Meet the Maker - Gem from Homethrown Studios
Gem Mordle is a British maker of handmade ceramic ware, living on the Dorset coast. The studio is a one women band, and each piece made is unique and made by hand or thrown on the wheel. Home Thrown ceramics are playful, irregular and simple. Drawing on simplicity, organic shapes and textures influenced by Scandinavian & Japanese design. Aaand she's also behind the making of each and every one of my ceramic products.
CAN YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND TELL US WHAT YOU DO?
hello, my name is Gem and I am a potter dwelling in the south west
of England in sunny Dorset. I make functional ceramics under the
name Home Thrown Studio,that have a hand made utilitarian feel.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN MAKING AND WHAT GOT YOU INTO CRAFTING?
I have been making for around eight years now, after seeking out a
local evening class, led by an Ex Poole Pottery potter. Initially
it was an outlet to get away from the computer and to work with my
hands again, as a full time teacher of Media Studies I felt more
and more tethered by technology and had removed myself almost
completely away from creating and making with my hands. As a child
I’ve always been creative and moving to Dorset home of Poole
Pottery I thought it would be the best place to learn. I had no
experience of throwing on the wheel but instinctively knew that I
would enjoy rolling up my sleeves and getting messy. I had no idea
it would take me on a new career path.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
My mum and dad have always been my first and most important
sources of creative inspiration and I thank them greatly for
always including me and my siblings on trips to galleries and
exhibitions, and allowing us to be messy and destroy the house,
shaking out cereal and pouring laundry liquid away because we
wanted to make something. Growing up, I was drawn and still
inspired by Picasso’s naive and playful line drawings, that seem
to animate of the page, his lesser known ceramics are also a
regular sources of inspiration that I come back to regularly. I
also love the playful use of block colour, patterns and boldness
of David Hockney’s work. In terms of ceramics I love the purity
and simplicity of Lucie Ries ceramics her forms are simply
beautiful, I would love to master her skill and dedication one
day. Bernard Leach ceramics are also a favourite of mine, I am
very much drawn to the utilitarian forms of ceramics, carefully
curated but functional for everyday use. Lastly my environment is
a daily inspiration I am so lucky to live in such an outstanding
area of natural beauty with the sea and forest on my door step.
WHAT’S THE PIECE YOU'RE MOST PROUD OF?
That is a very hard question, I try not to get too attached to
pieces, making ceramics definitely makes you learn to let go, its
a very transient act and sadly frequently impermanent, there are
always lots of risks and pieces can easily crumble or smash before
your eyes. Having said that the pieces I can’t bring myself to
sell, are pieces that never get to reach the public eye. In my
down time I make animals for myself, I have an Anteater called
Anthony that I’m pretty proud of and not sure I could part with.
Unlike pieces of homeware, he would be near impossible to
replicate, the glaze and shape makes him one of a kind.
WHAT DOES CRAFT & HANDMADE MEAN TO YOU?
For me it is a slow and silly idea in terms of monetary gains and
time but it’s also the greatest joy. Handmade to me means an
obsession to create with your hands with simple tools and limited
machinery. Traditions handed down for centuries, relying little on
technical advancements but on training eyes to hands and muscle
If you are relying on a factory of machines to do the work, or a
production of labourers I think this can blur the lines. I have
noticed the trend of big businesses using the image of “Hand
Crafted” and “Artisan” to sell their wares, it has become trendy
and carries some commercial kudos these days. Which is great,
however it can be misguiding when you discover businesses who
create an ‘artisan’ aesthetic but after some research you learn
they employ a large number of labourers to mass produce wares. It
could be argued that this is still hand made, but to me I feel
this high level of production takes away the value of artists and
makers producing at a much slower production but fully
responsible for the management and completion of all areas of
WHICH ARTIST DEAD OR ALIVE WOULD YOU LOVE TO WORK WITH?
I would love to find a time machine and visit Bernard Leach and
Shoji Hamada in Mashiko Japan, I would watch them throw on the
wheel and learn how they apply their mix and apply there glazes,
loading and keeping lit the many wood firing kilns that need to be
fed through the night for days, until the nerve racking moment,
when the kilns are cool enough to be unloaded. I think that would
be an amazing experience. I would also love to have visited
Picasso working in his later years in the french village of
Vallauris, his studio from pictures looks as fun as his ceramics,
floors littered with pots and forms and plates with 3D food on
them, I think it would be like re-visiting my childhood, freedom
to explore and have fun without thinking of a final sellable form.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A NEW MAKER STARTING OUT?
Make sure you make time for what you love, it’s very cliche but
you won’t ever get to excel or nail down your style. You might
feel that you have to compromise a lot financially, but it is
amazing how quickly you can adapt, and how much happier you will
become in mind and spirit when you allow yourself to fully focus
on your own work. Be kind to yourself don’t expect too much in
your first year, reside to the fact you will make very little
money but will learn a lot. Let yourself daydream, take days out
to rest and travel often even if you think you don’t have the time
or money. It’s usually when my brain is idle or in natural spaces
that I get my best inspiration.
Don’t underestimate the power of your friends and conversations
with similar makers and freelancers. They will understand your
doubts and ‘maker’ daily panics. They will help and inspire you
and remind you that you are not wasting your time being a middle
aged pipe dreamer. Create a network so that even if you are
working long hours alone you know you can contact and meet up with
friends who understand the ups and downs of being a maker /
freelancer. Sometimes you need a reminder of why you started out
in the first place, it’s good to have a laugh, as it can be
exhausting being your own maker, marketer, accountant, motivator.
Seek out and ask for help from established makers, also get in
touch and make friends with funded art organisations they are
designing programmes with you and mind and there is a lot of
support for New Makers - In terms of both business planning,
marketing and finance.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE MAGAZINE, PODCAST AND TV SHOW?
- I love Kinfolk - It’s a utopian version of my life, no clutter,
Scandinavian self builds and the tastiest looking food. It is
always so calming a rarity in my life.
- Podcast -
- The High Low, is my most anticipated weekly podcast by - Dolly
Alderton & Pandora Sykes
- How to Fail by Elizabeth Day - Great, often moving interviews
with writers, makers & actors reflecting on their lives.
TV Show - At the moment I am binge watching Terrace House - A
Japanese reality show, but in the winter I am a big fan of aWhat advice would you give to a new maker starting out?
What's your favourite magazine, podcast and TV Show?