Established in 2015, Shabalala Designs is a proudly South African, high-end ceramic studio offering unique art masterpieces ranging from homeware to sculptures and more. Under the expert guidance of Alex Shabalala, the artisans of Shabalala Designs create collectible, functional works of art inspired by South African wildlife.




Originating from Kwa-Zulu Natal, Alex has always been interested in working with his hands. His artistry emerged as a young child when he would make his toys out of waste materials and river clay. From as early as Grade 7, Alex began teaching art at Sbonokuhle Primary School and his passion for passing on knowledge has only grown since then. Alex and friends opened an art studio at Mpophomeni, near Howick, called “Amacikwesizwa Visual Art” – meaning “the creatives of the world”. He also attended art workshops in print making at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and continued to master his print-making skills under the mentorship of Malcolm Christian (of The Caversham Press).

A stunning view in KwaZulu Natal 

Continuing his interest in ceramic artistry, Alex taught himself the ins and out of the techniques and familiarised himself with all the processes needed to create the masterpieces you see here today. Recognised for his talent, Alex went on to design limited edition ranges for exclusive studios in the area.
“In 2013 I came to Johannesburg with the hope of fulfilling my ambition as an artist,” says Alex. “Since I got to Johannesburg, I had the opportunity to work with Bronwen Findlay running several mosaics projects which includes the Mandela Children’s Hospital, and running a ceramic art project at the American International School. I was also able to further my education in small business management with Tsogo Sun Entrepreneur.”

The outdoor studio in Riverside View

With a dream of selling his pieces internationally and further sharing his knowledge of art with others, Alex started Shabalala Designs in his backyard in Riverside View, Gauteng. Since then, Shabalala Designs has expanded into a larger studio and is able to employ two permanent painters, Xolile and Milo, as well as temporary throwers and sculptors. The artists, all from similar disadvantaged communities and mentored by Alex, specialise in their unique fields such as throwing, sculpting animals and flowers from clay, or painting the intricate designs and colours onto the unique pieces. It is Alex’s greatest hope to grow the business and employ more artisans, uplifting people through art.
In December 2020, Shabalala Designs joined the Capitalworks Foundation as a pilot project and in doing so, Alex found a partner with the same instilled values of creativity, patience and discipline to provide the business support to grow and develop. Shabalala Designs strives to make a positive difference in the surrounding community with sustainable skills development empowering self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship.

The artists at work in the Riversands Studio 

Shabalala Designs strives to make a positive difference in the surrounding community with sustainable skills development empowering self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship.  This is achieved by running local workshops demonstrating the skills required and through constantly seeking skilled personnel to join the team where they will receive comprehensive training and mentoring, enable aspiring artists to develop as skilled workers, gain employment and support their families.

Workshops and seminars run in the local communities provide a chance to both teach the skills needed and to identify the next artists for the studio.




Xolile is a talented painter with an eye for detail.  She loves flowers and plants and her patterns and choice of colours reflect the grace and elegance she sees in nature.  She is intrigued by the different nuances and rhythms found in nature and thrives on the beauty of wild animals but does not enjoy being too close to them, preferring to admire from a distance.


Milo is a highly skilled painter with a deep feeling for painting both the Nguni and Ankole cattle.  Milo has tremendous patience when she paints and loves the ability to be creative.  Her favourite colour is blue because it reminds her of open skies on a hot African day.  She enjoys painting simple yet sophisticated pieces. 


Our Team