Barney Mallace Pottery

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By Nancy Brannon

Most folks know Barney Mallace as the West Tennessee Hunter Jumper Association (WTHJA) Horse Show Manager. And many know that Barney and Peggy Mallace established the Versatility Challenge and the Keepsake Perpetual Trophy at the Germantown Charity Horse Show. Barney’s show horse Keepsake was a 1990 Dutch Warmblood – a special horse who could do it all. Early in her career she was winning in the Regular Working Hunter division and then moved into the Jumper ring. What was so marvelous about this horse is that she could win with her amateur rider in the hunter classes as well as in the Pre-Adult jumper division. Thus, the Versatility Challenge requires horses to perform well in both a hunter and jumper round to win this class and trophy.

But Barney also has artistic talents of which many may not be aware. Barney is a well-established potter, an avocation that started twenty years ago. “I started taking lessons once a week from an artist friend [at Eads Pottery]. I thought I might enjoy it, and I did, and continued taking lessons once a week for fun for a long time,” Barney recalled.

“I got better at it and started making pieces that I was pleased with, proud of, and started giving them as presents to family and friends. The more often I worked pottery, the better I got. Eventually, I was able to make pieces that were good enough to sell, and people were interested in actually buying my pieces,” he said. “As more pieces sold, I started going more often [to Eads Pottery] to learn more about the craft and how to make enough to market. When you make enough, you then have to find homes for all the pieces you make, and selling it is the best way to do that.”

Barney says he creates pottery to relax and to do something different from the horse show world.

Barney has a variety of designs, so how does he arrive at the different types of pieces? “When you put a piece of clay on the wheel, a bowl will come out more often than anything else,” Barney explained.

Barney uses two different types of clay: one is stoneware and one is porcelain. Those two different types of clay dictate how the different colors of the glaze will look on a particular piece. “The designs and colors are just trial and error to find things that look good together,” Barney explained. “I tend to stick with regular colors and designs that people like, but I also like to experiment with colors. Then, sometimes you find a new ‘favorite.’”

About the glazes: there are different ways to apply the glaze: dip it, paint it, squirt it on, and sponge it on. Even different types of sponges apply glazes in different ways. Choosing one or more of these methods of application and colors will result in different looks on the finished pieces.

Saving on commuting time to Eads Pottery, Barney has moved into a home that has a pottery studio, complete with kiln. He works in his studio between horse shows, and now has the opportunity to make more pieces and create more elaborate pieces that have to be done in stages. “For example, I can experiment with covered casserole dishes, put handles on vases and lamps. These pieces require that the potter be there at the right moment at the particular stage of development,” Barney explained. Some pieces take a while to be completed – some a matter of weeks.

The processes is to throw the clay, let it dry to leather hardness, trim it, then let it dry completely, then fire it to the bisque stage, which is very porous.  At this stage, apply the glaze, then fire it on the high fire setting until it is finally done. “Very high fired pottery glazes work well when they melt and turn into glass. They swirl and mix, creating the designs. Glazes are concoctions that turn into these shiny layers of color,” Barney explained.

Barney’s pottery ranges in price from $10 to $125 and up, depending on the size and intricacy of the piece. His most popular item is the lamp. “I don’t often have many lamps; usually a lamp is a vase that cracks on the bottom. So I put a hole in the bottom and turn it into a lamp. It converts a ‘throw-away’ piece into a useful item,” Barney explained.  Pitchers sell quickly, as do plates and platters, although they are the hardest to make. Barney usually brings several pieces to the horse shows. His “pottery time” coincides with bringing items to the spring shows and the November show.

“I don’t mind if something doesn’t sell,” he says. All pieces are special to him, but most pieces eventually get sold. “I end up selling all the nice things and have the ‘ugly’ pieces for myself,” he quipped.

All his pottery pieces are practical as well as beautiful; they can go in the dishwasher and the microwave, and you can cook in them. “If baking a casserole, for instance, it is best to put the dish in a cold oven first so the piece warms with the food,” he said. His pottery pieces are durable, “but they don’t like to be dropped on a hard floor.”

Look for Barney’s pottery in the horse show office at the next WTHJA horse shows, coming up September 1-3 and November 9-12, 2017. Find more information about WTHJA at

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