10 Minutes With: Ceramicist Gemma Orkin

Blue Tail

The brilliantly talented ceramic artist Gemma Orkin is based in South Africa. Her handmade creations celebrate a love of family, friends, flowers, birds and the beautiful, simple things in life. We caught up with Gemma for 10 minutes to  hear more about life and her creative process.

How did your career begin?

I cone from a very creative family. My mom, Gail Catlin is a very acclaimed South African painter- so I grew up only knowing about art. Lots of classes, lots of time watching my mom working really hard- teaching me about sensitive lines and glowing colours. I come from a family of 7 children and three quarters of us are artists, photographers or something creative. My son is also a ceramic artist.

I have a degree in printmaking, which in a way is similar in terms of technical surprises and processes and only having the surprise at the end of the process. And working with blocking off areas with texture and colour. I started ceramics night classes, which lead in to the day, which lead to me starting to sell. And I started teaching (for 20 years) which lead into opportunities that I grabbed and worked hard at to grow my brand. I’ve been lucky.


How would you describe your style?

I always believe in being original and creating something that sits comfortably and easy with me. I stick with what I relate to- real life. I think my style is quite homely and real. The hand made feel gives the feeling of my hands working on it. The actual drawing and the quality of the line is really important to me. I don’t think there is a name for my style, which makes me happy. Because I like to think that they are just what makes me happy. I love creating colour combinations too.

Can you tell us about your inspiration?

I am very inspired by love, love stories, love songs and how people connect with each other- how people talk and relate to each other. And how people find a place in the world. I think it is portrayed in the way my work tells a small familiar story to the person that receives it. I am very inspired by old style ceramics, by their use of very heavy cream pastel colours- rich glazes that sit heavy on the clay and have their own texture and life. I am also extremely inspired by the colours of nature- the way they are combined and completely balanced with absolute ease. And it amazes me who created them- and how.

What gets you through a full-on day?

My biggest philosophy- ‘why put off what can be done today until tomorrow’. I always set myself a target what I need to achieve in a day. And then a target for the week. I think these goals keep me very focussed. My studio is also at home. So it is very easy for me to work around my family and all other things that need to happen in the day. And I LOVE what I do. I think a real driving force for me is the response I get from my work and when it makes someone very happy to receive it.


Can you talk us through how your products are made?

All my pieces are hand made and hand painted by me. Each piece is made with hand rolled coils, built up, finished off. Then hand painted with 2 coats of the base colour (which I mix). My design is drawn, which I then ‘colour in’. First firing, then glazed and high fired to 1200 degrees.

What are your plans for 2019

I have started to do design work which is being reproduced on to cards. And they’re going on to tea towels too. My ceramics will always be my first love because I get great satisfaction from the building process. I absolutely love the surface texture that I draw on. And the biggest thrill is when the work comes out of the kiln and all is successful, shiny and new. However, I would like to grow my design work range because it isn’t the hard, physical labour that I do everyday. So it’s a nice addition.


Discover Gemma’s new ceramic collection with us at https://www.ibbidirect.co.uk/gemma-orkin