July 2023 | Jabulile Nala (She/Her) - Zulu Handbuilding Techniques

Regular price$275.00

Clay By The Bay is thrilled to be hosting Jabulile Nala (@jabulile_nala_pottery) for our JULY 2023 workshop artist.

100% of the registration proceeds will be donated DIRECTLY to the artist, to support the ever growing community of talent we strive to nurture  


Hailing from Johannesburg, South Africa, Jabulile  Nala (Zulu) is a world-renowned ceramic artist and instructor. The daughter of Nesta Nala, another famous potter, she carries on the 2,000-year-old Zulu tradition of women potters; her own family lineage of potters can be traced back to 1900. Born in Eshowe, South Africa in 1969, Nala learned the craft from her mother and grandmother, and has been making art since she was 11 years old. Now, she and her sisters continue her family’s legacy as acclaimed potters. Nala recognizes Zulu pottery for both its  significance to her cultural identity and as an art form: “Zulu pottery for me means a lot because in our culture we use Zulu beer pots to drink Zulu beer, so it is my culture; also at the  same time [it is my] talent, because we do different things  from culture and then we create more designs.” 

Nala uses the oldest known firing method for her ceramics. After sculpting objects from hand, such as traditional beer pots, ceramic plates, and vases, she places them in a hole in the ground that she covers with tinder and then a protective covering. To blacken the pots, she fires them twice. Once the fire has been consumed, she rubs animal fat or polish on the pots to add a soft luster. For the design of her ceramics, Nala combines the old with the new. She uses classic patterns, such as one inspired by past Zulu warriors’ scarred body decorations, and she skillfully utilizes negative space to create beautiful designs and patterns. Nala adds her unique spin by making larger, more elaborate styles or more sculpted shapes.  

In addition to her work as an artist, Nala also leads workshops to uphold the Zulu tradition and support local livelihoods, particularly by helping older women hone their pottery skills. “We teach them how to make the pots smarter, better, and we choose some of the best to sell,” she says. Although children today might not be able to devote themselves to pottery at as young an age as Nala did, she has hope that youth will eventually learn. Noting the power of learning together, she says, “If we teach one by one, or Nala family only . . . it is not enough. We have to teach the generation.”

Pottery plays an integral role in Zulu culture and is used for rites and rituals such as weddings, births, marriages, and burials, and it often symbolizes hospitality and communality. “A ceremony that is important for Zulu beer is the ceremony for amadlozi, or ancestors. A second way to use Zulu beer pots, when a girl is married, we give that family a beer pot as a gift from her. We call it umabo in Zulu,” explains Nala. The pots are also customary for household use, such as the large Imbiza pot used for brewing, the Ukhamba pot for serving, and the Umancishana pot for cooking meat and storing food and drinks. Despite its cultural importance, being a potter is a challenge in South Africa where there are not many opportunities to sell pots and their value is not fully appreciated. Nala has traveled internationally to sell her art at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market and the International Ceramics Festival in Wales, and she has been participating in the Cultural  Survival Bazaars since 2017. 


The Friday Night demonstration will be based on making last size of the traditional clay pot(uKhamba) that is often used for serving traditional beer during various festivities, storing water or maize. We will be focusing on giving the students background on what inspires my work, its roots and meaning of patterns in our culture. And presenting various sizes our traditional clay pots and its uses. Methodologies and techniques Presenting clay sample from my area in Kwa Zulu Natal, SA. Then Q&A session

Day 1:
Working with clay needs thorough concentration and one needs to connect with it, speak with to get that perfectly crafted pot. The students will be allocated clay based on the size of the pot Then will mix it using their hands and start working on the it The pot is formed by building up coils of clay and smoothing them down with any found items such as the back of a spoon or a water-worn rock
Day 2:
The hardening pot is put to one side until it has reach leather-hardness, when the design is created using found items such as sharpened galvanized wire to create patterns, smooth it with plastic kidney for the inside and using the saw blade.
The pot will need to dry further before firing.

Traditionally The first firing is preferably done with the trunk and leaves of the aloe ferox but for the purpose of the workshop will use wood available for firing. Then some coals will be put inside each pot to warm it. More leaves/wood to cover the pots and the process takes about an hour to burn down reaching a temperature of almost 500 degrees Celsius. This most exciting moment for most instead of using a kiln.

And once the pot is ready it can be polished with a shoe polish which allows the maker
to skip the second firing.


WORKSHOP TIME & LOCATION: Friday night will be an Artist Talk from 7-9pm where everyone in the community is invited to meet & greet the artist and hear more about their craft!

Saturday & Sunday from 11am-3pm you will have a reserved seat to learn from the artist and work along side them to expand your ceramic skillset!  Registration will be for BOTH events, and a lunch break will be included. 

All activities will be hosted at Clay By The Bay's facilities (1618 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, 94109)

We can't wait for you to join us!

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