Pottery Throwdown 2021, Episode 8: Larger Mouthed Cowboys

The revolution starts now!

You would think that it would be hard to get more heart-breaking than the last couple weeks of eliminations and then it does.

Olla Board!

This week the potters find themselves taking on Native American pottery styles and the problematic landmines that lie within – which everyone does a stellar job of avoiding and I’m glad we’ve reached the point where we know not to put the presenter in a headdress. Instead this week Siobhan will be dressing up as the pirate alter ego that Suz created for her in episode one

Who said only Marvel could do call backs?

Specifically the potters will be recreating and honouring the pottery styles of the Acoma People of Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, or to give them their traditional, non-bastardised name “ʔáák’u̓u̓m̓é” (I HAVE WIKIPEDIA TOO KEITH) and even more specifically the Sky City Acomas – there being four distinct Acoma communities within Acoma Pueblo: Sky City (Old Acoma), Acomita, Anzac, and McCartys.

The potters will be making 2 pieces of traditional Acoma pottery: a large Olla Pot used for storing and carrying water and is typified by its large bulbous shape and wide, ~slightly tapered~ mouth – THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT DON’T FORGET IT.
The second is a much smaller seed pot which, as you might have guessed is used for storing seeds, they’re usually very round with a tiny mouth so that the only way to really get the valuable seeds out is to smash the pot. These will later be fired in a traditional method using cow manure.

Both of the pots must be made using a traditional coiling method, which is basically layering strips of clay up to eventually make a pot – I think, that’s what the show was telling so correct me if I’m wrong Madelaine. Most of the potters are opting for a mould to make this process easier for them, except if you’re Adam who is using what might be a haemorrhoid cushion for brownie points

Very traditional Acoma.
Adam’s design is inspired by microscopic water dropletss and seeds and just the general shape of water (not the fish sex movie – although missed opportunity for the water feature challenge.)

And while Adam was going very traditional and keeping things as similar to the wikipedia article’s description of Acoma pottery as possible, Alon and Sal were… not doing that.

Alon has decided that he wanted to inject a little Japanese culture into the Acoma People and make an almost origami-esque design

Which is some incredible pottery design and is certainly an interesting technique but Keith did try to warn him that he was going slightly off brief

although he did at least cut it short of making a lid.

Alon’s partner in Crimes Against The Acoma, Sal was committing the cardinal sin of daring to add a neck AND a rim to her olla pot and a portrait of her dog onto her BB8 seed pot

And from Keith’s reaction to this choice you would think it was worse than that time we gave the entire Native American population smallpox on purpose.

The best part of all of this was Rich and Keith complaining about Sal and Alon reclaiming a traditional piece of iconography as their own and then it dead cutting to a conversation with Jodie about how the rainbow is the symbol of the NHS now – apparently Love Productions learnt NOTHING from The Gay Bagel Debacle of 2020.
Jodie, being a nurse AND DEFINITELY NOT AN ASSASSIN, is obviously wanting to create a piece honouring that side of her life and is doing so by incorporating a rainbow motif that it also traditionally found in Acoma pottery

It’s a very clever way to stay within the brief and shows that you at least read the Wikipedia page.

A key feature of most Acoma pottery is its geometric designs and Hannah was staying true to this with her take on the Dazzle Camouflage used by the navy in World War 1 that was specifically designed to hide the overall shape of the ship and disguise the direction it may have been going in

Could she have just said “zebra print”? Yes, but this is British TV so there’s a mandated one reference to war per series, just be thankful it wasn’t this poor dog from Pooch Perfect

I cannot believe someone won Poppy Wars 2021 IN FEBRUARY.

Peter was keeping things moderately more traditional by making a design that harkened to the commonly found parrot motif that he is using to evoke his Australian childhood

They might have mentioned that he grew up in Australia in the first episode, but as we have established all I remember from that was this picture of Peter

It truly does live in my mind rent free.

One of the key features of Acoma pottery is the thinness of the walls, which was essential in order to make their pots as lightweight as possible and therefore easier to carry back and forth from collecting water. To get their walls as thin as possible most of them are using a tool that everyone calls a cheese grater

and Sal has some feelings about it

They didn’t have necks or rims either.

Once everyone had finished fat shaming their pots it was time to give them their distinct shiny finish. In order to do this they’ve all have been given some special stones that look a bit like something your new-age-y friend gives you when you tell them you’re feeling depressed

The stones are because teaspoons stolen from your mother’s kitchen wouldn’t be very Acoma.
Siobhan describes the final finish of the pots as “being like you’re stroking fudge” and as someone who spent three years living in York with its seemingly endless array of fudge shops (seriously York, you have a problem) I know exactly what she means. Quick Fudge Related Sidebar, my favourite York Fudge Story (WE ALL HAVE ONE) was when an American tourist asked the fudgemaker if they made “sugar free fudge” and I genuinely thought I was about to see a brawl in a quaint little shop on The Shambles.

