Marjorie Wallace blends tradition, culture, and practical use at Mutapo Pottery. Handcrafted by the small Mutapo team in Zimbabwe, crockery, including plates, bowls, and jugs, is decorated by Wallace with prints based on traditional African basket weaves and patterns. Wallace, a former art teacher, finds untold beauty in the connection between pottery and nature, tradition and culture, culture and art. She makes this connection her own in each carefully designed piece at Mutapo.
Wallace’s designs on ceramic bowls and plates are inspired by traditional African designs in weaving and wax prints. The design above is based on a traditional woven design with a moiré effect that would be used in fabric for clothing.
Maya Schubert: How has your heritage inspired your work?
Marjorie Wallace: My education in Zimbabwe was ‘British’…the system controlled by England at the time, which meant learning about things I never saw until I went to university (daffodils). The first time I ever went to England I was in my late 50s. I left university for a newly independent homeland and the prospect of needing to ‘reinvent’ culture. I started by studying pottery with a traditional rural potter. But..the idea was to make something that could visibly be from Africa but accommodate the standards of the international market.
Wallace specializes in the decoration of each piece crafted by the team at Mutapo Pottery, employing a number of creative methods to print her designs. The pattern above is directly referenced from woven raffia fiber basketry.
Maya: What about your culture inspires you the most?
Marjorie: The ‘Binga baskets.’ I love the detail. I love the basic principle of the original – the decoration being geometrical (sacred geometry), and I love the fact that they are mostly made by women…a tradition passed down through generations.
Maya: If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Marjorie: In the last few months, I have found myself deeply wanting to be a ‘healer’. Seeing people with health problems that are difficult and sometimes disabling, I have wished that I could just put my hands on them and magically heal them.
Wallace and the team at Mutapo Pottery meticulously decorate, mold, and glaze each piece by hand. Delicate, refined details are what make Mutapo pottery a wonderful addition to any place setting.
Maya: What are three words to describe where you live?
Marjorie: Hidden forest wonderland.
Maya: What’s inspiring you in life (in the industry) right now?
Marjorie: My daughter recently connected me to Instagram… I’m still hooked (when the internet is available). The [account] is called @mutapobymarjoriewallace.
Maya: When did you realize you wanted to be a designer/artist?
Marjorie: When I was in junior school and first introduced to the materials. Grade 3.
About The Maker | Marjorie Wallace graduated from Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town before returning to Harare as an art teacher. In 1992 she purchased Mutapo Pottery, where she’s been working with Jairos Zangira, an expert clay-thrower, for 23 years, and more recently with Jairos’ son Basil who mixes the porcelain made from local and regional ingredients. Marjorie specialises in decorating, ensuring that every Mutapo piece is touched by her attentively gentle hand.
Set in the Miombo Woodland of Harare, Zimbabwe, Mutapo Pottery brings to life intricate patterns dreamed up by its owner Marjorie Wallace. Specialising in porcelain mixed in-studio, Mutapo’s range of crockery is recognised and revered for its unique blue-and-white detailing, where every piece is delicately moulded, glazed and decorated by hand.
Mutapo’s pieces – from milk jugs and dessert bowls, to dinner plates and serving dishes – are finished with surface designs inspired by traditional basket weaving and African wax prints. Marjorie’s methods of experimentation (using foam-rubber stamps and fabric prints, or water trickled with fine minerals) have led to porcelain pieces that reflect their designer’s meticulous attention to detail and flare for creating order out of patterned chaos.
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