There is a challenge that every [ceramic] artist faces: to either go with the flow by following the avant-garde and the conceptual or, to work to renew the aesthetic of artists who work primarily in a social context and risk exclusion from those that count in the world of artistic consumption. 
The studio potter risks running the gauntlet of the art critic who misreads the artist’s conceptual framework, and so finds them drab, and simultaneously the rejection by their community for being pretentious.
For her part Janet made functional pots, making a kind of private exchange that takes place between potter and the user.
I want to suggest to you how Janet arrived at and challenged the boundaries of her art and to tell a couple of anecdotes to produce a biographical reading of her work where-in Janet transformed our home into a studio, producing work that wasn’t just about the skilful manipulation of her materials, but also a parody of the domestic space and a de-territorialisation and decoding of the family home into her line of flight ironically away from the domestic.
So, we pick up Janet’s story in her new house in the Sydney suburb of Turramurra, with her husband, a doctor, who works late. As it happened, Colin had taken up medicine as a returned soldier from the 2nd World War, as part of the return to society opportunities they offered returning service-men. All of a sudden he was a pathologist cutting up cadavers at a hospital for returned soldiers, many of whom had taken to self- destructive lifestyles.
Because it lies over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, places like Turramurra were late to develop as there had been no access until the bridge had been built. This resulted in large blocks of land with new homes - a privileged, upwardly mobile class. Leafy yet stuffy with conformity: get with the plan or get out. A smugness hiding a fear. Of what? Everything was being renewed. Permanence seems out of reach. Neighbours view the future tentatively and without comment.
Having had her 4 th child and looking for the next big thing, Janet enrolled in Ceramics at the National Art School in Sydney’s exotic East. The campus is a former goal, but where now the walls are there to keep out the violent and the abused. Indeed the wall itself is a borderland of street trawlers.
Peter Rushforth was in charge of Ceramics at the NAS and became her mentor and life-long friend. It is worth pointing out that before embarking on Ceramics, Rushforth himself had been a returned serviceman. In fact he had been imprisoned at Changi as a Japanese POW. Later, when he returned from Changi he took up art classes, sculpture classes and pottery classes to find his thing, a personalised re-territorialised version of Japanese and Chinese ceramics, which is ironic in a way, and was perhaps motivated by a desire to free himself from his immediate past and to use that as a collaboration to make something new, to give it something accepting of imperfection in the shadows of the horrors of war.
Janet and Colin were bricoleurs – making do with things at hand rather than following the plans of others – they fabricated their own washing detergent and soaps, for instance. They built a lean-to to carry out their interests. My father wanted to grow a rain forest to disguise our lives and camouflage us from neighbours. He constructed a glass house. Once all his cuttings had taken root Janet claimed this space for her studio, to fill our home with pottery in her own making. As French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari wrote: “Perhaps art begins with the animal, at least with the animal that carves out territory and builds a house.’ The other half of the lean-to, was my bedroom so that while I studied I could hear her working throughout all the hours of the night. She liked to listen to the radio. It was either the opera or parliament or a national sport called cricket – a game that lasts 5or 6 days – all things of drama, which she could ignore with her own drama of making pots. Very occasionally I might hear a quiet sob if not one of her glaze tests had worked. .
Meanwhile shopping malls were going up everywhere. That monolithic Coca Cola advert that you can see from Hyde Park when looking towards Kings Cross was being switched on for the first time. To commemorate this, the Shopping Mall underneath it was going to hold a craft demonstration. I was my mother’s roadie – carrying in an electric wheel and clay and water. There were no other artists that I could see. Only the usual mix of Kings Cross night life: the businessmen, the prostitutes, transvestites and shoppers, tourists and backpackers. Janet started throwing pots in the middle of the mall. All linoleum, and escalators, the shopping mall is a kind of external extension of the domestic space – a place housewives went to buy their family dinners. But here, Janet was throwing pots. Soon I started to think something might be wrong. It looked like a set up. Come see something quaint from yesteryear that will not survive up against the futuristic beauty of the neon sign. I feared for Janet. She had no chance. It was going to be a massacre. But slowly a crowd collected. Outside was getting darker, soon the Coca Cola sign could be lit up in all its hypnotic fluorescence. When the time came, the centre manager came to usher the crowd that had now assembled around Janet outside to witness the turning on of the neon. But one loudly dressed American tourist, his family in tow, fondling some souvenired clay, boomed out, as if talking for all of us, “Hey buddy, we’re staying put. We’re staying with the potter.” It was a mutiny. The future was safe.
But the times were a-changing. Pop icons like Bob Dylan expropriated the voice of redneck middle Americans and using their voice sang back at them protest songs of sensibility. The Beatles re-territorialised the music hall tunes with electric guitars. When Bob Dylan swapped to electric guitars he was booed off the stage but became a pop icon. In the theatre, Becket and Pinter wrote plays of stammering and repeated inaction. Potters considered whether ceramics might even become pop culture.
Included in these changes was the first wave of feminism which demanded an equality for women who’d been disenfranchised from many parts of society. Seen in this light, Janet didn’t just cook the dinner, she made the plates it was served on.
Knowledge needed to become ever more consensual and ever more emotional. Knowledge was to have its own aesthetics and it would be a process akin to learning and spreading the word. For Janet this meant getting rid of the notions of secret methods handed down from master to deshi, the secret glaze recipes, yet maintaining the sacred role of the unmediated hand, where the work was produced at the wheel, as if by instinct, trained by the sort of prolific number of hours at the wheel, like a concert pianist. In part this gave rise to the increasing number of ceramic events and art happenings occurring at the Turramurra home.
