Pottery Throwdown 2021, Episode 6: The Obligatory Crack

When does The Great British Stick and Poke Off start?

Hello and welcome to me trying to provide a humorous recap of one hell of a downer of an episode and I’m only partially talking about Jodie having to make an item of poultry imprisonment.

Terracotta Barmy

This week the potters find themselves in the deathly grips of terracotta – a clay they only used for a Throwdown Challenge last year and I imagine after this year will once again be relegated to such. Out of our new mortal enemy the potters will be expected to make 3 items of cookware: a tagine, a casserole pot and “a chicken brick” – which doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia entry and thus I refuse to believe is a thing. This figment of Keith’s imagination is expected to be able to hold 1 family sized chicken within its earthen prison and looks a lot like someone decapitated the Pokemon trapinch

And because everything is meant to be handled and used the potters are expected to make them as ergonomic as possible and feature “robust knobs” which we all acting very maturely about

In order to achieve all of this the potters have been given a threatening 20kgs of terracotta and is a very solid and hard to work clay as you could tell by the fact for most of the episode was punctuated by Shenyue screaming in a mix of agony and exhaustion.

Everyone immediately seems to start with “the chicken brick” or if like Jodie and a vegetarian I’m sure you could find a lovely swede in there (the vegetable, not the people, although I don’t know how you feel about ABBA, maybe you’d love to imprison them within a terracotta shell for all eternity, I don’t judge.). For her design she’s taking it all the way back to assassin school and decorating her pieces with a design inspired by her abstract papier-mâché art project

And with an A in A Level art, her athletic achievements, her love of imaginary travel and the red coat

I believe I have enough to rumble her identity as Carmen Sandiego. Your move Jodie.

Jodie wasn’t the only one revisiting their former years as Alon was making a set inspired by his love of cooking with his grandmother and decorating his set of pieces decorated with lizards which are considered lucky in Israel because they eat mosquitos

I believe they’re Mediterranean House Geckos, or as they’re known in Israel Shmamit Batim which have the honour of being one of the few animals in The Bible mentioned by a species name. This has been Gecko Facts With Ariadne.
There are some concerns over the fact he was using the geckos as the handles on his casserole dish and that they might not be robust enough but at least he had handles, Henry on the other hand did not have time for such features

Always living life on the edge he is.
The inspiration for Henry’s doodled sgrafitto design comes from his stick and poke tattoos which he did himself which obviously he got a lot of flack for online but I think they suit him, I would genuinely not have expected anything less than a tattoo of a butt next to a tattoo of Sally and Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas and what might be a stingray with a horn?

We have no choice but to stan.
Henry being Henry and going through this competition like it’s an episode of Fear factor of course ran as fast as he could with his tagine into the drying room

But while Henry might have been incredibly eager to get things into the drying room, Shenyue had other plans and was just letting them sit next to her as she worked through her pieces and refused to budge no matter how many times someone pointed out to her that she could be there and back in less than two minutes, or 30 seconds if she wanted to race human cocker spaniel Henry. “What I can achieve with the drying room in an hour is what I can achieve with the heat gun in two minutes” she says, much to Keith’s concern

and so began my evening of screaming at the television – this was my Superbowl.
And even towards the end of the time limit Shenyue shelf was still empty

I did very much enjoy Rose being very reluctant to snitch on Shenyue when Siobhan asked her whose shelf was still empty. Luckily Peter, an angel on earth whomst we do not deserve, was on hand to ferry Shenyue’s pieces to the drying room for her because he had finished most of his Western inspired pots

The chicken brick was designed after a saddle while his wife’s favourite pair of boots were being immortalised in a casserole dish – who said romance was dead?

Sal was also going west for her inspiration, although instead of the Great Planes of Texas she was going north and seeking inspiration from the Inuit people of Canada and was creating a Bear Tagine, an Eagle Casserole Dish and a Whale Chicken Brick

This is not to suggest that you make a bear tagine or an eagle casserole. Or imprison a whale within terracotta for that matter. This isn’t The Glutton Club.
Sal had a fair few moments of jeopardy, at one point the walls of her first chicken brick threatened to collapse in on itself like the fabric of existence for the last year

and then decided she just wasn’t happy with it and wanted to remake it because she had the time to spare – a major brag when you have Shenyue in the corner screaming at her tagine lid and Jodie making handles in a bit of a panic.

Sal wasn’t the only speeding through it is Adam was having a gay old time with the terracotta

as he set about making his three pieces inspired by the generations of his family

And as a member of Itty Bitty Titty Committee I feel very seen and represented by that chicken brick. While he is working on the main bodies of his pieces now, the extra little details will be added after the drying process.

