the Maker'...

At the Kit Kemp Design Studio, there are many qualities that attract us to an artist’s work. Colour, character, personality and life experiences to name a few.

We recently featured ceramic artist Michael Chandler and explored his magnificent blue and white tile installations. As great artists do, Michael introduced us to a fellow ceramic artist Hylton Nel, who bears all the qualities we look for. We’re excited to introduce you to Hylton’s work as we ‘Meet the Maker’.

Born in 1941 in Zambia, Hylton began exploring ceramics while studying for a Fine Art degree at Rhodes University. He went on to study painting and ceramics at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp for two years, before moving to England to run his own antiques shop.

During the 1970’s he returned to South Africa and whilst this was to teach pottery, Hylton continued to produce his own work. In 1991, he moved to the small and scenic town of Calitzdorp to create his own studio, dedicated to ceramics.

Hylton’s work ranges vastly and includes plates, bowls, plaques, figurines and small sculptures, all bearing his signature idiosyncrasies. Whilst techniques in his work compare with antique Staffordshire pieces, his approach is anything but traditional or antique. It’s witty, satirical and sometimes poignant.

It’s clear that Hylton is a deep thinker who acknowledges world politics and his own environment to shape ideas and make statements through his art. With eye catching colour or sinuous lines, there’s often astonishment as the intensity of his work’s imagery and inscriptions become clear.

Rich with references to decorative arts, literacy and historical art, his work is influenced by ancient Greek vases, Christianity, motifs from Islamic tiles and ancient Egypt’s symbolism of cats. We get a real feel for Hylton’s interests and inspirations.

His creations have exhibited across the globe to widespread acclaim. From the Rhode Island School of Design to New York, London, Edinburgh, Toronto and Denmark. His studio now includes a team of assistants who have found solace in creating art, many of whom are recovering from unemployment, substance abuse and crime.

With more than 50 years behind him of using clay as a language to express thoughts and feelings, Hylton’s work has developed into something unique and impossible to replicate.

Thank you for joining us in exploring Hylton Nel’s captivating work. We hope you enjoyed this insight into a unique corner of the Southern Hemisphere that’s producing playful yet thought provoking pieces of art.