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About Ray Mallaney

Ray Mallaney studied ceramics at what was Middlesex Polytechnic in the days of Punk and New Romanticism, but after many years of intermittent exhibiting because of a heavy teaching commitment he is now working full time at his ceramics. Here’s what he says:

     ‘My work has always been hand-built, usually coiled. Up until 2007, I fired to a range of earthenware temperatures and used a variety of decorating media - slips, underglazes, enamels and lustres. As a “maker”, function, however vestigial, remained important to me as it gave parameters to ‘nudge’ against, as well as the final setting, which crucially was domestic interior.

Over the years, sources of my work changed, sometimes quite radically: from shoes in the V&A, to Moorish Architecture and the landscape of the Dordogne; from the Pergammon Altar to the dense and mysterious images of the Tarot. Nevertheless, my forms changed through the use of a steady set of basic components, shapes and parts of shapes, which recombined and evolved, even resurfacing after years of absence, depending on the requirements of the piece.

However, following a year’s sabbatical from teaching in 2007 my work changed quite dramatically as I decided to explore porcelain, something I had merely touched on in college and had been disappointed in when given to students to work with .I was drawn to its magical quality of translucency...where it became some substance in-between clay and glass. The magic for me definitely happened when you lit the piece either with a night-light or electric lights. The introduction of low energy bulbs suddenly gave possibilities, for the intense light needed to show up patterns no longer made the structure dangerously hot. This, combined with the fact that I was getting very tired of people saying,
‘We love your work, but our flat is too small’, caused me, like Baldrick, to come up with a ‘cunning plan’ to slide my art into people homes without them realizing LIGHTING!!!!!

The very nature of porcelain meant my usual way of making by coiling was not so easy, and shapes had to be much simpler, I designed a simple cylindrical shape which could be made in a variety of sizes and a base to hold the batten lamp holder, and got an electrician to show me how to safely do the wiring. Then all I had to do was allow the textile designer that had been hiding inside me since my foundation course to come out, and away I went.

The inspiration for my lights invariably comes from photographs taken on holiday....arches in Istanbul or carvings in a Chinese temple, the concrete images going through stages of abstraction, distortion or overlay. Occasionally the builder of asymmetrical shapes of old needs to come out, and then I make more complicated double bulb pieces and I find I am getting more patient when coiling porcelain! However, I am still entranced by the magic of what will happen when I get something out of the kiln and put a light in it.

The pieces/lights being placed in someone’s home is of major importance to me, I want people to live with them and to slowly see as intricacies in the design or piercing reveal themselves, thus pricing and sizes are important.’

Techniques of making

Porcelain is a clay body somewhat similar to putty in what is called its plastic state, it has very little body and will not support any form of structure when wet, it simply sags, then once dry it takes on the characteristics of Easter egg chocolate...tough up to a point but very brittle, add the fact that it cracks if there are any inconsistencies in thickness...and you can see that my lights are a lot of bloody-mindedness over material!
I start with the pattern I am going to put on the lamp, if it is impresses I do so before wrapping the porcelain around a cardboard tube, if I’m going to carve and scrape  I make a plain clay tube and wait until it is drier. The patterns/designs themselves tend to come from sketchbook experimentation and abstraction from research photos taken on various holiday trips.

The way the pattern works is that the deeper you press into the clay or the thinner you scrape it away the more light will pass through the clay, making it translucent in varying degrees.
Once the clay is on the way to being dry you can begin to actually pierce the clay with holes of various sizes this will allow pure light through the piece.

The translucency only happens if the clay is fired very high, (at least over 1220 degree centigrade) when if you are not careful the whole shape will sag like a vinyl record in an oven.

The base is also made with porcelain, but because translucency is not required the clay can be thicker.

If colour is required, that necessitates a third or even fifth firing, applying low temperature coloured glazes onto the shiny fired porcelain glaze.

Some lights are finally lustred to give the glaze a rich nacreous appearance.

The way this site works is to show you both past and present work. Actual lights which are available for sale are to be found on the ‘News page’ and if you see something you like I will be happy to discuss price (ranging from £95 to £300). Following PayPal or electric bank transfer payment I can get the piece couriered to your home.