In this Profile film we visited top British potter Jim Malone at his Lessonhall home-studio in Cumbria to shoot the maker at work.
Throughout we see Malone throwing, glazing, decorating, and firing, all while explaining the philosophy behind his working methods. For a more detailed biography of Malone’s career, read on below:
Jim Malone was born in Sheffield in 1946. After the death of his father, his mother moved the family back to her native Wales. Malone went to train as a teacher in Bangor in 1966 and then accepted a teaching post at a school in Essex in 1969. He continued with his childhood love of drawing and after 3 years of teaching had a portfolio substantial enough to gain him a place at Camberwell School of Art.
Taking ceramics as his 3D craft, he was lucky enough to have inspiring and enthusiastic tutors at the college in Ian Godfrey, Ewan Henderson and Colin Pearson. Godfrey would take Malone to the V&A to see early Korean pots, an experience that convinced him to become a potter. His student grant was spent on new pots and he pored over critical ceramics texts such as Bernard Leach’s A Potter’s Book and Michael Cardew’s Pioneer Pottery, engrossed in his new-found studies.
During the summer holidays before his final year commenced Malone spent time working with Ray Finch at the Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire. Here he gained an insight into working in a real life workshop: wood stacking, packing the kiln, with time to work on his own pots in the evenings. The experience was invaluable, and gave Malone confidence for his future work as a studio potter. His commitment to and vision for that way of life was clear to see in the impressive pots he was already producing when he graduated, earning him a first class honours degree.
Soon after leaving Camberwell Malone set up his first pottery on the Horseshoe Pass at Llandegla, Wales. In this remote setting he built a gas fired kiln and set about producing a range of domestic ware, digging clay locally for his slips and glazes and experimenting with porcelain. His idea was to find a local market for his pots while he developed and improved them further, then to take them to London.
This proved harder than anticipated. However, the fourteen-hour days paid off when, in 1978, he was given his first one-man show at David Canter’s gallery in Guildford. That same year, with his reputation beginning to grow, Malone was elected to the Craft Potter’s Association (from which he later resigned in 1984).
Malone was continuing to gain inspiration from the Far Eastern pots that first caught his eye back in college, yet his work was very definitely his own. A residency at Cardiff College of Art and a job as a part time lecturer at Wrexham College of Art followed. Although he was always popular with his students, he never took well to authority, generally being at odds with the college hierarchy. Malone didn’t fit in well at school and his individualist attitude has continued throughout his life.
In 1982 fellow potter Mike Dodd offered Malone a position at Cumbria College of Art. The two of them established what was to become one of the most successful craft based throwing courses in Britain, building two wood fired climbing kilns, a salt glaze kiln and experimenting with materials. The students were taken on trips to see a Richard Batterham exhibition and to view Bill Ismay’s legendary collection of contemporary ceramics. They watched films on Cardew, Leach and Geoffrey Whiting and had talks given by potters including John Maltby, Takeshi Yasuda, Clive Bowen and Janet Leach.
During this time Malone started to re-evaluate his own work and in 1984 moved his family to Ainstable in the Eden Valley where he began to develop and expand upon some of what he had learned at Carlisle. Malone had a new kiln and workshop and started incorporating local materials. These new clays and granites that he used for slips and glazes produced pots with quite a different feel to them than those he made whilst at Llandegla.
2001 saw Malone leave Cumbria for Burnby, York, but in 2003 he returned and settled in Lessonhall, where he continues to work today. He is a sociable and friendly man but chooses to work in isolation; pottery is not just his job it is his way of life. Malone’s pots, be they his flaring bowls, decorated with hakame and iron brushwork, Korean style bottles or his jugs (regarded by many as the best in Britain), all show why he is one of the foremost potters working in the UK today.
His two chambered oriental climbing kiln finishes what he starts with his throwing and glazing. Striking combinations of Tenmoku jars and slab bottles with brilliant blue/green copper pours, elegant bottles with perfectly proportioned necks finished with a rich olive Nuka and yunomi and teabowls – ashed and incised or ridged and stamped, all display the natural unforced beauty distinctive not only of Malone’s pots, but also the landscape in which he makes them.
Malone has had articles published in Pottery Quarterly and Ceramic Review and has exhibited widely throughout the UK and USA. His pots can be found in the collections of the V&A; Ulster Museum, Ireland; Manchester Metropolitan University; Liverpool Museum and Art Gallery to name but a few.