Jane Sawyer

The warming of our planet presents a climate emergency threatening all life as we know it. In Australia where we have experienced searing droughts and raging floods for centuries, climate change presents us with the spectre of increased frequency and intensity of these catastrophic events. Water, whether lack of or abundance, is central whilst also being essential to life and water politics rages unabated.

Humble vessels, particularly the bucket form, that serve humanity by the practical goal of collecting, storing, cooling and purifying water have become symbolic to me of our challenge for survival. I seek to honour and elevate their status whilst provoking consideration of how we use and value water. The black “Rain Shadows” of these forms are presented as a haunting reminder that from just one side of a mountain to the other a contrast of magnitudes can exist. Life is fragile.

I choose to work with a local natural terracotta clay for environmental reasons: it matures at a low temperature therefore uses less fuel than other clays; it is easily sourced locally therefore few carbon miles; and aesthetically for it’s intense red colour which is symbolic of the Australian outback. I also wish to share some of it’s lesser-known environmentally-sound properties such as the evaporative cooling and insulating capacities that arise from it’s porous nature. Terracotta is truly an amazing clay that we all know through roof tiles to water pipes but within the ceramic spectrum it has been seen as somewhat “lessor”. In using it I seek to draw attention not only to it’s value but the need for climate action.


Jane Sawyer, is known for her ceramic objects where the role of function is as equally considered as the conceptual underpinning by research and enquiry. Informed by traditional apprenticeships both in Australia and in Japan, and guided by the power of the object to engage the body through the sense of touch, fluidity and gesture, Sawyer’s objects invite multiple ways of ‘seeing’.

Sawyer chooses to work within a narrow material set both to address environmental concerns and to enable a deep and naturally evolving exploration over a long period. She exhibits nationally and internationally, contributes to professional boards and is a member of the International Academy or Ceramics.

A committed educator, she is the founding director of Slow Clay Centre, Melbourne, where she passes on the techniques she learnt as an apprentice in Japan. Sawyer’s practice encompasses working toward exhibitions, limited edition series and bespoke commissions.

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IMAGE > Jane Sawyer in her studio. Image courtesy of the artist.