I had the pleasure of meeting Melbourne maker Gemma Patford a few years ago when she first launched her handmade rope vessels at Markit @ Fed Square markets. Since then, her signature vessels have taken pride of place in many Aussie shops and homes. It’s been wonderful having the opportunity to chat to Gemma about her handcrafted goods and the newest addition to the family – daughter Dusty.
What do you make? Handmade and hand-painted rope vessels and I also experiment with other handmade goods.
How long have you been making things? For ever! My father was a painter and decorator and my mum was a teacher, so I’ve always had access to glue, wood, paint, glitter, tape and nails. My parents always encouraged me to rip, paint, tape and glue. They always said that a roll of masking tape would keep me occupied for hours.
What’s your background and what lead you to where you are today? After completing a Bachelor of Science degree and feeling a bit unsatisfied, I decided to go back to school and study garment construction, textiles and pattern making. I’ve been lucky enough to have shared various studio spaces with some truly talented artists who constantly drive and challenge my ideas.
What’s your workspace like? My workspace is clean, bright and very calming. The white walls clear my mind and I find it really helps me think. I enjoy it when I am working on a large order, as the clear space slowly fills up with bright coloured treasures and they almost become decorations.
How much time a week do you dedicate to your products and what does a typical day working involve for you? At the moment, with our new little girl Dusty being so young and fun, I can only really dedicate two days a week at the studio. The other times, I’m laughing, cooing, clapping and singing to her. A typical day when we are at the studio starts with me feeding her, then popping her in the front baby backpack and heading to the studio. As soon as we arrive, she’s due for her nap and I start organising my day.
I organise the paints and start feeling inspired and write a rough to do list. When she wakes, I feed her on the comfy couches in the communal area in the studio, and then I pop her on her playmat or bouncer. I like to play some relaxing music for us both and I talk to her as I paint. She’ll feed, play and sleep while I paint and sew. Dusty often gets picked up and cuddled by my studio friends and by about 3pm she’s had enough of the studio, so we head home.
We’re all about celebrating Australian motherhood and creativity on childmagsblog.com – what does it mean to you to be an Australian creative who’s also a mother? It means a lot of juggling. Dusty was crying the other day in the studio and I picked her up for a cuddle, but I didn’t realise I was covering her with paint. Being a parent has really shifted my priorities. Even when I’m in the studio, my focus is split across Dusty and my art.
Is there anything you’d like to share with other mums who may be trying to combine their lives as creatives and caretakers? Be patient! Know that what you could usually do in a day will take you a week. Be courteous to your clients and be open about new lead times. People are understanding, so don’t take on more that you can handle during an already stressful time. Gemma Patford, 33, lives in Melbourne with her husband Duncan and daughter Dusty, 4 months. You can see her amazing collection of hand-painted rope vessels and décor on Gemma’s website and shop. Keep up to date with her latest collections and workshop events via Instagram.