With the pots safely in the drying room all that the potters could do was ponder on their designs

If you listen very carefully you can hear Keith tearing his hair out!

A Ring of Lies

This week’s throwdown challenge is that classic object of the Western America: The Alabama Ring Bottle! Which suspiciously does not have a Wikipedia page and there is only one photo of these things existing outside of The Great Pottery Throwdown the rest of the entries are just Alabama themed bottle opening keyrings – so to the researcher that discovered it, I would like to see the receipts.
This nonsense object is a doughnut shaped clay bottle with a nozzle – it was all the rage amongst the 18th century VSCO girls and it’s not like leather canteens were a well established thing at the time that were much more useful BECAUSE THEY WEREN’T DOUGHNUT SHAPED AND DIDN’T BREAK AS EASILY. And I have a distinct feeling that Hannah was realising this too as she looked distinctly sceptical about all of this

Adam on the other hand was either holding back THE MANY QUESTIONS that this task brought up or holding a 1 man breath holding competition

Rich’s made up bottle has to have a 30cm diameter (I did google that to make sure I remembered what a diameter was, I hope Mrs. Hemmingway is proud of me) and must feature a tapered nozzle that could fit a cork as well as the average sized cowboy mouth – the potters will just be superficially attaching the nozzle which means the bottles wont actually be usable, which is fine because nobody ever did use them. This is now a Rich Miller call out post, PREPARE TO BE CANCELED BABY. #RichMillerIsOverParty

Sally very quickly comes to Rich’s defence and claims she has made them before but how can we trust someone that put a rim on an olla pot? Although the evidence does point towards the fact Sally has, for some reason, made clay doughnut shaped water bottles before because hers was incredible

and featured by far the largest water capacity

Think of how much more it could have contained if it wasn’t doughnut shaped!

While Sally flew ahead with her experience in the doughnut shaped bottle department, Adam was, shall we say, “A little distracted”

His final bottle is described as “having changes in direction” (No, me neither) and has by far the most penis-y of nozzles

a hearty congratulations are in order.
While Adam triumphed in the nozzle department, Peter slightly fumbled and created a nozzle that could only worked for the larger mouthed cowboys

but at least he overachieved by creating a 31cm diameter – he did spend the entire challenge using millimetres, as is the defining trait of all engineers. Although if we were remaining traditional to 18th century America we should be measuring things in spans and digits. I promise I will stop being salty about this episode at some point.

Hannah had to throw her nozzle twice, the first time being a little too small for her liking and then unfortunately the second one got described as “quite stubby”

and despite the fact she got off to a rocky start and beat the wheel in frustration for a bit

she did at least end up with an unnecessarily doughnut shaped bottle that featured space for water, even if it was only a very little amount

I honestly don’t believe that any of these doughnut shaped bottles could have held more than your average Frube.

Jodie unfortunately was the only one that had the audacity to question the existence of the Alabama Ring Bottle™ and was quickly ushered into last place for a bottle that wasn’t very voluptuous and was only 28cm wide

Although Hannah’s was a child’s sized 24cm and arguably had the same issues as Jodie’s and was as surprised as all of us when she managed to rank higher than Jodie

Lastly there was Alon who made a bottle that Rich gleefully described as “looking like a complete doughnut!”

It was just a little unfortunate that his nozzle was a little abrupt.

A Fictional Water Bottle Ranking

  1. Sal-Abama Ring Bottle
  2. Alon’s Perfect Doughnut
  3. Adam’s Verse-Switch Doughnut and Happy Mouthfeel
  4. Peter’s Large Mouthed Cowboys Only
  5. The Hannah-bama Ring Bottle
  6. Jodie How Dare You Question Rich.

I think it’s fair to say that looking at these rankings and how the episode panned out that the Throwdown Challenges don’t count for much other than extending the runtime.

No Acoma-dation for Risk

With their pots successfully making it through the first firing and successfully navigating the rain slicked courtyard while carrying both pots at the same time

it was now time for the potters to get crafty and paint on their final designs, and in true Acoma style they will be using a strict colour palette of black, white and a sort of terracotta orange.

A lot of the potters are using stencils or pre-sketching their designs in order to create their patterns but Adam is going Full Acoma and doing his freehand to achieve his fluid, water-like shapes (don’t quote me on the Acoma people being a stencil-free society, I am not a citeable source)

and then just hoping that as he adds more detail to it that the pattern will “unwonk” in the end, and much to his relief it does

How is it that some people can just do everything?

