INTERVIEW: GEMMA ORKIN
Gemma Orkin is a ceramicist based in Cape Town, South Africa, known for her hand-built and hand-painted collection of functional ceramic objects beautifully illustrated with flowers and birds and other motifs found in nature. Her practice spans 30 years and her craft is meticulous - the process is entirely hand made where each piece is built up with coils, carefully shaped, painted with colour and then illustrated by hand before firing & glazing. We worked closely with Gemma on our 'Wild Flower' series - a collection of timeless kitchenware inspired by fields of wild-flowers and nostalgic earthenware.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Where do you live? When did you start making ceramics?
I come from a family of artists and have been doing ceramics for 30 years with a degree in fine arts majoring in print-making. Cape Town has always been home. I am a self-taught ceramic artist.
Can you tell us more about the creative process in your work?
All my work is handmade and hand painted by me. Each piece is built up with coils, shaped, allowed to dry and then painted with colour and illustrated. Then the 4 day firing process starts.
Your biggest inspiration?
I am inspired by nature, love, honesty and originality. I am inspired by old-fashioned ceramics, creamy glazes and any creator that is passionate about what they do.
How have you seen your work evolve over the years?
My work is about making people happy, I would like them to feel that it is something they created themselves and I think that over the past 25 years based on customer feedback I might have achieved this. I try and keep my work as personal as possible and so I suppose the biggest evolution has come from my own growth.
Your son, Ben, also makes ceramics, we exhibited his incredible work last year, can you tell us a little more about your relationship?
My main focus with Ben, given that we are in the same field, is to not influence him. I like to guide him technically and we like to help each other to give another eye from the outside. We are opposites in terms of his work being more sculptural and mine being semi-fuctional but this is complimentary. I don't want to influence him in any way because of my strong belief that the work must be original and must come from your soul. This is what we have in common.
Do you work collaboratively?
I have done collaborative projects with Anthropolgy in the US and UK and West Elm in the US but I believe that all my work is a collaboration as I like to work closely with all my customers to produce pieces that they love.
Favourite piece to make? Favourite piece you have ever made?
I love everything that I do and could never pick a single favourite piece. I am really enjoying the bright, bold colours I am currently working with.
Favourite and most treasured object in your house?
I am a very sentimental person and my whole house is my favourite thing!
Favourite coffee table book?
Botanicum by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis
And finally, what’s next for you and your work?
As for future plans, I have just turned 50 which for me is an achievement, having done the same thing for 30 years and still waking up every morning excited about my work and going to sleep at night excited to start the day again and repeat the same process. So my hopes for the future is that each days stays exactly as it is now.