Pottery Throwdown 2021, Episode 7: Emotional Support Okapi

Some people say that if you hold a raccoon filled water feature to your ears you can hear the streets of New York.

This week the potters will be tackling the animal kingdom with animal inspired water features and later being more aghast at strawberry planters than you thought anyone ever could be.

Creature Feature

In order to gain a place in the quarter final the potters will this week be making their biggest make yet with an animal inspired water feature that stands at least 70cm tall. While contending with the sheer size of the builds they will also have to think about how best to conceal the eyesore of a pump

and understand the basic physics of how water works while making sure their animal sculpture is the focal point, Keith is very clear that he doesn’t want a giant lily pad and a small frog, it’s Big Frogs or NOTHING. In fact Keith was a bit obsessed with frogs because the example was one too

Sadly for him none of the potters obliged him in his amphibious penchant.

With the net cast so wide and a near inexhaustible amount of species to choose from you’d think there wouldn’t be a crossover amongst a group of 7 people and yet Adam and Peter found themselves in a Battle of the Octopi, a battle so heated that Adam began calling Peter “Octopussy”

A little aggressive.
Peter was going for a well mannered, domesticated octopus having a bath in a rusty bathtub

Which does sound a bit like someone telling you about one of their weirder dreams, which according to The Dream Journal, a highly reliable source of information… means that Peter is emotionally clinging to all of his burdens, or alternatively someone watched too much anime before bedtime.
While Peter was going for a nice, polite octopus having a bath, his calamari rival was making a moralising cephalopod to show that it is humans that are the monsters of the sea and definitely not the weird creatures at the bottom of the ocean that all look like a disturbed child drew them into existence

His octopus will be surrounded by bits of litter as a commentary on the issue of plastics in our oceans, an idea that is only 1 step away from making a full bust of Greta Thunberg that has water squirting from the side of her head instead of pigtails and Keith would be HEARTLESS not to cry at the plight of the octopus – “the plight of the octopus” being one of Rimsky-Korsakov’s lesser known orchestral pieces – too niche a reference?
Keith is a touch concerned for Adam and whether or not he can get all the details done, such as applying all of the suckers to his tentacles (you will not believe how many times I have checked every instance of “tentacles” just to make sure I never wrote testicles).

And I’m just a bit like… Sir, do you remember the 23 pieces of fruit he made or the 73? piece mushroom palace he made complete with a ceramic washing line? DO YOU NOT REMEMBER? BECAUSE I REMEMBER.
On top of his octopus he even has the time to craft what he has dubbed “squibbly wibblies” inspired by sea urchins which are rather cute

And if you want your own Squibbly Wibbly he does sell them here – they’re currently not in stock and if you’re utterly desperate to get your hands on 8 garden tentacles he sells those too, because everyone’s tulip bed should look like Cthulhu’s lair.

I was so sure that Alon was going to make another whale (complete with tiny little house hat of course) that I was willing to put money on it, it’s a good thing I didn’t because instead he had spent an evening browsing the Wikipedia list of most endangered species and settled on the Okapi

How dare he when the Limbless Worm Skink is RIGHT THERE.
As you may have noticed he is taking a more abstract idea of the Okapi, it doesn’t usually look like a legendary Pokémon. The main cause for concern, because there is always one when it comes to Alon, is how those dainty little feet are going to support the weight of the Okapi and his response is very Gigi Goode

Iconic behaviour.
It does very nearly go wrong for him as because he didn’t put it in the drying room because apparently he learned nothing from Shenyue last week his Okapi’s feet are crushed when he and Sal (gracelessly) try to flip it the right way around

and so Alon is forced to put it in the drying room while Siobhan’s voiceover chastises him for it

luckily it works out for him the second time and his Okapi’s feet don’t strain under even the most basic gravitational force and all that’s left for him to do is seal it all up and apply a white slip before the first firing process.

While Sal wasn’t aiding in okapi inversions she was making everyone’s favourite sea creature the Ugly Frog Mollusc and its little Nudibranch friend named Siobhan

Now, I don’t want to call Sally a liar but I cannot find a single shred of evidence that “The Ugly Frog Mollusc” exists and I will be turning this into a 6 episode Investigative Podcast called Mollusc Most Wanted.
Her piece is so large she is having to make it in two portions and support the interior with balloons which regularly burst either while she was squashing them in

or while she was going in with the heat gun and I’m sure all the potters and their jangled nerves really appreciated it.

The weight of the pieces was obviously a careful balancing act and nobody was feeling the difficulty of balancing everything more than Hannah who was making a model of the macaw that her Grenadian father befriended as a child

Where’s that Pixar movie?
The main issue being that she is trying to balance a solid clay parrot on the side of a basin that has quite thin walls and halfway through in a desperate attempt to lose some weight like a plummeting balloonist she brutally cuts into the chest of her parrot to scoop out its innards

That is an ex-parrot. I told them I was stealing that joke. I warned them.
This doesn’t entirely help and the now partially hollow macaw is still not playing ball and is torn in twain

and it would be hard for anyone not to have a bit of an emotional collapse when you have half a macaw in each hand, a slightly too wet clay basin and an ever decreasing amount of time and Hannah begins to cry into her basin

Which is *kind of* a water feature, and if you were wondering what my animal inspired water feature would have been, it would have just been this crying cat meme

I will say the test of a good host is how well they handle these situations and Siobhan gave a masterclass in kindness and did such a good job of picking Hannah out of her momentary funk, and look Hannah ended up with a successfully standing sculpture

We stan.

