The Craft ACT Archives: Reflecting with Janet DeBoos and Anita McIntyre

Janet DeBoos and Anita McIntyre are ceramicists and friends who have fostered enduring relationships with contemporary craft in Australia. Both makers have developed creative practices that paralleled the steady growth craft arts has had in Canberra since the 1970’s.

Anita McIntyre is a dynamic ceramic artist with roots in Canberra, having graduated from the Canberra School of Art in 1976, where Janet DeBoos was the Head of Ceramics. Anita had her first solo show at Craft ACT in 1982, when the gallery was still located in Watson. The Craft ACT exhibition most memorable for her, was held in the year 2000: “an exhibition called Strength to Strength. It was the last exhibition held at Watson before Craft moved temporarily to Ainslie and then here (to Civic Square).”

The exhibition was a professional members’ show, Janet DeBoos emphasises that some of the best exhibitions at Craft ACT are the members’ shows each year. “Rather than any single exhibition, the members’ show is the event [which] I find particularly interesting”. Janet describes members’ exhibitions as “having this life that is not an explosion of creativity but a series of little fires that keep smoldering throughout the year”.

A tireless advocate for her medium and a passionate teacher, Janet emphasises the importance of professionalisation in craft arts – “one of the things Craft ACT has always been involved in”. Anita McIntyre, herself, was one of Janet’s students. In 1993, Craft ACT and Klause Moje established the category of Professional Accredited Member, creating foundations for professional practice in the craft arts. “And Anita McIntyre was on the first selection panel,” Janet recalls.

Anita remembers the 2000 members’ show Strength to Strength clearly, due to a certain group of American collectors that were invited to attend by Craft ACT. One of the collectors purchased a work by Anita, and seven years later they would be reunited at a ceramic conference in Baltimore.  “I walked into a room during one of the social functions and a man greeted me,” and he already knew Anita’s name. “He was the gallery owner who had bought my work at the exhibition in Canberra”. Anita is marveled by the cyclical narratives that can be found in the dynamic world of craft and making.

“The most interesting things about the (Craft ACT) archives is coming across photos you don’t expect to find,” Anita says. “We found photos of Janet and I from the 80’s and a portrait of Michael Keighery”. Michael is a mixed media artist from Sydney who had his foundations in ceramics, like Anita and Janet – a long-time friend and colleague. “It was a terrific thing to see a photo of Michael on the cover of a Craft ACT newsletter. He opened Janet’s retrospective exhibition at Craft ACT.” Janet remembers “the balance that [Michael] saw in the exhibition” and how the show allowed her to see connections between different periods of her work that she had not seen before – “there is nothing like having an exhibition like that”.

Janet and Anita’s exploration of the archives reflects the sense of community and belonging which has nurtured Craft ACT’s longevity. Craft ACT has maintained dialogue between makers of the yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our 50th anniversary is a celebration of the all the stories that we can tell.

“Craft ACT is an important organization to all artists and craftspeople in Canberra: it always has been.“ – Anita McIntyre.

Cover image: Janet DeBoos and Anita McIntyre, circa 1980's. Photo: CAACT.
Body images: Janet DeBoos, Large Vase, 2001. Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 2011. Image: courtesy of National Gallery of Australia; Anita McIntyre, Blur Print for a Capital, 2015. Image: Rob Little.