‘Is this all there is?” she might have asked, taking a fine pot out of a kiln.
‘These transformations – mud to stone, logs to infernos, useless to useful, mundane to glorious – surely there must be more!’
So she made more, and the ‘more’ turned out to be sharing her enthusiasm about ceramics in a big way, by launching quality magazines, connecting literate mud-junkies on every continent, verifying that we are all doing the same things in different ways, and letting us know that there has never been a better time in history to improve our planet, one step at a time.
There is something about working in clay that can reinforce whatever anti-sociability genes we may have … is it our hypnotic fixation on an inert material that seems to stare back at us, casting a spell and luring us into a trance-like state where clock-time is irrelevant and music animates our hands? As if to counter that maudlin tendency, the nine (and counting) events staged at ##Morning View## have brought together many hundreds of the contemporary clay clan to share information, exhibit new works, fire kilns of all sorts, and Hold Forth (the eutectic combining academia and the local Mudgee wineries produces a great deal of Holding Forth). These juggernauts, each with its inimitable Mansfieldian hijinks, leave no doubt that what we are impassioned to do can be fun, and even embarrassing; like the time in 1991 I learnt, in a very public way, that attaching a vacuum cleaner hose to the tailpipe of a Volvo in the quest to bend an 022 cone in a woodfired kiln made from 24 insulating firebricks can be futile.
For those of us who fire with wood, Janet single-handedly created a venue where our genre was properly showcased. In 1988 and 1989, Garth Clark and Elaine Levin each published voluminous histories of North American ceramics. Clark’s book contains one image of a woodfired object out of 240, while Levin ups the ante with two out of 325 images. Starting in 1990, ##Ceramics: Art & Perception## regularly featured articles dealing with the aesthetics of woodfiring, and was followed five years later by ##Ceramics TECHNICAL##, which addressed research, culture, and strategy in general and, frequently, woodfiring. It is well known — if under-the-radar — that these two publications had a salubrious effect on other ceramics-oriented periodicals.
As anyone who has read Janet Gleeson’s ##The Arcanum## knows, the history of ceramics is an operatic litany of deathbed secrets reluctantly or unwillingly given up, if at all. No one else that I know in our field has done more, on a wider scale, to welcome so many of us around the world to the notion that there might be a place for us among the many others who are making their dreams come true with clay. ‘Our Janet’ helped toll the bell for deathbed secrets. It was a pleasure to sponsor and welcome her as the National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts (NCECA’s) first international Honorary Member at the 2003 conference in San Diego California, for she is truly an educator, mentor, and enabler to us all.