Henry was having a few wobbly problems of his own with his raccoon sculpture that he was making for his girlfriend, who for one brief moment was the most hated person on Twitter – it’s 2021, circus skills and budgies are the new abs and a chiselled jawline. His plan was to make a trio of trash diving raccoons having a grand old time in a trashcan

A concept that Keith has more than a few reservations about

He was going for a more cartoonish approach with his raccoons, less like you had stumbled upon a rabid creature in suburban New York and more like you had come across Meeko at Disneyland which I think he mostly achieved given Alon’s face when he was introduced to the gaze of raccoons

That’s a squee face if I ever saw one.
There was however that one raccoon that looked a bit like it was going through a demonic possession

that was the least of his worries as his trashcan basin was causing him some concern because of the way it was wobbling

“This is fine” he gently lied to himself.

And lastly we have Jodie who is making a single wolf for her water feature, the three wolf moon meme IS RIGHT THERE

She settled on the wolf because she feels like it is her spirit animal, they are able to be independent as well as work within a team AND they’re ruthless killers who will relentlessly chase their prey for hours on end…
In order to make her halfmoon basin she has brought in her grandmother’s antique washing tub which suffers a very unfortunate calamity

this doesn’t get very much screentime so I’m not quite sure how much of a family heirloom it was but there’s always The Repair Shop Jodie!

And with everyone’s sculpture the right way round and free standing all that’s left to do is let them go for their first firing

Sweet summer child.

Berry Difficult

Continuing the garden theme of the week the Throwdown Challenge is for the potters to make a 30cm high strawberry planter with 6 well formed pockets and you wouldn’t have thought it because Jodie reacts as though Siobhan just revealed a severed head

She’s seen worse, she once killed a man with nothing but her big toe and a clothes peg.
Keith gives them a quick demonstration on how to best centre the 10kgs of clay they’re going to be working with and all the while maintains aggressive eye contact with the potters

and he also shows them how best to cut the strawberry pockets into the stoneware pot once it has reached a leather hardness and by the end of this process Henry looked on the verge of tears

Which he shouldn’t have been because it turns out someone is the new found Strawberry Planter King as everyone grunts and sighs their way through the beast of a challenge he ends up with a very good if slightly thicc strawberry planter

on the other end of the spectrum are Adam and Hannah who seem to actively hate every second of this challenge and I fully imagine they’ve developed quite the grudge against strawberries. Nothing quite summed up Adam’s journey through this challenge than the focus pull from him and his slightly manic expression to Jodie with her nearly fully formed pot looking as serene as ever

his first mistake was turning around and finding out that everyone was already fingering in

There’s always someone who feels left out.
He remains a bit behind everyone and his strawberry planter unfortunately doesn’t get to dry to the right hardness and he has no choice but to furiously finger a slightly damp pot in order to get it done in the time

Bless the tiny little hole that even a bonsaied strawberry would struggle to make use of, I think it’s fair to say this was never going to be Adam’s round given that before even starting he looked a bit like he was about to be sick

Time was also the nemesis of Hannah who halfway through the challenge decided to rethrow her pot because her first attempt was a little lopsided due to it not having been centred correctly during the throwing process and from this point on she gave Siobhan increasingly savage looking death stares every time she gave a time call

after everything they went through together during The Macaw Debacle, this is the biggest mid-series betrayal since The Red Wedding!
Her final part was quite obviously birthed from pure panic as it seemed to be screaming in pain from every one of its orifices

It was also a little on the short side measuring up at a squat 21cm, joining her in pottery dwarfism was Jodie who ended up at the same height with some very thick walls

Alon on the other hand managed the exact height as well as a full set of 6 even pockets with an ever so slightly distorted rim

Sal missed the requested height by a mere centimetre and while her pockets were slightly uneven Rich assured her that he would definitely put his berries in them

and lastly there was Peter who got on with the challenge with out so much as a sigh and produced a perfectly good pot that was almost immediately relegated to the middle of the pack

It was as safe a place to be as anything this week.

A Final Strawberry Planter Ranking

  1. Henry The Strawberry King
  2. Sal Because She’s Sal
  3. Alon’s Wonky Rim
  4. Peter in the Middle
  5. Jodie’s Squat Pot
  6. Hannah’s Sextet of Screaming Hellmouths
  7. Adam’s Supervillain Origin Story

And bless Henry’s reaction winning


What A Feature!

