I was very fortunate when Gemma found my blog posts and contacted me, and have since had a few long conversations with Gemma about her work as a potter at Carmel and later. Gemma's hands no longer allow her to throw pots on a wheel, but she continues to make some small pieces and figurines for friends.
I'm fortunate enough now to have a small collection of Gemma's work, which was mainly purchased from auctions last year - a mixture of pieces made while at the Convent and in her own pottery.
The large canisters below are the most perfect pottery canisters I have ever seen. They take pride of place in my kitchen, and are so precisely and beautifully made. The lids fit superbly - as they were fired on the pots and then carefully tapped off when complete.
Gemma develop the beautiful banding pattern by experimenting with combinations of oxides, which became a signature style. Gemma discussed how she also experimented with clay bodies by adding beach sand to achieve the perfect texture. The smart calligraphy on these and many other pieces was done in the Convent by Sister Alice, who was a very competent calligrapher.
Matching the large canisters is a delightful set of about 8 smaller spice canisters, equally perfect. I was fortunate enough to pick up a number of sets of the small canisters which I will sell on at some stage.
The large vase below is another lovely piece by Gemma which I am keeping in my collection. Again the lovely banding and some nice detailing with rings and cut out decoration. The bowl in the image below this shows a lovely and delicate style of "shattering" that Gemma developed as decoration - again just the oxide instead of a glaze. (The insides of all of these pieces were glazed - usually in a cream coloured or dark grey semi gloss glaze)
Recently Gemma sent me some photo's of some of her favourite pieces, including some sculptural pieces. I think the vases with the shattering decoration are just superb, and the chalice and carved relief simply breathtaking! The last image is a detail of a massive sculpture by Gemma of a swan sleeping - such a peaceful looking piece.
Much of Gemma deRidder's work and the work of the Carmelite Nun's is held in small private collections like mine, and I hope it one day gets more recognition. It is an important part of Australian cultural heritage and Craft. It doesn't come up for sale at auction very often, but it can be found occasionally on eBay and around Adelaide by those who recognise it....so if you ever see a piece with the sign of the Cross and word Carmel, or Carmel Gem or Carmel Pat snap it up. A unique piece of South Australian history.