Janet DeBoos: Ceramics: Entropy and Other Considerations

By Sanders, Christopher | Ceramics Art & Perception, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Janet DeBoos: Ceramics: Entropy and Other Considerations


Sanders, Christopher, Ceramics Art & Perception


The Second Law of Thermodynamics in one aspect describes the tendency of closed systems to move from a condition of order to disorder. This also seems to be the case whenever we seek to control and isolate. Often I find that when I start to decorate I have a fixed idea, an ordered pattern, but as fast as I make marks, the 'system' unravels and tends to become disordered. The entropy series is about this loss of energy--the increase in entropy as surface decorative systems move towards disorder.--Janet DeBoos

TO SAY THAT JANET DEBOOS IS A COMMITTED MAKER is an understatement. She is a person of remarkable energy. Her long CV details the key roles she has played in so many corners of the ceramic world, both locally and internationally. She is well known through her teaching, writing and demonstrations, as well as her exhibitions. Her most recent show, comprised of thrown and decorated functional work at Skepsi Gallery, heralds her return to Melbourne after an extended absence. The 24 pieces (though many are multiple-piece sets) are all fluidly thrown in white Southern Ice porcelain.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Throwers from production backgrounds tend to be marked by a close and incremental control of form and size and wares are often turned and further refined after the initial throwing. For DeBoos however, throwing is a more spontaneous affair, in which wares are completed on the wheel without subsequent turning. While Southern Ice is an exemplary body in the world of fine-throwing true porcelains, it is nonetheless difficult to throw and this style of throwing is different from the usual approach of turning off excess weight on the bases of wares. Consequently these light and thinly thrown wares include decanters which stand tall and fresh, and cups that seem effortlessly made, inviting and soft to the touch.

The variation in height and size within sets, maintains an immediacy and freshness amongst DeBoos's shapes. Those expecting 'classic' full-blown forms, and evenly scaled wares where line and proportion predominate will be disappointed by this show. These works are narratives of process: the speed and turning of the wheel, the potter's mood and the place at the moment of making. To achieve this spontaneity involves skill and determination with a certain level of bravura and chutzpah.

Entropy describes the process of moving from order to disorder. But is this actually the case in this exhibition? Perhaps DeBoos's use of this key title refers to her attitude to her form of throwing and making. I would argue that here, rather than disorder, there is variation in shapes, sets, and formal relationships, neither tightly governed or controlled, where the unconscious as much as the conscious is given reign in their development. A neck on one familiar item may stretch taller than another, or a cup sit fatter, wider and lower than its neighbour. This is disconcerting within the notion of conventional and traditional master-potter wheel-forming. Here it stands on its own terms. While forms are repeated, each has to be taken as a new iteration of an established theme, and as part of an ongoing evolutionary process.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The large platters are either 'stand-alone' or acting as trays for sets of bowls, beakers, cups and pourers. These work around a formal language comprised of a pure flat base, contained by a 'softly-thrown' low wall with an irregular rhythmically shaped rim.

These commendably large works are the mark of a mature, confident maker who has developed a mastery of requisite processes within a demanding medium. The stresses involved in metamorphosing objects of this scale from raw to hard finish cannot be overestimated. Traps await the careless at many corners, traps this maker has long ago learnt to obviate or overcome.

The sense of the spiral dominates DeBoos's forms, all of her forms. …

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