National Craft Awards entrant spreads joy through art

Billie McNaughton’s beautiful ceramic works reflect her positive attitude to life.

The Port Elizabeth resident, who says she is ‘57 going on 28 and getting younger by the day’, is one of the entrants in this year’s Innibos National Craft Awards.

She is thankful for this platform that recognises South African craft people’s excellence in skill and allows them to showcase their works nationally. “For me, marketing my art is as terrifying as being naked in public.

“Being acknowledged as an artist really is a symphony to an artist’s soul. To be recognised by an appreciative audience would help my confidence enormously and allow me to create more freely.”

The awards, now in its fourth year, is free to enter and welcomes all disciplines of craft. The closing date is midnight on May 1, 2020.

Moulding a happy existence

“The positive message of life I am able to portray in my art is a result of the passionate life I lead,” she says. “Besides my art, my love of nature and my special people, my passion is ocean swimming.”

This love of water has manifested itself in Billie’s work. She is known for her bold female heads, adorned with Anam Cara or Other Self caps. “They originated as swimming caps in my sculptures but have since become fish, trees and birds,” explains Billie.

Anam Cara means ‘soul friend’ – someone who understands who you are, without mask or pretention.

“The Anam Cara caps represent various means of linking our souls to nature,” says Billie, who believes in the ownership of attitude, joyfulness and positivity.

The eyes of Billie’s ceramic heads are covered because she wants to portray an insight beyond that which the eyes can see.

“Besides the deeper meaning of my work, the form is very important to me. I love simple, strong lines that say as much in the negative as in the positive form. They rely heavily on the play between light and shadow, which I further enhance with dark oxide washes.”

Billie studied at the old Port Elizabeth Technikon in the early 80s, under artists Hylton Nel and Deon Venter. Before that, while at school in Grahamstown, she studied at the Carinus Art School. “There I found stability and a sense of belonging in art,” she said.

Initially, Billie did Graphic Fine Art for a year under well-known South African artist and art educator Alexander Podlashuc. “He had a huge influence on my art, as did Leon de Bliquy.”

Her love affair with art was interrupted by ‘life and children’ but she found her way back to the fold in 2012.

Today, she spends her time in her garden studio, which is filled with light, birdsong, dogs, music and occasionally art students.

Billie serves on the Eastern Cape committee of Ceramics SA and has exhibited in Cape Town, East London, Johannesburg, Grahamstown, Bloemfontein, Carlitzdorp and Port Elizabeth.

“I have had work chosen for four Corobrik national exhibitions and won second place in the East Cape Regionals and Artec New Signature Exhibitions,” says Billie, who has been invited to exhibit in Hermanus in June.

“I am loving my life journey and hope I am able to spread joy through the privilege of being an artist.”

For more information on the Innibos National Craft Awards – including details on how to enter – visit the Award’s Facebook page: @InnibosNationalCraftAwards or WhatsApp Jan Bhuda on 071 621 3597 or email John Anthony Boerma at