Artist of the month: Janet Jackson
- Credit: Archant
Why the ceramicist and pottery teacher has turned to glass making
Speaking in her neat cottage close to Leeds Castle, Janet Jackson tells me about her training and career up to the point of her new venture.
Educated at Woolwich College of Further Education, North West Kent College of Technology, Dartford College of Education – where she received a teaching certificate – and later at Thames Polytechnic, Janet followed gaining a distinction in Art and Craft by then studying for a Bachelor of Education.
For many years Janet, who is a member of the Kent Potters Association, worked as a ceramicist, then went into teaching.
Sitting in her garden studio, where she keeps a kiln, she tells me she first had the idea of crafting glass after being asked to review a book about the subject and becoming fascinated by its possibilities.
Janet took a one-day course in Stroud with another glass artist, which she felt she had to do ‘to learn safety’, acquired a glass kiln and taught herself everything else.
When I ask her if formal training was important, she tells me: “You never finish, you are always learning, always giving yourself another challenge. In that respect, and like many hobbies, the only way to get better is to keep doing it.”
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Janet also learnt from videos on cutting, using glass differently and casting by American Company, Bullseye Glass (America and Australia are renowned for their good glass makers).
The specific quality of glass she loves is its colour: “There’s always a surprise at the end of it, as indeed with Raku ceramics, which I also make.”
Raku is the name of a Japanese family who produced the small bowls for tea ceremonies and their traditional moulds are world famous. You take a pot in tongs, bury it in sawdust to produce a lustre, a process which is now called post-firing and which has been westernised.
Janet adds: “I love the bright colours of glass and its translucency, it gives it a sort of bling - nature’s bling. It reminds me of childhood holidays in Torquay where there always used to be glass blowers in kiosks making glass animals as souvenirs.”
In keeping with her childhood memories, Janet collects photographs from her holidays as well as sketches.
“I will get out the colours of the glass and play with them before I start. It’s like a collage, which in itself is a fun thing to do. There are trays with all the glass and I have boxes of beads, including Raku beads, which I try to keep order as it saves time.”
She adds: “It’s all a process of ‘what if I did this?’ and I learn from my mistakes. Bubbles, for instance, come from ridge gaps; you can put one layer over the top to get bubbles. Sometimes they just come naturally.”
Janet describes the process as quite random. “I might smash a piece of glass and use the shards, for instance. All the glass is used and smaller pieces may go to make up jewellery. The basic constraint is the size of the kiln.”
Her biggest tile is 30 cms by 36 cms squared the kiln size. “I think of the glass as a canvas, it’s basically flat so it’s easier to work upon than around,” she explains.
A work may take a couple of days to complete and a day for firing; her work day is about six hours long.
Janet shows me the piece she is working on at the moment. Here she has put iron filings in the glass, bicycle spokes and the struts from umbrellas. “There’s a theme going on, if you can tell,” she laughs.
This is a similar process to the oxides and stains she used in her ceramics, the most exciting being a torso, as well as some big plates with a copper tinge made with almost 90 per cent copper and 10 per cent clay.
And in her show studio I find a delightful selection of small ceramic sheep, which are understandably very popular and on sale at the West End Gallery in Smarden.
Janet Jackson is an artist with two important strings to her bow and she also welcomes visitors to her studio and show area.n