Real Living: A place for work, rest and clay

inside...: Ceramicist Kate Malone's London studio is a work of art in itself. Katherine Sorrell reports

Spirited yet enigmatic, Kate Malone's pottery positively vibrates colour and life. Her erotically curvaceous forms are inspired by nature - recent fascinations are gourds, pumpkins, papayas and pineapples - and are glazed in luscious colours within which delicate and complex crystals add yet another layer of depth and complexity.

Even the names of Malone's pieces resonate with meaning: "Tutti Frutti Sliced Fruit of Your Dreams", "Mr and Mrs Gourd" and "Triumphant Pineapple" endow domestic tableware with a humorous symbolism and jaunty personality. "I suppose I'm trying to show the wonder that I have," says Malone, who is one of this country's most prominent ceramicists. "You can't put your finger on the wonder of nature, of having a seed in your hand, putting it in the soil, and it gets wet and grows into this huge thing. It's almost as if it's an Alice in Wonderland dream. I try to show that by making dream fruit."

A similar sense of magic is evident in Malone's house, set in one of the oldest terraces in north London. She and her partner, Graham Inglefield, bought it 10 years ago when it was "seriously derelict", restoring it from use as a plant-hire and window-cleaning operation to an intriguing and welcoming home.

Inglefield, a former antiques dealer and builder, did much of the work himself, digging out the cellar, installing doors and windows and constructing fire surrounds, among a great deal else. When the structural work was done, he turned his hand to a variety of intricate decorative finishes: golden patterns, taken from a Vietnamese temple, sponged onto the walls of the sitting room; a red, white and black Indian-inspired mural in the spare room; and hand-made paper in ethereal pastel shades, layered on the walls of the "summer bedroom". A variety of ethnic furnishings, collected on the couple's travels, add to the mystical atmosphere, including a carved wooden bed from Lombok, a teak chest from Bali, aboriginal bark paintings and cushion covers from Gujerat.

Alongside bright rugs and throws, masses of paintings and an eclectic collection of artefacts, Malone's handiwork is, of course, very much in evidence. Jugs and vases appear in the bedrooms, terracotta leaves twine up a fire surround, and in the white bathroom, at first sight plain and functional, the tiles are speckled with tiny sea creatures. The kitchen, however, is the real pottery paradise. Bright mugs and jugs hang all around, and a large tiled splashback has been hand-painted by Malonewith bottles of wine, vases of flowers and bowls of fruit.

"Pottery is instinctive and intuitive for me," says Malone, "and it's heaven to work with something I love." Malone's creations are made in a light and airy studio just yards away from the house. In fact, it's literally at the bottom of her garden, meaning she can pop back at any time to see Inglefield and their seven-month-old baby, Scarlett. The two-storey studio was custom-built from scratch by Inglefield and is the realisation of two dreams: to install one of the largest kilns in London and set up a space that could be shared by a dozen or so craftspeople.

Malone, whose artistic vision does not prevent her from being superbly well organised, runs the studio at present, although, eventually, she plans for it to become a true co-operative. "Helping other potters was something Graham and I always wanted to do," she explains, "and having the big kiln is really important. It means that we can put craft in the environment, making huge pieces for schools and hospitals, hotels and restaurants. These days there aren't many studio potters who are able to work on that scale."

The studio has a mosaic staircase made from smashed tiles and a bathroom where transfers cover the white tiles, the basin and even the loo. Specially made metal entrance gates symbolise earth, wind, fire and water. With another staircase of suspended railway sleepers, double doors onto a small balcony and a gallery area lined with glass shelves, the studio is an exemplary amalgam of functional and attractive.

Jola Spytkowska, whose figurative pieces are based on what she calls "urban junk", has been at the studio for five years, ever since she left college. "I was really impressed when I first came to visit," she says. "The light is important and the studio is very well maintained, but it has also got a glamour that a lot of places don't have. It's very uplifting and, because it's open plan, there's a real community spirit."

Studio members, who range in age from their twenties to their seventies, produce a wide variety of work, from egg cups to giant, rock-like sculptures. Malonerelishes this stimulating mix and is proud to give visitors a tour, whether it's a school trip or clients such as designer Zandra Rhodes and architect Nigel Coates." It's a real urban initiative," she says. "Working together is fantastic - we really feed off each other. A lot of people use it as a stepping stone, others just want to stay here for ever."

Balls Pond Studio is at 8b Culford Mews, London N1. For an appointment, call 0171 923 4736. A Members' Exhibition in the gallery takes place from 15-17 November, and open weekends will be held on 29-30 November, 6-7 December and 13-14 December (llam-6pm).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

    Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police