Like many artists, he would go back and forth. Sometimes he loved it. Other times, he would take a break to deal with life.

But pottery has been a lifetime passion for John Malone. He says he loves “the spontaneity and the immediacy of creating a piece.” And it is that love that drives him to make pottery that is both beautiful and useful.

“(I love) seeing a lifeless lump of clay become alive with function,” Malone said. “Then altering that form to create something different and unique.”

This passion for pottery began in college in 1975. Malone attended Delta State University and loved working with pottery so much, he switched from a political science major to an arts and crafts major. As part of that degree, he took Ceramics 101 and 102. Despite his love for his new-found art, he did not complete his degree.

In 1979, after working as a carpenter for three years, Malone had an accident that cut off half of his left thumb. While rehabbing the thumb, he once again took Ceramics 101 and 102, but this time at Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach, Va.

He did not touch clay until he began working at Jimmy Sanders Company in Cleveland in 2008.

“I audited ceramics 101 to see if I still had interest in clay and whether or not I could still throw on the potter’s wheel,” Malone said. “YES, I did have interest and I could throw.”

He worked with clay for about a year then quit again.

It was after he had surgery to remove kidney cancer in 2013 when he decided he needed to get back into pottery. This time, hip and knee arthritis put a severe damper on the activity. At the end of 2015, both hip and knee were replaced.

After knee rehab, Malone has dedicated himself to pottery. When he is not working as a full-time programmer, he spends every spare minute possible in the pottery shed behind his house. This time around, Malone has been experimenting with different forms and testing many, many glazes. He has purchased DVD’s of professional potters showing various techniques and these videos have played heavily into his ceramics education. The Ceramic Arts Daily potter’s forum has been an excellent learning tool. A particular forum participant and professional potter, Madeleine, has also served as a mentor for Malone as he works to perfect his art.

“Madeleine has kept me focused on insuring the pieces are functionally safe for the user,” Malone said. “She has answered many clay and glaze problem questions.”

Malone’s favorite pieces are soup mugs, coffee mugs and wine coolers and his attention to detail is amazing.

“It takes time to make pottery,” Malone said. “Functional pieces must be tested by the potter for microwave, dishwasher and oven safe use. The piece must be tested by actually using it to see if it fits the hand, is easy to eat from. Is it easy to retrieve from the oven with puffy oven mitts? Does the piece discolor from being in the dishwasher? Does the lip of the coffee mug dribble? Does the inside glaze stain from coffee or spaghetti sauce? Is the rim of the piece prone to chipping? Does a spout pour without spraying liquid or dribbling?”

He is equally meticulous with his glazes. Malone enjoys creating new color combinations, and he is always testing.

Malone said his biggest challenge is timing the drying process. With the limited hours devoted to pottery each day, the drying process must be managed carefully.

“Too dry and the piece cannot be worked, instead it must be spritzed with water and covered in plastic and worked the next day,” Malone said. “Too wet and the piece must be dried before trimming or attaching handles. Leatherhard stage is when the piece can be handled without distorting the form. It is the stage to trim and attach handles and spouts.”

It all requires precise measuring and timing, which falls squarely with Malone’s personality.

After all this testing and experimenting, and convincing himself that his pieces were safe for the marketplace, Malone approached Pas Tymes and Crossroads Jewelry in Winona about selling his work last fall. He said now, he is serious and still very meticulous!

“I love how his colors come together,” said Leah Garrott of Pas Tymes. “Each piece has its own unique character.”Gay Hammond of Hammond’s Pharmacy and Gifts of Winona said Malone’s work is very unique.

“(He) makes his own glazes and every piece is different,” Hammond said. “I even asked him to make a piece he did not have and he is doing it. He takes pride in his work and dyes it very well with lots of heart. He wants his customers to be proud to sell his products. Love Mr. Malone! He is such a sweet man.”

Duck Hill Pottery does not have an online presence, but can be found at PasTymes, Crossroad Jewelry and Hammond’s Pharmacy and Gift Store in Winona.

See this story in the June 22, 2017 edition of The Winona Times.

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