Janet Walmsley strikes me as being a little too modest for her own good. A quiet achiever, she speaks highly of those around her… a mentor, a tutor, other artists. But when it comes to her own work, she’s not one to blow her own trumpet. Luckily, we can let you all know what a talented lady she really is.
Janet Walmsley Loves Ceramic Animals
We first met Janet back in 2009 when she was part of a group called CLAYmates, at an exhibition of their arts at the Lady Franklin Gallery in Lenah Valley. Since then, Janet has been working and volunteering at the Cascades Female Factory in South Hobart. It was Janet who gave Gavin and Roger their tour of the World Heritage-listed site. But now it’s time for Janet Walmsley the artist, to focus on her first love: ceramic animals.
Actually, when I say first love, that’s probably not strictly true. Husband Pete and daughter Kate might just be given top billing! But then ceramic animals come in a close second. Janet is clearly very passionate about her chosen art. Her eyes sparkle when she describes the process of creating her individual and unique pieces. Pete jokes that he dreads walking past an art shop or a pet shop with Janet.
Ceramic Animals: Clever Cats and Convict Rabbits
Combining those two passions, ceramics and animals, has led to the latest development in Janet’s artistic world. She is currently making and selling hand-crafted cats and bunnies, with horses next on the agenda. The cats are one-off originals, with beautiful, expressive faces showcasing the artist’s sense of humour.
Janet even made a cat wearing multi-coloured clothes for the Picasso-themed Rose Exhibition in aid of cancer charities. And while her ceramic animals don’t usually wear clothes, she will discuss custom orders with clients looking for specific colours.
The rabbits are a limited edition series, and come with a certificate of authenticity. These are also gorgeous, and reflect Janet’s work at the Female Factory… because they’re convicts! “Warren Trotter” for example, committed the crime of digging and entering and was sentenced to 14 years at the convict settlement, arriving in Tasmania from the UK on The Bracken.
From the UK to Life in Tasmania
Warren may have been inspired (just a little bit) by the Walmsley family’s history as well. Pete, Janet and Kate moved from North Yorkshire in the UK about eight years ago. They’d resolutely decided to move to Australia, sight-unseen. From an extensive Internet search and books, they chose Tasmania as their preferred destination.
Their extended family insisted they visit in person before making the ultimate decision, but a three-week holiday around Tasmania only proved to strengthen their resolve. They liked the weather, the sense of community and the pace of the lifestyle. So they packed their bags and arrived to make a new life for themselves in Tassie.
Artistic Flair and Passion to Spare
With a career spanning several sectors, including architecture and graphic design, Janet Walmsley has always had artistic flair. Once in Tasmania, she signed up for a TAFE course in ceramics. Janet knew instantly that her hobby of decorating commercially-made clay pieces simply must turn into the real deal.
These days, Janet creates ceramic animals using intricate moulds she makes herself. Many hours are dedicated to each handmade piece, and even those in a series have individual touches to make them unique. The ceramics are twice-fired in her own kiln, a recent investment giving Janet greater independence and artistic scope.
Dawn Oakford and Ceramics in Tasmania
Janet credits much of her ceramics success to her mentor and former TAFE tutor, Dawn Oakford. She describes Dawn as someone who could drive a resurgence in the popularity of ceramics in Tasmania. According to Janet, exhibitions such as the recently held Fired Up at the Burnie Coastal Art Group Gallery are due to the passion and vision of Dawn. “She taught me everything I know about ceramics”, Janet says.
Dawn is obviously a wonderful teacher, judging by the ceramic animals coming from the hand of Janet Walmsley. And we have some good news to share with you… soon you’ll be able to purchase these pieces via Think Tasmania. Stay tuned, Janet’s shop will be launched very soon.
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