Alon was also taking the free-handed approach and doodling on his geometric, faux-mathematical designs with a brush that followed the Acoma tradition of making brushes out of a child’s hair, as like the protagonist in an Aesopian Fable he tricked the potentially dangerous Jodie into loaning him a couple of her hairs

God bless him and his extreme concentration face

He did have a little wobble towards the end of the painting time because his pots were looking a little sparser than everyone else’s but Hannah was on hand to reassure him as much as herself as she was knee deep in frantically painting on some jazzy looking zebra-print

Although deceptively simple looking because there was a fair bit of calculation going on and there was a repetition to her pattern and her brain was melting as she was going along, and it’s not really a surprise considering this was her sketch

While Hannah contended with her dazzle ship pattern Peter was trying to find the best positioning for his Canary/Parrot/chicken hybrid (Canarroten?) that looks delightfully like a Pokémon

and also lamenting about the 3 hour time limit in the most TMI way he possibly could

Which gives a whole new meaning to this inconsequential line

While Peter continues to take up even more space in my mind, Jodie was further explaining the meaning behind her decoration, as we have established, the rainbows are for the support the public showed, the arrowheads are her weapon of choice and the bear represents her inner killer

In order to carry this design through to her seed pot, she will be decorating it with a little bear paw.
And just in case a future employer of Jodie’s ever finds these rambling screeds about her possibly being an assassin – SHE’S A VERY NICE AND EMPLOYABLE INDIVIDUAL.

Sal was keeping with her theme of making her Distinctly Sally Acoma Pots by decorating them with things that mean a lot to her such as her dog Charlie

some Cornish Choughs

and of course, The Death Star

Unlike everyone else Sal had started with the smaller seed pot and seemed to get caught up in the intricate details which didn’t leave her a lot of time to get her larger pot done and she began looking for ways to do as little as possible in a sixth of the time it takes Peter to make love, allegedly.

With the painting all done it was time to head down to The Poo Pit, which Adam was VERY excited about

Only the seed pots were going to be fired in the poo pit, mostly because they couldn’t get the Gladstone Pottery Museum to sign off on anything bigger than a paddling pool sized poo burning pit

The hope was that the burning of the manure would leave what are known as “fire clouds” on the surface of the pots – which is apparently more of a Navajo and Hopi style but I’m sure Keith has his reasons. (I may or may not have emailed a professor in Native American art styles about this…)

With everything delicately laid down and the paddling pool of manure slowly smoking there was only one thing left to do

NO SIOBHAN! Not after we found out about his three hour sex marathons!

Instead it was time to sing campfire songs and ignore the every increasing stench of burning poo

and I’m sure they were quite glad that they didn’t have to camp out all night like last year’s unfortunate lot

God bless whoever thought that challenge up.

Judging Time

Thankfully everyone survived the firing process – I’m not sure I could handle another week of cracks and explosions.
First to hit the judges’ table was Adam with his water inspired pots

I still can’t get over his patterning skills – it’s so even and well balanced and he very successfully managed to retain that Acoma aesthetic while also being distinctly how own style, my favourite detail is however the very unimpressed looking eyes around the brim

If I were on olla pot.
And Keith VERY NEARLY cries at the thinness of Adam’s walls but alas, it’s Adam and Keith apparently has some sort of vendetta against him.

You would have thought that Jodie’s NHS inspired pots would have been catnip for Keith’s tears but despite her very well proportioned design not a single tear was shed

I do enjoy that because of the limited colour range the rainbows do look a bit more like her pot as a particularly good Wi-Fi connection

Instead Keith was saving all his tears for Peter’s parrot pots that were just divine

and Keith took pretty much one look at them and was completely gone

bless his heart.
My only question is that is the hole on the water pot not a little too small? But Keith quickly dubs it the best thing Peter had ever made and I for one cannot stand this Bamboozled Tom Jones erasure

But on a serious note, Peter’s pots were incredible and thoroughly deserved the Full Keith Brymer Jones Waterworks.

Hannah had a few shaping issues with her pots and Keith mostly just wished they have had a bigger belly

but the eye-catching design worked very well in the limited colour palette and she managed to achieve thin walls throughout her pot.

And now for the first of our controversial duo with Sal and her clash of New Mexico and Cornwall

I kind of get where they’re coming from in terms of the the shape and silhouette, the adding of the neck and rim has kind of transformed it from a Native American olla pot into a Greek Amphora and the very cartoonised décor, however well executed, doesn’t help. The seed pot though is gorgeous, the way the smoke cloud affected the drawing of her dog Charlie is really lovely

She definitely got the best treatment in the poo pit.

And lastly we have Alon and his origami-esque offerings and I will die on a hill for and say these are fantastic

Do they fit the brief? Not entirely but I think they’re still recognisably inspired by Acoma pottery – I wish he had managed to feature the orangey-brown colour, or enlarged his prints to cover more of the pots – their minimalist look is only adding to their very contemporary feel.

It was a weird episode with a very constricting brief that I think was always going to trip someone like Alon up who Keith has absolutely been trying to eliminate ever since The Whale Incident but unfortunately Sal got caught in the crossfire of a default elimination for straying from the brief – but let it be known that both of them made some really cool pots that I think deserve to be as celebrated for their individuality as the others do for maintaining authenticity. But it is nonetheless time up for Alon and Sal and instead of sharing pictures of them looking utterly defeated let’s remember happier times

But Peter absolutely deserved his win this week and his Parrot Pots were ushered into Rose’s Room of Wonders

Next Week

She’s Jodie and she’s doing this now.

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