Janetta Kerr-Grant is a Melbourne based ceramics artist. Originally training as a painter, before going into journalism, Janetta found that she missed the world of art and headed back to the studio where she focuses on ceramics. Janetta’s work has been the recipient of a number of awards and also featured in a number of publications, most recently Adam Liaw, winner of Australian cooking show Masterchef’s, cook book.
In between a busy few months, and what sounds to be an exciting 2013, Janetta has kindly taken some time out to be interviewed. So sit back grab a cup of tea and enjoy.
How would you describe your work and style?
My ceramic practice has a dual focus – I make work that I show in galleries that tends to be the exploration of a particular idea or concept that I investigate in a range of ways. Currently I am interested in how a ‘sense of place’, specifically the intersection of rural and urban landscapes, can be conveyed in ceramics.
I also make work specifically for retail. For the past several years I have been consistently drawing on the domestic appeal of gingham and tartan fabrics. For me, there is something inherently cheerful and welcoming that is somehow embedded in the patterning. I paint, carve, and inlay patterns and textures. I usually work in series across a range of large platters, plates, bowls and dishes.
In both areas I tend to have a painterly approach which isn’t that surprising as I originally studied as a painter.
What, where and/or who inspires you?I am inspired by all sorts of things – until fairly recently I used to undertake a regular weekly commute to the country. Over time I found that what initially seemed a boring road trip actually became a big influence in my work. Traveling in the soft light of early morning or the haze of twilight, I began to find that the heavy traffic,, streetlights and bland freeway vegetation softened into something quite beautiful.
At the moment I am drawn to cloudscapes and have been photographing big skies whenever I am out in the country.
I also regularly visit contemporary art galleries and often find the work gets me thinking about things in a different light. I recently saw a large show by the late French/ American artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois which I found really personal and moving.
Where did your love of ceramics come from and what makes your style unique to you.
When I was young my family used to stay at a cousin’s holiday house that had all this beautiful hand painted crockery, which I later found out was Titian ware. There were cream coloured cups, plates, bowls and tureens all covered in wonderful painted patterns of apricots, cherries and blueberries. I thought they were really beautiful. There were also blue and whlte Cornishware jugs which I also thought were great. Using this crockery made every meal feel special.
Which is your favorite personal project and why?
Usually the one that I am currently working on.
What has been the most exciting point in your career to date and why?
In December I was really thrilled to find out I was the recipient of an Australia Council Grant. The grant will go towards getting my own kjln and properly equipping my tiny home studio. In the same month I also found out I was one of four ceramicists to be selected for ‘ Vitrify’, which is a $10,000 annual prize for ceramic art. It felt a great way to start 2013!
Do you have any major projects in the pipeline at the moment? Can you share these with us?
Yes, as I mentioned, the Vitrify award. I will be developing a range of ideas exploring themes of light, space and landscape. The four ceramicists will all show their work at the Bett Gallery in Hobart in August.
What would be your dream commission?
At some point I would really like to design a range of crockery for a large ceramics manufacturer – like Arabia in Finland. The company has a history of working with artists to create really unique designs.
If I were coming to visit your home town where would be the must stop place or places for me to visit.
I would say head down the coast to Wye River, a tiny town on the coast which has just a bakery and a pub. It’s surrounded by forest, which is full of birds and koalas. Heaven!
Describe your perfect day.
Being down at Wye River with my family and spending the day swimming in the surf.
Now as much as I love your work, I love cooking and am always eager to find out a new recipe… what is your favorite dish to cook?
This dish is one I make when I want something really easy and tasty. It’s the sort of meal you can make without thinking and you can easily stretch the quanities depending on how many people you are feeding.
Eggplant, tomato and boccinni pasta
Tub of bocconcini
Good quality olive oil
Good quality pasta
Salt flakes , fresh cracked black pepper
- Slice up 1 or 2 eggplants and put in a baking tray
- Top with two punnets of cherry tomates and a handful of fresh basil leaves
- Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt flakes and pepper.
- Put the tray in a moderate oven for 40 mins, or until everything is nicely roasted.
- While that’s cooking I usually throw together a green salad of rocket, avocado and cucumber and boil up some pasta
- When the eggplant bake is done toss it over the al dente pasta. Add a tub of drained bocconini – these should start to melt a bit due to the heat of the pasta.
- Ladle out into bowls drizzle with more olive oil if you think it needs it
- Top with more chopped basil leaves and serve with the salad and a glass of red.
I hope that you enjoyed… meanwhile on with the colourful adventure….