Helen Vaughan: Textured ceramics & timeless artworks
October 02, 20232 min read
Helen Vaughan is a ceramic artist based in the Karoo, South Africa. She has deep roots here and the country’s landscapes, colors and textures greatly influence her work. A largely self-taught artist, Helen moves seamlessly between clay work, painting and printmaking. Her ceramics have earned her a loyal following and are housed in numerous international collections.
Helen originally trained as a textile designer. After she completed her studies in surface design at the Cape University of Technology, she spent the subsequent eleven years in the formal commercial sector of fashion and homeware design. In 1999, she undertook a short course in ceramics and her passion for this medium grew from there.
Helen’s ceramics are either hand built or manipulated slipcast earthenware. Sculptural candleholders, vessels, bowls, platters and wall plates are part of an ever experimenting and innovating range. Each piece receives the same dedicated nurturing from Helen through their baptism of fire.
Helen’s pieces are decorative and functional. Pattern, rhythm and texture are central to her work. Sgraffito (scratched and etched markings) is her signature and this runs throughout her craft.
The color palette of red, aloe green, bronze patina and pewter, which Helen combines with the unglazed whites of raw clay, has an appeal which resonates with the most contemporary settings while still retaining an earthy, handcrafted aesthetic.
We visited Helen at her studio in Barrydale, a small town in the Karoo, and joined her on a walk with her dogs into the mountains behind the village. It is here in this beautiful landscape that she finds inspiration for her artwork and ceramics. She told us that whilst walking here one day she found an old sheep skull. She became entranced by the quality of the lines and weathered texture of the bone and this served as the inspiration for her signature sgraffito.
WHY WE LOVE HELEN VAUGHAN
We’ve visited Helen Vaughan’s studio in Cape Town and we have seen first-hand the love and nurturing that goes into every piece she creates. We love her color palette and how beautifully the artworks pair with her ceramics. These are timeless, collector’s items that add a sculptural element to your décor. We think what really stands out about Helen’s pieces is how tactile they are, particularly those with her signature sgraffito texture – this makes the pieces truly one-of-a-kind.