A serendipitous encounter with clay inspired a life dedicated
"I'm still being led on a journey of discovery and wonder," says Janice Hunter as she wedges clay with a rhythmic movement on a large wooden table. "I know I'll never grow tired on my way."
Born in Hastings, a beautiful fishing town in East Sussex on the south coast of England, the 66-year-old ceramic artist had her first attempt at pottery in college — an accidental encounter she describes as "love at first sight/touch."
Janice later moved to the pottery village of La Borne in France, before finally settling down in North Jutland, Denmark in 1978.
Teatle-Tattle: What was it like when you first got into pottery?
Janice Hunter: I started working with clay when I was 18, I spent all my time in the workshops. The wheel I learnt to throw on was a stand up kick wheel made in Stoke-on-Trent. A curious machine. I was surprised to see a similar wheel in Singapore at Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle, it was very nostalgic!
TT: What types or forms of ceramics do you make?
JH: I work with sculptural ceramics and the elusive tea bowl.
TT: How would you sum up your approach or style?
JH: My method of "intuitive construction" for the sculptural works, which mirrors the way I decorate my tea bowls. Close the mind and let gut feeling take over. Exciting!
TT: What inspires you?
JH: The magic of Iceland has bored its way into my bones, and the winter landscape of the Limfjorden, ice and water, lines of direction, and shades of coldness.
TT: Tell us about your favourite techniques.
JH: I love to throw with loose sandy coarse clay. I use ribs inside the bowls. And I enjoy handbuilding and the construction of objects from diverse materials and ceramics shapes. In the firing, the glaze melts and acts as an adhesive. I use my stored data for defining the composition of an object. Even then, I get surprises when I step back and look at the results after firings. Security nullifies ambition! You know what can be rewarding? A state of courageous momentum.
TT: What's the pottery scene like at home?
JH: The pottery scene here in Denmark is quite fertile. I work with various groups of ceramic artists on inviting international ceramics guests to show and demonstrate here in our local area in North Jutland. We are in fact known in Denmark for the dynamic scene "up here", north of Copenhagen. An interesting development is the establishment of a new "factory" for the production of ceramics. The Danish state has made a decision to train "designers" rather than hands-on potters. These designers' works are currently produced in Vietnam, China, and Portugal. The initiative "Den DanskeKeramikFabrik" (www.Dendanskekeramikfabrik.dk) is an optimistic one, in that it aims to provide a service which will make large-scale ceramics production in Denmark economically viable. We are all hoping they will succeed.
TT: Do you enjoy drinking tea?
JH: Yes I do. In the catalogue Chawan 10 Years Hemiksem Belgium, I wrote: "My magical journey with the tea leaf started in England. A proper brew made in a teapot, steeped a while, with lots of milk and sugar. A nice cup of tea was a cure for all. The stronger the better. My grandmother told my fortune with the tea leaves left as dregs in the bottom of the teacup. But never tea on a Friday! Grandmother was very adamant about this. So now I'm making tea bowls inspired by a watery, wintery wonderland of ice and slush. Bowls which are rough and smooth, raw and silky. Touch them, feel them, drink from them." Right now I'm going through different teas that I bought while I was in Singapore. I can't read the labels!
TT: What do you do in your free time?
JH: Nowadays I spend my free time helping refugees settle into their new homes in Denmark. We have a big asylum centre near here. Those who are granted asylum have to have support to start their lives anew. They are all traumatised, you can imagine! The world has come to us in North Jutland. I have learnt so much.
TT: If the world comes to an end and you are to make your last piece of ceramic artwork, what would you do?
JH: I would fill my electric kiln up with a huge "intuitive construction" and turn the power on.
View Janice's artwork at her workshop or at pottery exhibitions.
Gl. Skolevej 4 A, Tornby Gl. Skole
Tel: (+45) 9 897 7668