in partnership
(Image courtesy of Brenda Mallonee)

Artist of the Week: Brenda Mallonee

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating?
I have been creating with clay for about 16 years. I took my first pottery class in Athens, Georgia at Good Dirt Community Pottery Studio. I fell in love with the craft. My work there was mostly done on the wheel. I love to center clay. It was like the clay was centering me! I sold my work at weekend festivals and made special pieces for my friends and family.

When I moved to Seattle, almost 9 years ago, I left my wheel in Athens but brought my tools. It wasn’t long after moving here that I realized I had to get my hands back in clay. I found Seattle Pottery and Supply, a place I could buy clay and glazes, have my work fired as well as get advice from learned potters!

Throwing clay can be very messy. I now live in someone else’s home so I can't let wet clay fly around the room like it does. I found an old table and set it up by the washer and dryers in the basement. I started working with clay again. Making every piece for a purpose. I made a set of dishes for my oldest son. I also started developing a way to transfer my love of the woods and nature into my art. I would collect rocks, leaves, bark, etc., to press into the clay body of whatever I am making.

Do you work with other mediums?
I consider myself an amateur photographer and have made jewelry in the past, and have dabbled with watercolors; but working with clay is my passion and my favorite way to creatively express myself.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
First, I need good clay. I usually fire to cone 5 or 6. I like to use the clay right out of the bag. I usually do not manipulate the clay much sometimes I press the designs in first before assembling the piece and sometimes I make the vessel first and then decorate or stamp them. When my pieces have become leather hard (very fragile ) I pack them up carefully and drive to Seattle Pottery and Supply and leave them to be fired. I return a week later to pick up the bisque wear. I do all my glazing at home and then return the pieces for the final firing! I’ve started keeping very good notes on what glazes I use and have started creating new glazes which is really fun.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
I am very inspired by nature. Trees touch my soul in a special way. I enjoy working with leaves, handmade stamps and other textures. Hand made crocheted doilies and found organic materialsI am inspired by things and people that are not perfect. I enjoy making pieces that are slightly different from the norm. I am not a perfectionist with my functional pottery. I mostly make usable pieces such as vases, mugs, dishes, large platters, containers, etc.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
I absolutely love texture. I find most of my inspiration from hikes in the woods. The Volunteer Park is located very close to my home. I spend a lot of time there meditating or just walking around. Many of my pieces are made from leaves I have collected there. The horse chestnut and the maple are my favorite. I also am inspired by Dale Chihuly. As a member, of the permanent exhibit at the Seattle Center, I love walking through the halls and seeing new things every time I visit. His forms and colors are very profound to me.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
I made my son a set of dishes which I am really proud of. He chose the colors red and white! As a gift for the owners, I made a candy dish that sits in the entry hall of the Shafer Baillie Mansion. It is special to me because I made it using my grandmothers’ crochet dolly for the owners for their new bed and breakfast they started in Seattle. Who would have known that several years later, I would become the innkeeper there? The dish is still being used for candy at the mansion!

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
Actually, I began working with clay because my marriage of 20 years was starting to crumble. My friend said to me, "Brenda, you better get your hands busy." So I chose pottery and have never stopped.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
On the 3rd floor of the Shafer Baillie Mansion. I put pieces there for our guests to buy. I have a Facebook page: Organica Pottery.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I am excited that I recently started taking classes at Pottery Northwest . I’m enjoying being around a community of artists. This semester I am taking a sculpture class and learning new ways to decorate my work.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
With a tiny bit of cream. I love coffee and we serve a French press every morning at the mansion. It is called Storyville Coffee, roasted on Bainbridge Island.