She is well-known in the art world, and an all-round divine person! We arrived at her lovely Featherbrooke Estate home for our cover shoot and it took only one glance across the room to realise that Eunice Botes is a true creative soul (who also happens to love entertaining). It felt more as though we had arrived at a five-star guesthouse – with a spread of yummy eats and treats and a selection of beverages that welcomed us. But besides all that, various arty elements fill her home in a sophisticated and classy way. Even the coffee mugs we drank from were artistic pieces chosen with thought and such character.
After a quick home tour, we entered her studio where all the magic happens. And oh boy, was it magical!
Honestly speaking, the true perfection and fine detail of her ceramic work can only be fully appreciated when you see it in person. ‘My art is created out of passion, and my medium of expression is porcelain clay. I spend most of my days thinking in storytelling and my work reflects this. When I experience life, I am aware of my mortality and the preciousness of the moment and then I want to depict it …’
Eunice has mastered many techniques over the years, allowing her to create extraordinary art which can be seen in the unique qualities of her pieces. Her inspiration is clear – nature. Beautifully etched delicate birds in super-fine detail, buck, rabbits, giraffe, trees, whales and other stunning bushveld and ocean scenes. ‘I draw most of my inspiration from our bushveld farm in Thabazimbi. Nature is so imperfectly perfect. Trees are a favourite of mine. Nothing in nature is permanent. Everything changes with the seasons. Nature teaches us harmony and balance. My work is a celebration of the wonders of nature.’
She’s recently embarked on a new venture, working with coloured porcelain clay. And just because she’s been an established ceramic artist for the past 21 years certainly doesn’t stop her from pushing her comfort zones. ‘In my ongoing maturation as a potter and artist I am driven to grow more, explore more and attempt what I have never attempted before to enhance the aesthetic life of my work. I believe that a true artist never reaches perfection. If you think you have finally reached your art destination, you are not a good artist. Always try to improve and grow with every piece. I think one of my most valuable lessons has been to make what I like, the way I like it.
‘A teacher by trade, my love for ceramics started at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg (USA) where my husband Jimmy furthered his studies. I completed my BTech in Ceramics in 1998 at the Vaal Triangle Technikon, where I received numerous awards.
After lecturing for two years at that institution, we moved to Botswana where I pursued a career as art teacher at the Cambridge Secondary School in Gaborone for seven years.’
Despite her roaring success today, Eunice has humble roots. ‘We were just married when we moved to Blacksburg. Although I was a qualified teacher I could not teach due to not having a work permit. Moneywise, we struggled as newlyweds, so I cleaned houses in the mornings and attended ceramic or pottery classes at Blacksburg University in the afternoon.’
To some people, her work may seem like just a simple vase, or plate, but it takes hours and hours to create these unique ceramic pieces. ‘Depending on the size of a vase, it can take about three weeks to complete. First I create the form. Then my design is drawn into the porcelain when the clay has hardened. The raised modelled designs (sprigs) are applied onto the work and then it is left to dry slowly. After the first firing at 1 000°C, the work is sanded. Then black slip is carefully painted into the incised lines and sanded again. Glaze is applied inside the pots as well as in the incised lines and fired to 1 240°C. After the glaze firing, the work is wet/ dry sanded. Sometimes I include a third lustre firing. Porcelain is a challenging medium to work with, and can be quite unforgiving.’
To date, her work has won multiple awards. It seemed to be nearly fifteen before I lost count. Her greatest personal victories are winning the G & W Mineral Resources Regional Glazecor Award in 2015, and one of her pieces being included in an article by Associate Professor Seyhan Yilmaz, head of the Ceramic Department of Fine Arts and Design Faculty in Kastamonu, Turkey. ‘It was awesome to correspond with him about ceramic art.’
Despite her work being at various galleries across SA, she also attends exhibits and a large portion of her clients are from abroad. ‘I am grateful to receive wonderful and positive feedback from buyers in Australia, England, America, Finland and Germany.’
Here in Johannesburg, her work can be seen and bought at the Kim Sacks Gallery. She also attends big art exhibitions and festivals across the country. ‘Without my family I could not have done this … my daughter Janice, my son, James and especially Jimmy that supported me through all the stages of my art career! Not to even mention my four-legged boys and ultimate moral supporters in the studio, Oliver (Schnauzer) and Chaplin (Yorky).
Eunice in short:
If I could be an animal I’d be … a bird. Sitting in my nest, my comfort zone, watching the world from afar.
I unwind by … just being on the farm, watching the animals come to the waterhole, going for walks, interacting with my nyalas. A good book is a real treat.
My other interests include … daily Pilates training, running, spending time with loved ones and taking on new and exciting projects on the farm.
You’d make my day by … giving me a smile, flowers and nougat.
Details: Visit www.eunicebotes.co.za.
Text: Chemélle van der Merwe. Photographer: Jaco Bothma, www.empirephotography.co.za. Hair and make-up: Antoinette de Beer, EA Academy, 073 681 9516.