The first port of call for the next day is to the kiln to assess the success or failure of the firing process, Jodie comes out clear as anything, not a scratch in sight while Adam suffers a broken tentacle and Peter has some cracks in his tub. It’s Henry who has the biggest mishap as the inside of his water feature appears to have become the entrance to Hell

I do love that they gave Rose a whole segment to explain exactly what went wrong just so that everyone knew that it absolutely wasn’t her fault and was because Henry’s bin was too big and didn’t allow for good air circulation to dry it out. This meant that Henry had quite the repair job on his hands and how was he going to solves all of this?

Hey, if duct tape was good enough to repair the whole plane on Lost then it’s good enough for a garden water feature!
Keith does pop by his work station to give him a bit of a pep talk about how he shouldn’t worry all the while Henry just gazed into the void of his garbage can

And the void did indeed stare back. I promise this is the one and only time I will be referencing Nietzsche.
Despite the ordeal it took to get it done the final look of the water feature is really good

We’ll ignore the plastic bag that he has shoved in it for now but he’s done a really good job of not making the bin portion just a grey slab and the racoons are adorable

it’s just unfortunate that it didn’t hold even a modicum of water and instead leaked all over Henry’s shoes and a series of cables

All the while Alon watched on from afar like a concerned spouse of a whaler waiting for them to return from their notoriously treacherous whaling trip

It was also a bit rude of them to make Henry’s follow Jodie’s rather incredible One Wolf, Half Moon sculpture

the paint job on it is incredible, that sort of blacky-green that she did a fantastic job of diffusing to make look like the actual colouring of a wolf is masterful. And the spitting power of her wolf was quite spectacular and even caught the usually nerves of steel, assassin ready Jodie off guard

While Jodie went for a more literal colouring Alon was leaving his Okapi in its stark whiteness and adding its statement zebra stripe legs and giving it a lovely touch up of Ichiban, Lipstick for Men!

The aim for his water feature was for it to squirt out of one of the saddle bags and into the other except someone had obviously just set the pump to full power and we had an okapi shaped water cannon

I think it’s Alon’s most successful piece to date and certainly the one where he was able to most successfully make his personal aesthetic and taste meet the brief and what the judges are specifically looking for.

The big moment had finally arrived for Adam, was his every so slightly preachy octopus going to make Keith cry?

I think we can count this as a success? I don’t think any tears fell but emotions were felt. Who knew that all it would take is a very impressive dribbling octopus

The feel and look of movement in those tentacles is sublime, it’s so well observed that I wonder how many hours Adam spent watching octopi and was Dan at all worried at any point? Like that episode of Friends where Monica thinks Chandler has developed a thing for sharks.

Peter’s octopus feature had to go through a few repairs as he filled in the cracks of his tub with some silicon

It might have been more of an issue on camera than in person but I found his octopus a little hard to make sense of, the colours seemed all quite similar

Also, quite why he called it “Blood is Thicker Than Water” remains to be seen because it does sound a little bit like he is threatening that poor octopus during bath time and nobody needs death threats during a good soak.
The rusting effect on the bath time is really good though, you would genuinely have thought it was made of metal, I just wish the octopus had been a richer blue to differentiate from the bath more easily.
In this Great Octopus War of 2021 I think Adam won on an aesthetic level but I think Peter had a more successful waterflow despite the leak. Hi, I’m the Switzerland of Pottery Throwdown.

One of the main components of the brief was that the chosen animal had to be front and centre of the piece and in order to achieve this Sal was hoping to give her Nudibranch quite the paint job so that it stood out and took centre stage because the Ugly Frog Mollusc is not a thing and therefore did not count as an animal. It’s always hard to gauge what the dyes and oxides will do once fired and given her moodboards I imagine Sal had expected the sea slug to be slightly more neon than it was

It’s an incredibly well built piece, the seam is perhaps a little glaring but the colouring on the shell is perfect, the piece does unfortunately leak and we have a bit of a dribbly nudibranch

Despite her issues in the first round Hannah’s macaw water feature managed to survive both its firings remarkably well, and clearly Hannah was dreading them but luckily had an emotional support okapi to stroke throughout the ordeal

Also I love that everyone managed to smile their way through Rose bringing out the bisected body of Henry’s raccoon.
Instead of the lurid, jazzy colours of a macaw Hannah opted for some paler tones so that it gelled more with the colours and aesthetic of her plinth which was she was covering in a series of banana leaf prints

As Rich said, it really gets the vibe of the colonial architecture of the Caribbean and I think fully embracing a more cartoonish effect with the black outlines was a very good idea.

An Animal Water Feature Ranking

  1. The Okapi Water Cannon
  2. 1 Wolf, Half Moon Fountain
  3. Anti-plastic Cthulhu
    • Cthulhu Does Bathtime
  4. Hannah’s Hollow Macaw
  5. Sal’s Shy Slug
  6. Henry’s Trash Diving Raccoons

Once the floor has been mopped the judges can finally get around to giving us some results and Jodie finds herself taking a second spot in Rose’s Room of Wonders

and it is with great sadness that it is Henry’s turn to be absorbed into the group hug

We will greatly miss our favourite human golden retriever and he gives a truly lovely send off

And I hope his girlfriend one day gets that raccoon water feature he has now promised her.

Next Week


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