Moira Vincentelli interviewing Janet Williams

Kecskemét, Hungary 5-20th, July 1998

M.V. So what do you use for that?

J.W. Actually Autocad, which is a three-dimensional designing programme, and that’s simply because my husband works with it and he’s taught me how to use it.

M.V. Right, you have access to that.

J.W. So I’m learning a little more doing that although I find it quite hard going. The major thing I’ve done in technology is I’ve worked as an artist-in-industry. It was a programme in the United States at a ceramic factory. Well actuallythey make sanitary ware, toilets, sinks, urinals, whatever out of ceramic. It’s called The Kohler Company, and they’ve had this artist in industry programme going for probably ten years now, actually longer than that. I think it’s probably more like fifteen years. They take about fifteen artists a year, and you stay for about two or three months or whatever. I was there for four months, and you work on the factory floor alongside the workers. There is a little area where you have sort of a studio, but you get your slip piped to you in the studio. It’s like a petrol pump. You fill up your mould, but they’ve got the most amazing set up there and I mean the skill level there is phenomenal. Some of the guys on the factory floor have been there thirty years or more and they do pretty much the same thing…

M.V. So what‘s the company called?

J.M. Koehler, K-O-H-L-E-R, and I did that and knowing I was doing that, I had to think of work that wasn’t going to involve combustibles, because you fire work in the production kilns. There is no way they would allow me to put combustibles in there. So I decided to do some slip-casting in moulds, and sort of was interested in that but had not done it really on that kind of scale or technicality. So I went there, and they have a technician who helps you. Although you are pretty much left to yourself to do the work. I did a whole series of work based on my new environment in the United States, by that time I’d moved to live in Nebraska. I was interested in agricultural architecture.

M.V. So in Nebraska, this is with your partner who has a farm?

J.W. Yes. I’d originally gone there as a part of one of my residencies. I’d been put in touch with the farm because I wanted to do a big outdoor project, and I ended up staying.

M.V.S o does that landscape and that environment, which is a very extreme one in a way, very, very different I imagine, from Britain. Does that affect you?

J.W. Yes. It’s quite alien. I can appreciate the beauty of it. If you read people like Willa Cather, who’s an American writer, second half of last century, beginning of this century. She wrote a lot about the area I live in, and she writes about the beauty of the prairie. Of course the prairie hardly exists anymore. It’s now cornfields all around me, but we have actually replanted some prairie. It is beautiful. I can sort of see it, but it’s a very violent, elemental violent environment, with tornadoes and extreme cold in winter, and extreme heat in summer. So it’s not my ideal climate, but yes, I think.

M.V. But you see yourself as almost coming and goingYou have a lifestyle that allows you to be there at times and get away as well?