Ex­hi­bi­tion

In­spired by the dec­o­ra­tion and set­ting of the Roth­schild man­sion, a lead­ing ce­ram­i­cist has cre­ated an ar­ray of re­mark­able ves­sels, says Les­ley Jack­son

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Les­ley Jack­son dis­cov­ers a ce­ramic col­lec­tion in­spired by Wad­des­don

BACK in 2005, Kate Malone held an ex­hi­bi­tion at Black­well—bail­lie Scott’s Arts-and-crafts house in the Lake Dis­trict—which in­cluded sev­eral vases in­spired by the dec­o­ra­tive carv­ing and plas­ter­work in the house. These pieces hinted at the pos­si­bil­i­ties in­her­ent in fu­ture col­lab­o­ra­tions and, with her lat­est show, ‘Kate Malone: In­spired by Wad­des­don’, this po­ten­tial has been re­alised.

Wad­des­don Manor, the or­nate neo-re­nais­sance château in Buck­ing­hamshire built by Baron Fer­di­nand Roth­schild in the 1870s, pro­vides the ideal venue for Miss Malone’s re­mark­able tal­ents. Best known to the pub­lic as one of the judges on the BBC’S hit TV se­ries The Great Bri­tish Pot­tery Throw Down, she has been cre­at­ing re­mark­able or­ganic ves­sels with rav­ish­ing mul­ti­coloured glazes for the past 30 years and is renowned for her ex­u­ber­ant pump­kins and pineap­ples.

A nat­u­ral pot­ter who is lit­er­ally at one with clay, she works in­stinc­tively, rolling, pinch­ing and sculpt­ing this soft, mal­leable ma­te­rial into as­ton­ish­ingly elab­o­rate mul­ti­lay­ered shapes. She’s a mod­eller rather than a thrower, so many of her pieces are moulded or coil-built, but the ves­sels them­selves are of­ten just the start­ing point. It’s their sur­face decor

ation— their relief pat­terns and daz­zling crys­talline glazes—that make them really stand out. What makes Miss Malone par­tic­u­larly ex­cep­tional is her mas­tery of ‘kiln craft’— the chem­istry of fir­ing — as well as the craft­ing of the pieces them­selves.

For a pot­ter cel­e­brated for her vir­tu­os­ity, Miss Malone has scaled new heights in ‘In­spired by Wad­des­don’. The ti­tle ac­cu­rately con­veys the depth of her en­gage­ment with Wad­des­don in or­der to cre­ate these pieces. She has im­mersed her­self in all as­pects of the build­ing, the gar­dens, the col­lec­tions and the es­tate. As well as hon­our­ing the achieve­ments of the gar­den­ers and labour­ers, she set out to cap­ture the per­son­al­i­ties of the two key in­di­vid­u­als who cre­ated Wad­des­don—baron Fer­di­nand Roth­schild, who com­mis­sioned the build­ing and amassed the col­lec­tions of fine and dec­o­ra­tive art, and his sis­ter Alice, a pas­sion­ate hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist who de­vel­oped the gar­dens here and at nearby Eythrope.

Both are ‘rep­re­sented’ in ce­ramic form, not through busts but ves­sels. The Baron Fer­di­nand Lid­ded Vase is tall and slim with a con­i­cal hat, sur­mounted by a slightly com­i­cal bird en­crusted with tiny flow­ers. The ves­sel it­self is re­liefdec­o­rated with a pat­tern de­rived from the rus­ti­cated ma­sonry at Wad­des­don, over­laid with criss­cross­ing gar­lands of leaves. Whereas Baron Fer­di­nand is lean, the Miss Alice Lid­ded Vase is de­cid­edly portly and has a finial in the shape of a minia­ture pump­kin. A dense leafy trel­lis grows over the sur­face of the ves­sel, which is cov­ered with tiny turquoise flow­ers.

Among the trea­sures in­side the house, Miss Malone was captivated by the wealth of passe-

menterie— in­tri­cate fur­nish­ing ac­ces­sories fash­ioned from knot­ted and tas­selled cords. Re­mark­ably, she was able to in­ter­pret these ef­fects in ce­ramic form by rolling strings of clay, twist­ing them into ropes and ty­ing them in knots. The dex­ter­ity (and pa­tience) re­quired to ma­nip­u­late and ar­range such com­plex dec­o­ra­tion—as on her Passe­menterie Knot­ted Gourd —is sim­ply breath­tak­ing.

As for Wad­des­don’s cel­e­brated col­lec­tion of Meis­sen and Sèvres porce­lain, she has re­sponded imag­i­na­tively, cre­at­ing pieces that echo their Ro­coco forms and dec­o­ra­tion, but with in­ge­nious per­sonal twists. On Mon­sieur Hébert’s Lid­ded Sèvres Jar, for ex­am­ple, a gor­geous feath­ery turquoise-green crys­talline glaze evokes Sèvres’s petit verd ground.

Given her em­pa­thy with the nat­u­ral world, it is hardly sur­pris­ing that gar­den pro­duce should loom so large. Pump­kins and gourds have long been a source of in­spi­ra­tion, so the pot­ter was in her el­e­ment in the Eythrope potager, even cast­ing pieces di­rectly from the fruit it­self. Veg­eta­bles of all kinds also ap­pear in abun­dance— every­thing from ar­ti­chokes to fen­nel— each piece good enough to eat.

Ce­ram­ics is an in­ter­na­tional lan­guage and Miss Malone is a great trav­eller, but her work is quintessen­tially English. Nowhere is this more ap­par­ent than in the ves­sels cre­ated in re­sponse to the wood­lands at Wad­des­don, es­pe­cially a pair of lid­ded vases called Praise to the Oak Tree and Praise to the Beech Tree, dec­o­rated with sprigged leaves and clus­ters of acorns and beech nuts. Her Oak Es­tate Urn, with its branch-shaped han­dles and rows of trees over­laid with twin­ing leaves and acorns, is a paean to this most glo­ri­ous of English trees. Also im­pres­sive are her Wad­des­don Es­tate Vases, a pair of mon­u­men­tal ves­sels adorned with clumps of sprigged trees in­spired by es­tate maps from the ar­chives. Wad­des­don’s role as a ve­hi­cle for hu­man cre­ativ­ity has been re­vi­talised afresh by Miss Malone’s fer­tile re­sponse to this ex­tra­or­di­nary place.

‘Kate Malone: In­spired by Wad­des­don’ is at Wad­des­don Manor, Ayles­bury, Buck­ing­hamshire, un­til Oc­to­ber 16 (www.wad­des­don.org.uk; 01296 653226)

Next week: ‘COLOUR: The Art and Science of Il­lu­mi­nated Manuscripts’ at the Fitzwilliam

Kate Malone’s Praise to the Beech Tree ( be­low left) and Praise to the Oak Tree ( be­low right) are in­spired by the wood­lands at Wad­des­don

This cur­tain with sec­tions of Beau­vais ta­pes­try ( right) in­spired the Wad­des­don Passe­menterie Vase and Knot­ted Gourd ( be­low)

Left: Miss Alice Lid­ded Vase. Right: Craft and Cre­ativ­ity Pump­kin

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