Lately we have had many people come in and ask who is GEM? Where do these one off ceramics get made ? So we thought we would venture out to her studio in Cardiff drink some delicious coffee made by Gracies partner Riley as well as shed some light on Gracie the woman behind the statement ceramics you all seem to love.
Gracie has been a one-woman ceramic operation since I meet her. She started ceramics to ease her anxiety and flex her creative muscle and we are all thankful for her quirky and unique style that transport us to our fave coastline with the tactile textures and earthy tones in each one of her statement pieces.
How long have you been practicing ceramics and what got you into it ?
I started in 2016 so around 4 years now. I have always been creative but wanted a new hobby, so thought I would try ceramics. I struggled a lot with anxiety and found it to be a really therapeutic outlet for me.
Where did you learn ?
I started going to a local studio Earthwares once a week. The studio is located in Cardiff and run by Sandra. Sandra has a bachelor of fine arts and has taught at University and Tafe. She also ran the Hunter community college ceramics component for 7 years.
Do you have your first ceramic piece you made?
Yes I do! And it is still one of my favourite pieces.
Rightly so, this piece is so cute, look at its sweet lil legs.
Most of your pieces seem really organic in design, where does your Inspo come from ?
I spent the first 5 years of my life in Bali and I love the colours and textures of the beach. These days a lot of my inspiration still comes from our coastline. The whitewash in waves and the texture of beach rocks are constant inspiration for me. I tend to be drawn to tones of blue, green and brown.
Oh yeasss I always have wondered how you picked the colours. Now you say this it def reminds me of the coast line. Do you use colour to tie back to the coast line rather than incorporating shells cause I hear they can make pieces explode in the kiln?
Yep, I use colour and texture as much as I can. I am always doing test tiles for my glazes and always trialling how different glazes might run and look on different pieces, depending on shape and texture etc. I would love to use shells in my work but unfortunately they will explode and ruin my kiln which would not be a cheap fix haha
Do you just throw on the wheel and go with what you feel or do you have a pre thought idea of what you are going to create?
I usually get on the wheel with an idea of what I'm going to make, but clay can be tricky! It sometimes has a mind of its own and sometimes I have off days. Something I may have envisioned can come out completely different. Usually on those days I'll do some hand building or glazing and try throwing again the next day.
Is it frustrating when things turn out completely different or is it like a pleasant surprise?
It can be so frustrating! Ceramics just has so many variables. I can do a glaze 10000 times and think I have it perfect, then glaze a whole order and they’ll come out different. It’s mostly frustrating when people do a custom order and I give them a timeline, then the ordered piece comes out different.
buttt in saying that, some of my favourite pieces have been flukes.
What is the process for you to create an original GEM piece?
If it's a hand-built piece I haven't done before I will draw up the shape. Also if it's a requested piece with specific dimensions eg vase I will draw it up on newspaper, cutting out the pieces almost like using a pattern. Then I will make a mock or test piece. The process is making a form with raw clay, then sanding and perfecting it once it’s ‘bone’ dry. After this it gets fired in my kiln up too 1000°C After this firing I glaze it and it goes back in for a glaze firing which range between 1030°C and 1100°C.
Seems like a long process one you put loads of love and thought into what is your fave part of it and least fave part ?
I’ve really fallen in love with throwing on the wheel recently. I used to love the hand building stuff. My fave part would still be opening the kiln after its last firing though. Always get surprises, sometimes bad ones but mostly good haha.
Do you do custom pieces?
Yep if I have the capacity I do. I work 4-5 days a week as a disability support coordinator so do need days to myself sometimes! And keeping my stockists shelves full is a priority too but I do love doing custom pieces when I can.
What are some funny requests you get for custom pieces?
Hmmm let me think. I have had a few requests to make a bong or pipe, which I don’t think is an unusual request for potters. I have also been asked to make dildos.
What the heck a ceramic dildo seems like a straight trip to the emergency room to me ? Do you think people would use them or just display it ? I’m not 100% sure what is weirder to be honest lol
Hahaha yes it was for a friend who was starting a business. I guess you could display it?? But surprisingly a lot of people use glass and ceramic dildos as you can temperature play, and they’re more sustainable. People also use crystal dildos 🙏🏼 The reason I didn’t go ahead with it was 100% the emergency room thought haha. My insurance would not cover that!!
How do you suggest people best look after there GEM pieces?
With love and care, much like they’re made. I would never recommend putting them through the dishwasher. I think in the long term it will shorten life span.
Whats the difference between a cheap department store mug and a GEM Ceramic mug?
This is a tricky one. These days Kmart and other department stores are selling beautiful ceramics which are similar to handmade pottery but for a fraction of the price. When you buy a GEM mug you’re supporting small business and you’re enabling me to continue making. The connection is real, with the mug coming from my home studio to your hands. No in betweens. It is also more sustainable to buy locally as products aren’t being wrapped in plastic and shipped across the world.
Whats next for GEM ?
It’s hard to say! I would love to open my own little shop but working a lot in my other job and covid have kind of put things on hold. I’m happy creating in my down time, which is still allowing me to do custom pieces.
One day I would love if I could do it full time. That’s the dream.
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