We all know of Janet in many different roles: world traveller, judge,
editor, member of organisations – in most of which she became
Here I want to talk about her as potter.
Most of her work was wheel thrown, using a Leach wheel. This I
consider an instrument of the devil. It is a method of torture that
would extract a confession from any but the most hardened criminal.
The masochism evident in using it probably prepared Janet well for
the disasters of the anagama kiln.
It meant she was able to survive the heat, the burning red face, the
black eyebrows and cheeks where the sweat has been wiped off with
blackened gloves, the smell of burning leather, and the tiredness
involved in woodfiring.
I should say that Janet hated me saying things like this about her and
edited them out of anything I wrote for her.
But let’s remember – all of that physicality is present in almost
everything you see in this exhibition. It is an essential part of
woodfired work and the more sensitive flowers among us will
never do this kind of work because they cannot endure the
physical challenges. Janet could – and we should acknowledge that
So why would anyone expose themselves to all that? The reason is
certainly not masochism – we can all think of more interesting ways
to express that. . As a professional Janet made work so it could go in
exhibitions – and ultimately in public collections, and be published in
magazines and books. So her work is indeed in collections all around
the world ---- but we are especially privileged to see it here – from
her own private collection of her work.
We see typical Janet pots, like the ones I think of as Korean style
jars – but not as any Korean made them. They are in her style, her
forms, instantly recognisable. The early ones were salt glazed. They
acknowledge that salt often benefits from some texture by using
some sgraffito, free writing on the surface in a language known only
to people who work with clay.
Like many other potters who salt glazed - she then moved on to
woodfiring – there is a natural transition from using sodium vapours
floating through the kiln to create a surface, to using woodash
floating through the kiln to create a surface.
But she did not just make pots for public display, for collections
and magazines and so on. She also made simple useful ones. Here
life and art came together in the simplest and most powerful way
possible. She would be expecting 10 people around for lunch, or
dinner so she would bring out her pots for them.
Or at these Gulgong events sometimes she was expecting 400 people
around for dinner, at Morning View – so she would set out to make
400 mugs and bowls and plates and whatever else was needed. She
loved making the pots and she loved the company of the people, and
those together were her motivations for being a potter.
There is a poetry in that, there are values that are worth keeping.
Values that we are in danger of losing in the transition from being
potters to being ceramicists to being conceptualists to being
deconstructionists to being whatever is happening now that has not
yet been given a title.
There is a value in that simple intimacy of the cup that you hold in
your hand each morning or the bowl that holds whatever is the latest
dieting fad. There is a value in eating or drinking from something
made by your friend in another state or another country, retaining
an intimacy with them through that thing.
I guess by saying that I am making myself a member of an older
generation with different values – a generation that as a maker Janet
She made what she made - but let’s not forget that as editor and
judge and collector she accepted and encompassed all forms of
ceramics, all styles from all countries.
So please – enjoy the exhibition, and celebrate the life of the potter
who made this work.
Dr Owen Rye