Rika von Schwerin-Franken studied ceram ics in Germany. In 1982 she emigrated to Botswana. While working in a game lodge she learned traditional Tswana pottery from an elderly local potter. After working briefly for the National Museum and Art Gal lery in Gaborone, she founded 'Pelegano Pottery', a project for village women in Gabane, which was later supported by UNDP. It is still running today under local leadership. In 1998 she travelled for two years on a motorbike through Africa with her husband Mike Franken, which provided additional inspiration for her work. Back in Botswana, Rika taught pottery and art at the Gaborone Polytechnic, now a University divi sion. She fullfilled her dream of building an unusual, artistic house near Gaborone where she lives with her husband and three sons. Here Rika established Terra Cotta Pottery, creating highly individual Raku pottery. Terra Cotta Pottery is planning to develop more international outlets.
Raku is an ancient Asian ceramic firing technique which Terra Cotta* Pottery has adapted to Africa. The procedure is hot and haz ardous due to the acrid smoke. It is also risky as the pots undergo a severe shock when they are removed from the red hot kiln, plunged into or ganic materials like sawdust, leaves or dung, and then into water. This severe difference in tem perature creates cracks in the glaze into which smoke from the burning organic material pen etrates, staining them a permanent, irregular black. The unpredictable outcome of Raku brings much joy and excitement. Terra Cotta glazes are adapted to the colour for mula of ancient Egyptian pottery and are im ported from Germany. All glazes are lead free, officially health-approved and can withstand domestic oven temperatures. *'Terra Cotta' means 'fired earth'
The Pot as a Message
Since prehistoric times earthen pots have served hu manity by containing and preserving food, drink and offerings to the gods, even accompanying the de ceased to the afterlife. Today's pots are still produced for practical uses. "Besides being practical, we want our pots to have unique artistic statements and messages," says Rika, "...each pot sitting in front of me just asks for its own life and design". Therefore Terra Cotta Pottery often bears messages about the beauty of the natural en vironment, wildlife and fauna, hopefully encouraging appreciation, gratitude, wonder, love, and perhaps even personal meditation.... The Pot as "Mother Earth" Nature is earth's greatest artist! Living close to Nature in Botswana inspires the artist to incorporate collected objects such as seeds, thorns, wood and stones into the design of the pots.
Exhibitions by Terra Cotta Pottery have been held in Botswana with many solo and joint shows also in the UK and Germany. The pottery has won numerous national awards. and is stocked in all major art and craft shops in Botswana. The African spirit and charm of Terra Cotta pots are cherished by many art lovers all over the world. Terra Cotta pots are work-intensive and unique. Special orders and designs are always welcome.
Teaching and training are an impor tant part of Terra Cotta Pottery. Over the years a number of Batswana have been employed, trained and enriched with new skills and inspirations. 'Hobby Potters' can join us in a tranquil bush setting to enjoy learning about Raku and other ceramic forming and decorating techniques. Guided tours for private individuals and school groups are available on request.