ANTON VAN DER MERWE (1950-2016)
POTTER, ARTIST, CRAFTSPERSON AND CO-FOUNDER OF STARWAYS ARTS
Anton started making artefacts at an early age in his father's workshop that had an old gothic window to let the light in. Later the possibility of craft becoming art became clear to him.
He had no formal art tuition until late high school at Pretoria Boys High School 1965-1968. This school had a tradition and very high standards of art tuition. Amongst the teachers at PBHS were prominent South African artists Walter Battiss and Larry Scully. Anton was taught by Clinton Harrop-Allen who went on to become Professor of History of Art UNISA. He was also taught by Patrick Glen. He was given further instruction by his Aunt Liz Gerber and some part-time instruction by teachers at Pretoria Tech College in 1970's. That was the sum total of formal art tuition.
Self instruction is a long and arduous path, but there is a greater possibility of doing original and more relevant work in the Arts.
His favorite artists over the years are: Walter Battiss, Adolf Jentsch, Jean Weltz, all the Impressionists and Vincent Van Gogh.
After a period of a self-imposed apprenticeship, Anton presented at numerous group and one-man shows of his works in major South African cities from 1977 through 2014. He also showed his work in major craft galleries in the United Kingdom and The Netherlands. Most of the wood-fired pottery made at Starways is purchased by visitors to Starways Arts Centre. An increasing volume of work is packed and shipped overseas.
Pottery influences include Esias Bosch, Hyme Rabinowitz, Bernard Leach and Soji Hamada.
For those of us who had the honour and the pleasure of working or living alongside Anton, there are few words that can encompass what a beautiful and creative mind and heart he carried into his work, his family and his friends. For those of us who walked up the pottery path or encountered him elsewhere, by chance or design, we were always met with a story, a smile and more often than not a word of wisdom to take away with us.
Although it was incredibly sad to lose Anton, too early in his life, his legacy lives on very strongly at Starways. Not only did he leave us with an exemplary collection of pottery and paintings, he designed and built almost every structure, creating the living and breathing backbone of an arts centre which has brought together hundreds of artists, poets, performers, thinkers, visitors as well as family and friends.
Anton was incredibly spiritual, so much so, that before he died of cancer in 2016, he shared this gem of wisdom: 'If I make it through this, I get to carry on living, If I don't I get to become part of the spiritual world. So really it's a win-win situation.'
His legacy, of course, reaches far beyond Starways. his pottery, paintings, stories and his many words of wisdom residing in the homes and hearts of people all over the world.
If you have returned to the website with the purpose of reordering Anton's pottery, we hope that you will take the time to view work of the new resident potters, all of whom Anton had a hand in training and who all have their own distinctive approaches to pottery and ceramics.