And lastly we have Hannah who I genuinely thought was about to make a tagine and a casserole dish decorated in marijuana leaves

It’s a niche market but I’m sure there must be one for CBD Stews.
It’s actually a star stencil inspired by Portuguese tiles – sure Hannah, sure. She along with Shenyue, Peter and Jodie (I think, the show was a little unclear on this) decided to throw her chicken brick in two pieces while Adam, Sal, Henry and Alon all definitely decided to do it one piece and cut it open once it had dried.

And with everyone having finally put their pieces of nonsense cookware into the drying room it was on to The Throwdown Challenge.

Waiting a Life Tile for a Moment Like This

For this Terracotta week challenge the potters have to tell their life story via a 6 tile frieze, a prospect that takes Adam on a rollercoaster of emotions

and luckily Rich has his own example on hand that almost certainly wasn’t made in a mere 60 minutes

Big old flex of his to make a Welsh dragon seemingly as a taunt to Jodie to even try it but Jodie did not fall for the bait and instead decided to honour Wales by showcasing the mining culture of where she grew up by going ham on some terraced houses and a traditional Welsh dress worn on St David’s Day

There’s a distinct clarity to it and a crisp differentiation to each component that I think a few of the other potters struggled with.
Also honouring his hometown was Adam with his frieze of Brighton that featured him and his partner Dan in a boat along with iconic landmarks such as Brighton Pier and Brighton Pavilion (a risk on reality competition shows apparently)

I had somewhat fully expected Keith to go Full Michelle Visage and tell Adam that it was unsuitable to depict Brighton Pavilion in terracotta because it has a bath stone façade but Keith cut Adam some slack and praised him for the layout and interesting textures and depth that he achieved. And was promptly relegated to third place for. At least he’ll always have that saxophone win.

Pipping Adam to the top spot was Sal and her depiction of Cornwall and Canada colliding like it was Roland Emmirch disaster film, except for the fact it wasn’t a disaster because Sal is truly the clay whisperer

And nothing brings me more joy than the thought Sal travelling to Canada to play golf and I hope she gets to do it again soon – also props for her for not messing up her priorities on national television by correctly listing the order of her favourite things as her partner, her dogs, her home and then Canada.

While Sal wasn’t struggling with a life story at all the younger potters were having a bit of an existential crisis and nothing was quite as upsetting as Henry staring at 6 blank tiles racking his brain for his achievements

Do your budgies mean NOTHING to you?
Instead Henry decided to just draw a load of things that interest him, which he could maybe have passed off as honouring his tattoos again but unfortunately one of said things was “trampoline webbing” because in the last 10 minutes he had realised he was running out of time and just carved patterns into the clay

and maybe Great A’Tuin, the giant star turtle from the Discworld novels? So at least he has great taste in literature.
Alon was also struggling and insisting he had no life story to tell, tell that to Joey Essex who somehow has a 336 page autobiography with a 4 star rating. He eventually lands on the idea of creating a geographical nightmare of a world map, what happens between Asia and Australia, who knows, whack a great big aeroplane that looks slightly like a thresher shark over it

Who cares about Indonesia anyway?
It was a little bit too 2D, but it did have a cute whale tail and that’s worth at least a few bonus points

Hannah was honouring her childhood spent in Katmandu by creating an array of foliage which I think was a really clever and interesting idea but maybe didn’t come out as well as she had hoped given that it all kind of melded into one almighty trypophobia inducing melange

How many times can I mention that clusters of holes make me uneasy?

Shenyue meanwhile was depicting her science degree by making a pair of test tubes and what I imagine are cellular lifeforms and not avocados

I think for someone who was worried about not being the best decorator, lest we forget the traced Ed Sheeran pictures <3, she did remarkably well, Rich on the other hand is a little bit upset that her test tubes weren’t rounded enough.

And lastly Peter was going the more metaphorical route and making a clay dendelion to depict the spread of his extended family as well as a propellor to honour his flying career

AND EXCUSE ME, when did he decide to tell us he had a flying career? Did I miss something about his introduction in the first episode, because honestly all I can remember is this photo

I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with, it’s just such ~a vibe~.
His tile frieze is a little bit too sparse on the one side which he could have explained away by saying it was the uncertain future into which his family was blowing which almost certainly would have had Keith sobbing, but I think we had had enough existential crises for the day.

A Terracotta Tile Ranking

  1. Sal’s Canada vs Cornwall Clash
  2. Jodie’s Great Welsh Off
  3. Adam’s Brighton Relegation
  4. Shenyue’s Science Corner
  6. Hannah in the Forest
  7. Alon’s Alternative Geography
  8. Henry’s Existential Crisis


Before their terracotta pieces can be fired the potters needs to trim down their walls to the desired thickness, attached their various knobs and nubbins, decorate them with their desired glazes and finish off the insides with a glaze in order to make them food safe.

