Inside Hackney: meet Kate Malone

Kate Malone is a potter and ceramic artist who has lived and worked in a studio on a Hackney mews for thirty years. Her work is instantly identifiable, with highly glazed and colourful pieces expressing the abundance and energy of nature: swelling pumpkins, gourds and berries are a feature, though her work has recently moved towards depicting nature in the abstract. Kate herself is pretty identifiable too, as a judge on the BBC’s Great Pottery Throwdown. While she delights in promoting what she describes as the clay renaissance, there is a very scholarly aspect to Kate’s work: her studio in Dalston holds the largest archive of stoneware crystalline glazes in the UK.

‘When I arrived on this mews back in 1986 it was a bastion of making. There was Batchelor’s Leather (who are still here), a fantastic metal spinner, a buckle warehouse and a Rolls Royce repairer who is still here too. I’ve always collaborated with the other makers on the street. It has changed over the years, but everything is within a stone’s throw, and because we are a live-work space we bump into people all the time. It’s a lovely community of artisans and my main concern is that they are being forced out by the relentless property boom, and that the particular character of my street and the area is changing.

But at the moment there is a flowering of creativity in Hackney, which is wonderful. As far as ceramics go, there is Turning Earth, the SkandiHus studio and a pop-up shop called Ceramics 274. Back in the 1990s I was part of Hackney Contemporaries – we had some European regeneration money to produce and promote work made here and it helped to draw attention to the area.

One of my goals has been to build a community of potters. The studio is always in flux, but I have around ten assistants who also do their own work – start-up potters always need another job, but if they work with me I can teach them new skills, pass on projects and share connections. I visualise my team like a glowing piece of coal which warms and always stays alight.

For my own work, I’m happy to have had some public commissions in Hackney over the years. At Homerton Hospital I created a giant jug pouring water into a bowl, to reflect the continuity of life. And in the herb garden at the Geffrye Museum I made a bronze fountain: an overflowing urn decorated with leaves and vines.

I created three huge stoneware freshwater fishes for the Lea Valley Park, which have been jumping optimistically out of the water in a full current for more than twenty years – except for one. Someone stole a 3.5-foot stone pike head a few years ago – if anyone has seen it in a back garden somewhere please let us know!’

Kate’s annual Open Studio is on the first weekend of December: you can buy work by her and her assistants and associates