Born in Aliwal North, South Africa, in 1987, Nico Masemola chanced upon Hylton Nel’s studio at thirteen. Transfixed by the renowned potter’s extensive collection of Staffordshire animal figures, tribal art, books, paintings and Chinese ceramics, he soon fell in love with the pottery process.
Under Nel’s guidance, Masemola learnt pottery basics and quickly progressed to making more complex forms. In particular, he became fascinated by the different ways clay transforms into intricate yet durable shapes and how the application of glaze imbues character and charm.
Though there is an undeniable affinity between the playful aesthetic of both Nel and Masemola’s work, the latter’s detailed, nuanced construction and bold use of colour set his work apart. By channelling his mentor’s love of nineteenth-century Staffordshire figures, Masemola captures an understated elegance and naivety that displays his unique artistry and the meaningful relationship between teacher and student.
Nico Masemola sadly passed away in 2015. His work is shown extensively in South Africa and is now on show for the first time in London. He is regarded as Hylton Nel’s most successful apprentice whose talent continues to inspire the School of Nel.