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Kate Malone: An Addiction to Clay

British artist Kate Malone MBE speaks with India Design ID about her lifelong passion for ceramics

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Ceramic artist and stoneware glaze research expert Kate Malone MBE has been a renowned expert in the field for over 5 decades now. Working with sculptural works of art, large-scale public artworks and high temperature crystalline glaze research, she has contributed to installation projects in hospitals, parks, and libraries in the United Kingdom and the United States. Her work is included in numerous international public institutions, including The V&A and The Ashmolean, LACMA USA, amongst various other private collections. Malone has been a judge on BBC’s “The Great Pottery Throw Down”, and is co-founder of FiredUp4 – a charity dedicated to making clay art accessible to the youth across the UK. Malone is ambassador to the international pottery association, London Potters, and to the The Museum of the Home in London. 

Kate Malone was a speaker at the recently concluded ID Symposium at India Design ID 2024.

Dark Pineapple by Kate Malone, photograph by Sylvain Deleu
Dark Pineapple by Kate Malone, photograph by Sylvain Deleu

How did your education at the Royal College of Art influence your interest in ceramic art, and do you have any specific moments that triggered this interest?

KM: My education at the Royal College of Art was pivotal in shaping my passion for ceramic art. It provided me with a nurturing environment where I could explore and experiment with different techniques and concepts. One specific moment that stands out to me is when I first experienced the tactile nature of clay during a pottery class at the age of 13. This hands-on experience sparked a deep fascination with ceramics that has stayed with me throughout my career. Also, I had a very liberal upbringing due to my parents and the school I went to. That really instilled free thinking for me right from an early age, and I still continue to find that inner child every time I can.

Another thing I fondly remember is, my grandfather had a hotel in some islands in the middle of the Mediterranean when I was a child. And my parents used to let me swim freely at age four, around all the rocks deep in the sea, alone. I believe these memories have much to do with how I think today.

Spiralling Atomic Vase by Kate Malone, photograph by Sylvain Deleu
Spiralling Atomic Vase by Kate Malone, photograph by Sylvain Deleu

When did you feel your work started developing its own unique style, and was this a conscious effort?

KM: I believe my work began to develop its own unique style over time as I continued to experiment with different forms, textures, and glazes. It wasn’t a conscious decision but rather a natural progression fuelled by my curiosity and passion for pushing the boundaries of ceramic art. Each piece I create is a reflection of my experiences, inspirations, and artistic evolution. I have been highly inspired by India and my travels to various places have shaped my cosmic philosophies. Places such as Sanchi, Badami, Madurai… they have moved my soul. 

A Giant Banksia by Kate Malone, photograph by Sylvain Deleu
A Giant Banksia by Kate Malone, photograph by Sylvain Deleu

During COVID times, you mentioned wanting to focus on making new and unknown things. Can you share any outcomes or projects from this period that you are particularly proud of?

KM: Certainly! During the height of the COVID pandemic, I found solace and inspiration in my studio, where I immersed myself in creating without the constraints of exhibitions or deadlines. One project that emerged during this time was a large, intricate tree sculpture adorned with miniature ceramic elements crafted by my team and me. Despite its unconventional nature, this sculpture resonated with an interior designer who transformed it into a stunning lamp. I was very happy to see its adaptability and unexpected beauty. 

A Magma and Atomic Layered Landscape by Kate Malone, photograph by Sylvain Deleu
A Magma and Atomic Layered Landscape by Kate Malone, photograph by Sylvain Deleu

You’ve said before that you don’t always know what the outcome looks like when you start a new project. Can you elaborate on your creative process and how you navigate this uncertainty?

KM: My creative process is rooted in experimentation and intuition. I often begin with a basic idea or inspiration, but I allow the piece to evolve organically as I work with the clay. This fluid approach allows for spontaneity and unexpected discoveries, ultimately leading to more dynamic and authentic creations. Embracing uncertainty is an integral part of my artistic journey, as it opens the door to endless possibilities and fuels my creativity.

An Open Basket Gourd by Kate Malone, photograph by Sylvain Deleu
An Open Basket Gourd by Kate Malone, photograph by Sylvain Deleu

Since your work is heavily influenced by nature and biomimicry,  can you explain its significance, and the reason why you feel drawn to representing nature in your art?

KM: Nature has always been a boundless source of inspiration for me. From the intricate patterns found in leaves to the organic shapes of fruits and flowers, the beauty and complexity of the natural world never cease to amaze me. I am particularly drawn to biomimicry because it allows me to capture the essence of nature’s design principles and translate them into my ceramic creations. By celebrating the wonders of the natural world in my art, I hope to evoke a sense of awe and appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us.

You’ve spoken highly about the influence of Waddesdon Manor’s collection on your work. Can you share more about this connection and how it has inspired your artistic practice?

KM: Waddesdon Manor’s collection holds a special place in my heart as a source of inspiration and creative nourishment. The rich history and exquisite craftsmanship of the artworks housed within its walls never fail to captivate me. Exploring the museum’s vast collection has deepened my appreciation for art history and fuelled my passion for pushing the boundaries of ceramic art. Drawing inspiration from the masterpieces found at Waddesdon Manor, I strive to create pieces that honor tradition while embracing innovation and creativity.

2169 – 24 Savile Row – Projected Windows © Jim Stephenson.jpg. Ceramic work by Kate Malone.

Ceramics is a multifaceted art form that combines technical skill with artistic expression. What advice do you have for young artists aspiring to pursue a career in ceramics?

KM: My advice to young artists embarking on a career in ceramics is to embrace experimentation, perseverance, and lifelong learning. Ceramics is a complex and challenging art form that requires technical mastery as well as artistic vision. Invest time in honing your craft, exploring different techniques, and pushing the boundaries of what is possible with clay. Don’t be afraid to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from failure. Surround yourself with mentors, fellow artists, and a supportive community that can offer guidance, feedback, and encouragement. Above all, stay true to your passion, embrace the journey, and let your creativity soar.


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