Gemma Patford Melbourne
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Gemma Patford

Although Gemma Patford, the Melbourne based rope bowl artist and designer, calls her designs “practical” from a usability standpoint, they are works of art. From her home studio in Brunswick, a down to earth, creative community in a suburb of Melbourne, Gemma’s boundless stream of creativity is poured into her hand painted baskets, dishes and bowls.

This was not her first foray in a creative industry. She used to run a small clothing label called Not Today, but eventually grew tired of the limitation of clothes and started dabbling in other areas. “I started making silly looking home-wares, felt jewelry and other things. I went mad there for a while and started making huge hamburger scatter cushions (see photo below). The hamburgers were very popular and at one point it seemed like all I was doing was sewing hamburger patties and stuffing tomatoes” says Gemma.

Gemma Patford Melbourne

It was not too long after returning to work full time and putting her designs on the back burner that she soon realized that design, in fact, was not meant for the back burner. She spent her evenings cutting out stencils, hand painting and making calico tote bags with the silk screen she purchased. This was on top of painting gum nuts and making book ends out of rocks. After amassing quite the collection of made objects, she hooked up with a digital designer who created her Gemma Patford website, and informally, she went into business.

Gemma is someone who continuously strives to create new things. Fortunately for her, the stars seemed to converge around baskets. “I was given a beautiful Vicki Fowler (Melbourne artist) basket from a friend.  I was totally inspired. Her use of fabric and colour really spoke to me. At the same time Harvest Workroom were hosting basket weaving classes by Maryann Talia Pau. There was something in the air. I started Googleing, YouTubing, reading and sampling” says Gemma.

The rest, is history.

Gemma Patford Melbourne

INTERVIEW: Gemma Patford, Designer {Melbourne}

01 How are your baskets made? What is involved in the design process? What are they made from?
I began trying different stitches on my machine, using different ropes. Some of my first pieces where truly terrible, very floppy and not at all practical. I started working with harder, neutral rope which made the vessels more durable and strong. During this phase I started experimenting with the water colours. The cotton rope absorbed the colours wonderfully and created the effect you see in the pieces now. I’ve moved into using more vibrant acrylic paints. The shape of the vessels are mainly due to the angle of my sewing machine head and foot. The angle is very wide, which makes it difficult to make anything cylindrical.

02 Where do you look for inspiration when designing a basket pattern?
Every where. My inspirational pinterest is pretty full. I love to look at old baskets I’ve made and adapt them. I also love experimenting with new shapes and colour ways. Some times the best design just happen by accident. It can be very difficult to keep them all the same. Especially when stockists ask to a certain basket, they are all unique and different.

Gemma Patford Melbourne

03 Do you entertain at home? 
I’m always hosting dinner partys. We recently renovated our kitchen. Our kitchen bench rolls and is used as our dinner table. We stole the idea from a vintage caravan. Our crockery set is all miss matched. All our plates are different. I love collecting Alfred MeakinJohnson BrosChurchill England mix matched plates. I’m also a sucker for vintage bone handled knives and forks.On our dining table you will find a bright vintage table cloth. Vintage English salad bowls, mid century salad servers, a bakerlight butter dish and carnival mixed matched plates.

04 Are there any unique or special traditions related to entertaining at home that you can share with us?  
There are no traditions, my only ‘Gemma Rule‘ is to ensure people are always made to feel welcome, and must have a drink or nibble in their hand within two minutes of arrival!

Gemma Patford Melbourne

05 What is next for you?
I am working on some rope wall art. I’m still experimenting with rope, but trying new shapes and uses. Making more one off items and working on commissions. I’m not sure what I’ll come up with yet. Early days in 2014.

Gemma Patford Melbourne
Photo Source: Gemma Patford

06 Whose work do you admire in the craft/design world?
I am constantly inspired by other artists. I am really motivated by Maryanne Moodie’s weavingsDear Plastic”s paper products, of course Douglas Johnston’s rope art, Alex FalkinerShuh Lee, Zillpa,  Alice OehrBleem Weaver, oh there are so many! I have just finished working on a fun collaboration with H by Heather Lighton where we used her beautiful hand crafted polymer clay beads and my vessels to make beaded hanging baskets. I am also about to launch a textile collaboration with Alex Kovac and her clothing label Oracles for Spring/Summer, and am working on some very limited items for an exhibition in Adelaide.

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