A combination of local artistic talent and the support and vision of ceramic artist Trayci Tompkins resulted in the Zulu-lulu ceramic art studio in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Here, potters use a technique known as raku-firing to create a range of functional and decorative ceramic products.

Did you know?

Dlamini figurines from Zulu-lulu have been given out at award ceremonies for South African Airways, Absa bank, the Business Trust and Avis.

Together with a team of talented local artists, Trayci Tompkins from Zulu-lulu creates a range of unique functional and decorative clay products. On the Zulu-lulu website, Tompkins says that she feels inspired by South Africa’s colourful and diverse cultures. 'I am passionate about sharing my skills and talents with others who would otherwise never have had the opportunity to work as full time artists,' she explains.

Tim Dlamini is one of the studio’s success stories. He (with help from Tompkins) created the small clay sculptures now known as ‘Dlaminis’. These expressive characters enact a range of motions that mimic the way the women of South Africa carry books, baskets of fruit, water, wood or other things on their heads. The figures have become so popular as corporate gifts and private collectors items that he now makes them together with seven of his colleagues to keep up with the demand.

Tompkins has more than 15 years of experience in the slow art of 'hand-building' clay pots. Together with Dlamini and the rest of her team she uses a technique known as raku-firing. This traditionally Japanese form of pottery uses low baking temperatures and random firing, which gives all products a signature glaze and a distinctive crackle effect that is completely different from pots thrown on a traditional potter’s wheel.

Along with the Dlamini figures that helped turn Zulu-lulu into a thriving business, the Zulu-lulu artists love to create usable kitchenware and other quirky household items that can be made to order. They currently produce a range of over 80 products. These include cheese boards, dip bowls, jugs, jars, tapas bowls and wine coolers; the only limits are the ones imposed by their imaginations.

Tompkins also creates widely sought-after hand-coiled vessels and one-off sculptures under her own name.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Tel: +27 (0)83 6273491
Email: stuart@zlt.co.za

How to get here

Take the Howick North exit R107 off the N3 onto the R103 Midlands Meander into Lions River. Zulu-lulu is located on the corner of the R103 and the Dargle turn off.

What to eat

The nearby Piggly Wiggly Coffee Shop is a great breakfast or lunch spot. They recently won an award that acknowledges outstanding, independent South African speciality stores and markets that consistently deliver a high quality product, using local ingredients.

Best buys

Have a look at the product list on the Zulu-lulu website before you visit them, otherwise their dazzling variety of beautiful ceramics might confuse you!

Related articles