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Potter and BBC Great British Throw Down judge Kate Malone throws open the doors to her De Beauvoir studio - for the last time

PUBLISHED: 11:05 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:05 28 November 2017

Kate Malone next to her kiln - apparently the biggest in London. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

Kate Malone next to her kiln - apparently the biggest in London. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

Emma Bartholomew

Potter and BBC Great Pottery Thrown Down judge Kate Malone is inviting the public into her De Beauvoir studio this weekend – for the last time before she moves out. The Gazette finds out about the three decades she has spent living and working there.

Kate Malone's very first pineapple pot, for which she has since become very well known for. Picture: Emma Bartholomew Kate Malone's very first pineapple pot, for which she has since become very well known for. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

Kate Malone’s kiln is one of the largest in London, she tells me, as we sip tea made in a 100-year-old teapot at her studio in Culford Mews, De Beauvoir.

When the building was first built by her husband Graham Inglefield in 1986, they ran a co-operative here with others who went on to become big names in the ceramics world.

Potters rented a space for £25 a week to service the loan of £60,000 taken out to build the workshop.

Kate with the  'Rise and Shine Magic Fish’ in 1990/91. Picture: Gina Glover Kate with the 'Rise and Shine Magic Fish’ in 1990/91. Picture: Gina Glover

“We asked for no profit,” said Kate, whose four-foot-high pots sell for as much as £30,000. They are on display in 40 museums worldwide, including the V&A

“It was one of the first shared studios in London. It was my concept – I knew I wanted a big kiln for myself because I wanted to make big pieces. After 14 years Graham said: ‘Do you really want to do this for another 10 years?’ and I was like: ‘Yeah, it’s great.’ But we were doing it unpaid and he said we really had to move on.”

They gave the co-operative members a year’s notice. One went on to open Glebe Road Studios, while another set up a similar project in Kent.

Kate's fountain at Homerton Hospital, ‘ Life Pours Forth’, Picture: Gina Glover Kate's fountain at Homerton Hospital, ‘ Life Pours Forth’, Picture: Gina Glover

“From this little hut, the ethos of group activity and sharing equipment expanded out,” said Kate. “Over the time there must have been over 100 potters who used this building to make their work and fulfil their dreams.”

Kate and Graham sold the terraced house in Balls Pond Road, which dates back to 1812, and moved into the studio that backed onto it.

Meanwhile Binds Window Company had occupied the space before the studio was built.

Kate Malone outside her studio in Culford Mews Kate Malone outside her studio in Culford Mews

“It was a corrugated iron shed,” said Kate. “It had lots of racking to hang ladders on and all the window-cleaners from east London would rent ladders from here and take them off to clean windows.

“The house was derelict too, but it was one of the first posh terraces in Hackney. We found maps and you can see bare fields stretched down to St Paul’s from here. This mews had stables to service the houses, and there was a dairy at the end.”

Kate was even contacted by an Australian family who told her their great-great-grandmother had stolen sheets and sixpence from her house and gone down Kingsland Road to get drunk.

Kate Malone outside her studio in Culford Mews. Picture: Roger Birch Kate Malone outside her studio in Culford Mews. Picture: Roger Birch

“She was arrested and deported to Australia and that’s why the whole branch of the Palmers family were in Australia. They came to visit,” said Kate.

Kate, who was introduced to pottery at a “big rough comprehensive school in Bristol”, finds balance in making public art works. Her legacy includes fountains at Homerton Hospital, Hackney Marshes and in the Geffrye Museum herb garden.

“I have a huge piece in Savile Row seven storeys high that cost £1.5million,” she said. “I make fancy pots that are sold at the most exclusive art fairs in the world. Because it’s such an exclusive and rich and decadent part of the arts world, I balance it with doing public art.

Kate's fountain at the Geffrye Museum's herb garden. Picture: Geffrye Museum Kate's fountain at the Geffrye Museum's herb garden. Picture: Geffrye Museum

“I happen to love spending 300 hours on a pot – so then it has to be £30,000, because it can’t be any less because that’s what it costs to do.”

Kate will be selling some of her work at the fair this weekend, which will be the last in the studio because it is up for sale. People will be able to pick up one of her bowls from £200 – on sale alongside work from her students and apprentices.

Kate is moving two doors down to a bigger studio, and her and Graham have just bought another house in Margate.

Kate Malone's fountain in the Geffrye Museum garden. Picture: Kate Malone Kate Malone's fountain in the Geffrye Museum garden. Picture: Kate Malone

“I’m going into prime time now. I’m going into top gear,” she said. “It’s about time after the 30 years I’ve been working in very tight places to spread out.”

The studio at 8b Culford Mews will be open from 11am to 7pm on Saturday and Sunday.

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