For most people change is a good thing, but not for ceramic artist Gemma Orkin. Gemma has been making semi-functional ceramic dishes and bowls for over 20 years. Her drawings are quirky, sassy and sweet and totally her own. Her signature, though it has evolved gently over time, is so particular and light-hearted, and well, un-changed. If something works, why change it? Gemma explains, “I don’t like change, but I do love with ceramics that there are so many different areas to it. It’s not monotonous.”
Gemma had a very early introduction to art and the art world as one of 7 children to her artist mother, Gail Catlin. Gemma says art has always been a part of her life. She grew up taking art lessons on a regular basis, not always formally but from her mother or sent to friends of her mother for lessons. Though Gemma did eventually receive formal training at the University of Cape Town, majoring in print-making. “Print-making was a difficult medium to really do something with”, she says. When a friend suggested she come to Barbara Jackson’s studio to try ceramics Gemma gave it a shot and very shortly after she began teaching other students at the studio.
All of Gemma’s work is hand-made with coils, each and every tiny oval dish to her bigger pots. Then of course there is the drawing. Gemma begins with an idea and then draws the image for reference before drawing it onto each piece, then it is hand-painted and finally glazed. Her first signature pieces which put her on the art world stage were her big hair people. I must admit they are my personal favorite. Many of her special one-off pieces were largely inspired however by nature with paintings of indigenous birds and flowers. Life and wellness are her biggest inspirations. She says, “you can go for a walk and feel happy and notice something and then I ‘ll draw it.” Gemma is the queen of quirk and on her ceramics you can find anything from hanging laundry, hot air balloons, rockets, fish or a ramble about being in love or being in life. Her work makes you smile. “There are no hidden meanings,” she says. “It’s light.”
Gemma’s ceramic art can be found all over the world. Most notably in South Africa are her continuous collections at Melissa’s Food Shop in 9 outlets throughout Cape Town and Johannesburg. She has also appeared at Anthropologie and West Elm in the US, Habari in Vienna, Le Panape de Camela in Geneva and at Angie’s Little Food Shop in England. Though Gemma has made her ceramics a full-time business over the last 12 years she admits, “I don’t advertise myself. I don’t like to sell myself. I am very lucky people find me.” Or rather they are very lucky to find her <3.
To request more information regarding Gemma’s work, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.