After her drying room boycott Shenyue’s pieces are still aren’t as dry as she might have wanted them to be but at least still dry enough to refine and decorated in a method known as Hakeme which is the applying of a white slip with straw brush in a fairly thin layer so that the clay surface can still be seen through in some places

The examples of hakeme that I found tended to use a sparser brush with more straw-like bristles, which might had had an effect on how thickly the slip went on and thus dried into a more solid finish because once dried the wave-like patterns that Shenyue had created were somewhat lost

This is entirely speculation from someone whose knowledge of pottery was gained purely out of spite after someone told me I shouldn’t be recapping this show as “a non-potter” – but if there’s one thing I do best it’s being an armchair expert. And I think it’s fair to say Shenyue was anticipating a firing disaster ahead of the judging

and well, a disaster is what we got as her casserole pot completely disintegrates the moment Keith tries to lift it up

Although crumbling casserole pots, cracked chicken bricks and terminated tagines were pretty much the call of the day as I think the only person to get through it relatively unscathed was Sal who might have suffered a crack in her delightful tagine featuring a trio of boogieing polar bears

but stealing the show was her whale chicken brick which was both well designed and had a humorous side to it with its mouth placement

While Sal was covering her whole whale in a layer of manganese Adam was not bothering with decorative glazes and was instead focusing on giving his pieces character by adding faces and unisex boobs


But before he could get around to adding the boobs he had to check to see if shrinkage contingency on his tagine lid had worked or not, which it had and he was *very* happy about

My favourite part of his design was that when lying down his be-titted chicken brick looked like a really cute pig

There are of course some cracks, at this point you could barely be marked down for them seeing as though everyone was in the same boat. And you would think that a 3 piece cook set (with tiny little faces) inspired by the 4 generations of Adam’s family (INCLUDING A BABY NEPHEW) would be catnip for Keith’s tear ducts AND YET

What did you do to him Adam?

While Alon was mostly decorating his pottery with the sculpted lizards, he was also glazing his pots in a chatter marked pattern known as tobiganna – a design element common in Japanese Koishiwara Ware and is quite a mesmerising process to watch

and it’s such a shame that Alon suffered some of the worst blowouts of the lot because his pieces looked incredible

Keith’s biggest issue with the casserole dish was the fact that he didn’t believe a lizard was robust enough a handle, and I say biggest issue, this was before he knew that the entire bottom of the pot had given up the will to live

The handle discourse didn’t stop there as Henry offered up his handleless casserole dish

which handle puritan Rich who has apparently never heard of an oven glove is scandalised by but his sgrafitto work was so crisp and exact that it in many ways saved him this week, and who doesn’t want a casserole dish covered in your high school doodles

And it’s a bit of a miracle that Henry got any of this out given that he was still trimming his walls down while everyone was glazing and then he was glazing the inside of his casserole dish as he was walking to the drying room

Henry, some of us have generalised anxiety disorders and can’t handle this stress.

Peter’s set went down very well for their extremely cohesive western theme

There is of course the obligatory crack in his tagine, and the fact he has essentially crafted a terracotta porthole

What ship captain could resist such a fixture?

Aesthetically, my personal favourite design was Hannah’s DEFINITELY NOT MARIJUANA star stencils

We’ll ignore that one blue star on the chicken brick that seems to have turned into a supernova. I just find the colours of them to be the most pleasing and the ones you would most likely use to cook with. Jodie’s were also very successful in their design, and not too far removed from Hannah’s

the contrast between that light blue and the rich terracotta is stunning and I did feel very sorry for Jodie because she went early in the judging and hadn’t yet realised that everyone had suffered the same sort of blow outs and cracks that hers featured.

An Arbitrary Terracotta Cookware Ranking

  1. Sal’s Terracotta Orca Puppet
  2. Hannah’s Terracotta “Pot”
  3. Jodie’s High School Tagine
  4. Adam’s Tits ‘n’ Tagines
  5. Alon’s Sturdy Geckos
  6. Peter Goes West
  7. Henry’s Tattooed Tagine
  8. Shenyue’s Hakeme Havoc

Overall this was a hard week and the fact every single one of the potters had some sort of crack or fractures seems a little sus and maybe it was a case of making too many pieces – WHO EVEN WANTS A CHICKEN BRICK? But Sal very much deserves having her second piece put into Rose’s Room of Wonders on the lowest possible plinth they could possibly find

And then just to strike the ultimate blow in what was the most stressful episode of this show it’s Shenyue that gets sent home

She was the first of the potters to reach out to me and champion my blog when she had absolutely no reason to and could easily have had me cancelled – I’m such a cow sometime and I have seen the savagery of her Twitter clapbacks! Not that I’m playing favourites or anything!

I love you all, I promise, but how could I not be immediately drawn to the sarcastic Queen of the Eyeroll, long may she reign. Pottery Throwdown All Stars when?

Next Week

I guess we’ll find out which of those internal wolves Jodie feeds.

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