Wonki Ware is a product that was developed purely by chance by founder Di Marshall, in the small town of George along the Garden Route in South Africa. In operation for about a decade, it employs people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Skilled employers now, they are contributing to their communities, with veteran potters training amateurs. Wonki Ware started nearly 10 years ago in a small studio while Di Marshall’s children were at school. The family lived on a farm at quite a distance and Di decided to spend mornings at her studio near the kids’ school. What began as a hobby slowly attracted the attention of the local community and before long the studio became a meeting place for people to come and exchange ideas and creativity.
It was around this time that Di met with a young Xhosa Man named Artwel, who wanted to learn about clay and pottery and later went on to become one of her most successful collaborators. According to Di, “I did not have much money at this stage to pay him, but he was willing to do anything, so I started teaching him about clay.” Initially, she had devised a method for him to duplicate her pieces, though to her surprise his talent showed through the original pieces he had created, which demonstrated artistic sensitivity and authenticity.
final member of the Wonki Ware team, Les joined them as an artist who painted the clayware in bright, gorgeous colors completing a formidable team which spread its enthusiasm and energy bringing in people from all across the country. As the brands popularity grew from Cape Town to Johannesburg and the orders came pouring in, they realized the potential of the project that was so close to their heart. Born from the collective creativity of three people whose zest and enthusiasm were infinite, Wonki Ware presently employs 40 people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are now skilled employers. The vibrant and warm spirit of Africa is clearly visible in their pottery.
(Wonki Ware is now available in India, only at Maison 15, Santushti, New Delhi.)