To be frank, the house we lived in was never maintained or renovated to keep up with Janet’s expanding family - we ended up living in various add-ons that were done on the cheap and that could become pottery spaces as soon as each child left home. Again in this way Janet consciously threw out the usual social codes of maintaining your property values above anything else.
In fact all around us, homes were knocked down to become flats so that eventually we became surrounded by high-rise on all 3 sides. Each of these flats would overlook us and so it was up to us to grow as many trees as we could - beautiful trees which upset the neighbours who’d prefer to watch the goings on in the back yard. These events were often lively, noisy and crowded. The kilns started off quiet and electric, then moved to commercial gas and then to hand-built kilns for her salt glazing. The salt glazing especially was upsetting to the neighbours, with its black fumes during reduction swirling around the units and balconies. In order to get the salt glaze effects Janet decided she needed to attach some blowers to the side of the kiln so that she could introduce the salt at force. This meant she connected up our domestic vacuum cleaner in reverse so that she could drop the salt into the path of the air and into the kiln. As the gas was varied – down to add some salt then back up again, the salt exploding into fumes or volatilising and out the chimney. The neighbours, some old, possibly from a more conservative background who had an eagle eye on their property values would phone the fire brigade out of spite which Janet would need to placate.
Eventually we were raided by the local council. Some of our event days were selling days. Potters would start dropping their pots at the Turramurra house. They would be all over the back yard, and all over the front. People were told to come on the Saturday at 9 o’clock but by 6 people were starting to queue to see what was there, to get in early and snap up what they wanted. Pottery being pottery, the buyers, unless they were potters themselves wanted to haggle. These events increased in number and popularity and in impact to the leafy peaceful environs. Janet wasn’t one to worry too much about the necessary documentation. Certainly she didn’t like to inform the local council of what was going on - it was hardly any of their business. Nor was she was going to get council approval for any of the kilns or buildings that she had built. She’d be damned. So when we were raided by the council, the inspector was beside himself. He was going to throw the book at Janet, solve half the council’s problem file here and now. Even get a promotion. Janet, however, felt that she had to stand her ground.
There were a lot of facts that the inspector had to document: The fact that the wood beams holding the roof up over the kiln, while not exactly alight were charred and smoking. The fact that Janet knew nothing of safe work practices with gas pipes running all over the place… reject pots accumulating rain collecting water, filled with mosquito larvae…
He interrogated us. What’s all this then, eh? And pointing to the kiln: You can’t have all this naked flame. No sir-ee! Well, she said, it would normally go into the chimney but just now I’m reducing. The confrontation grew hotter.
Changing tack, the inspector snarled: You can’t be running a business at this address without council approval.
I wouldn’t call it a busines, Janet replied. I’m just making my art.
The inspector looked beyond the kiln at all the pots stacked up along the path. What’s the value of these? What sort of money are we talking? I don’t know, she said, – I just sell them for what I can. Oh yes? And what would that be? Well, said Janet, you seem to have all the answers, what do you think I could get for them? So he looked at these misshapen forms that had all been warped in the heat, salt pouring off them, most having not survived the firing. I wondered momentarily where the inspector might have stood in the art/craft debate, then he just looked at her without any sympathy and said, “So it’s a hobby you say?” Janet’s Turramurra days were coming to an end. Her children would soon be off her hands and she made plans to move into the fast paced inner city, and to look to fire her kilns in the bush.
She began with Raku then detoured into salt, but by the end Janet was first and foremost a woodfirer. She enjoyed taking the risks and doing the hard work that can be rewarded and just as easily end in disaster. To see her in her element is to see her throw moderation out the window, firing longer and harder to discover the secrets of the process.
[Ceramic] artists confront the constraints of their materials – clay and fire – which they loosen and articulate within given limits. They do this with the help of codes, know-how and historical teachings which leads the artist to close certain doors and open other ones. 
Woodfirers know that the beauty of ceramics, apparent from the moment the kiln door opens, has been outside the total control of the intentions of the maker and that it has been created through a series of planned uncertainties.
The vessels made by Janet fit the processial paradigm – from the wet clay through to the opening of the kiln. They inherit the nature of the narrative and symbolic expression of the process. They are pots that fill the space between the real and the fictions of completeness and resolution. They are pots that re-territorialise the domestic space.
Janet was prolific, repeating forms as a kind of eternal return, making pots out of a necessity and performed as a line of flight away from one social context to another grander one. Her vessels are functional, making a kind of private exchange that takes place between the potter and the user sharing ideas that could only be arrived at by a potter.
If you only deal with the things you can control then the information that you draw from is only finite. But if you draw from the unknown, the possibilities are infinite.
Making pots was her great line of flight, away from the hum drum and the ordinary. Away from domesticity. And so, like a skateboard artist who prefers to do her tricks and grinds on street corners and malls, the canvass of public spaces that would ban them, Janet pursued domestic ware, challenging families to scrape their breakfast spoons across the ash-deposits. I don’t think that I have ever eaten a perfect steak on a plate made by Janet that didn’t wobble.
Janet was a force. It was “will to power”, but a power that was generous and generative: Oh so serious, oh such fun. It was the power to interpret life, borne out in her pots, because: To have created is to have revealed oneself. 
 Guattari, F. Chaosmose. Editions Galilee, 1992
Chaosmosis - an ethico-aesthetic paradigm. Power Publications, U Sydney. 1995, Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis