For a show so wholesome, it does occasionally lean into SEVERELY threatening territory.
In this week’s episode we ponder “When is a Bottle Kiln a vase?” and “When is a cat inanimate?”.
For this week’s main make the potters were having to emblemise their hometown by making an inanimate object that in someway represents their hometown (hometown in this case being either where you were born, where you live or where you feel happy just in case you’re deeply ashamed of the former two). Said object could be a landmark, an invention or that classic British symbol, a bloodstained Mr. Whippy
There was a further complication to this than trying to avoid starting a civil war as to whose town can claim ownership of the humble chip butty as the potters were having to use Porcelain Paper Clay which dries very starkly white and because it contains paper absorbs moisture very easily and apparently gets more and more liquidy as you work it – it honestly sounds like a nightmare, why does this exist? They also were not allowed to use coloured glazes, with their only option being a black underglaze meaning it was perfect for making a sort of Chiaroscuro horror
or as I call it, Hull.
The potters all took an almost instant dislike to the paper clay, all except Tom who took the time to beat it into submission so that it would do his bidding more easily
and for a while his and the clay’s relationship was going rather swimmingly as he put together his Penfold Postbox, because Tom *really* loves postboxes apparently
also going swimmingly was his and Rich’s relationship as they found a mutual fondness for stamps and you could almost see the life leave both Ellie’s and Keith’s eyes the moment the two of them began discussing the history of the Penny Black
Ellie there internally calculating how long a broken leg takes to recover.
Tom’s fondness for the clay didn’t last though as by the end of their building time it was steadfastly refusing to become a cat as Tom somewhat failed to understand the meaning the of the word “inanimate” – but the cat ended up being *very* cute so I shan’t be a pedant. This time.
Jenny and Tom decided that this week they weren’t going to wage their own war as Jenny sadly didn’t try to build the Jessica Ennis postbox and was instead honouring Sheffield’s steel industry by basically making the Kelham Island Museum Drum
and yes, as a Sheffielder, I very much did become the Leonardo DiCaprio meme every time they showed it or mentioned Sheffield because I knew where and what it was
also focusing on the industry of their hometown was Christine who was depicting the sewing industry of Preston and sadly not her apparent fondness of rollerskating
I am rather excited by Christine’s seemingly never ending list of hobbies, it’s got a very “I’m Natalie Cassidy and I’m just doing this now!” energy about it, we have to stan.
The only potter to make a foodstuff was Miles who was attempting to make an apple as an ode to the Mistletoe Markets and Apple Festivals at which Miles and his husband love nothing more than be highly critical of the other villagers’ apples
as you can tell, the nightlife in Tenbury Wells is wild and the orchard fruit feuds, never ending.
In order to achieve the desired shapes and structures of their sculptures, most of the potters were using formers for support – Miles however was completely forgoing that in favour of hopefully managing to create his rather large apple sculpture using only the coiling method. This didn’t go very well the first time as his rather large apple pretty much gave up the will to live and slowly slumped in on itself
which isn’t entirely surprising considering the damn thing was the size of a very generous pumpkin
rather than quickly rebranding it as the jack-o’-lantern his neighbour insists on never getting rid of because “the badgers are eating it”, Miles decided to scrap this effort and in the hurried final 25 minutes of the challenge produce a second apple using the exact same method – which is truly a daring feat of optimism.
The only potter to go international was Josh with his nod to Portugal in the form of a dilapidated donkeyless wagon
I loved how much he stressed that this wagon was BROKEN DOWN, like it does not work, it VERY PURPOSEFULLY has pieces missing, it is AUTHENTICALLY out of commission.
Josh wasn’t the only one doing a wagon, as he found himself entering Wagon Wars against last week’s Potter of the Week, Cellan, who, when not having his own private rave
was creating a coal truck to honour Cardiff where he grew up
is a coal truck strictly a wagon? I don’t know, but I’m not going to act like the gatekeeper of wagon authenticity. I will however, admit that several times I did misread the “BUTE” on the side of his truck as “BUTT” and now I can’t stop thinking about the phrase “buttwagon” – so that’s where my mind is this morning.
Nick was also going down the out of commission transport route by creating a boat to honour both Barry and the war between his family and the ocean that has raged for generations
someone has to teach that wet behemoth who’s boss.
Much like his robot last week, the boat he was creating this week was meant to look rusted and slightly ramshackled
I eagerly look forward to every potter next series coming in with a load of designs that very purposefully rely on something to look broken and damaged – look what you’ve done Nick and Josh, YOU’VE BROKEN THE THROWDOWN.
Anna was also creating a piece worn down by the arbitrary passage of time, hers being a 2000 year old Pagan gravemarker
or as I call it, me after the average news week in the UK.
In order to achieve the ancient look that the piece required she was using a mix of both coiling and pinching for that authentic look. My favourite part of it though was the fact Anna’s sculpture had the same face she pulls when she’s concentrating very hard
That focus pull was ART, someone give that particular camera operator a raise and a BAFTA nomination IMMEDIATELY.
Lucinda was going for by far the most personal make of the episode with her sculpture depicting the waterpump that her great grandparents installed in their village that Lucinda supplied a very tasteful picture of
it’s what Sydney and Dora would’ve wanted.
She wasn’t only going to do the water pump though, she knew she’d NEVER get away with only that so she was also going to make the surrounding benches and wall
sadly choosing not to forever immortalise her great grandparents’ early tandem bicycle
although given how much everyone vehemently hated this clay, it’s probably for the best that she wasn’t attempting anything *too* fiddly.
Lastly we have AJ who was also doing a local landmark, theirs being the Brig o’ Balgownie and some accompanying Seussical foliage and a distinct lack of adorable reptiles (because they understand what inanimate means, TOM.)
with an entire 14th century bridge to construct, AJ was of course going to have to deal with the fact they’d inevitably have to make it look like stonework, which would have been a laborious task but they’d found a way to cheat the system and McGyver’d themself a stamp while in their hotel room
I will be adding “potential lockpicker” to the list of AJ’s assumed talents.
Bottling It All Up
For their second challenge the potters were each having to make a miniature bottle kiln, although we say “miniature” – they were having to use 6kgs of clay which really tested the strength of noodle armed amongst the potters. This did mean it was yet another Throwdown Challenge, a prospect that Christine is already very much over despite the fact we’re only three episodes deep
I would have put money on the show breaking Jenny through the power of clay-based innuendos but apparently it’s Christine’s spirit that shall be broken through the stress of having to make very specifically shaped pieces in 15 minutes, while having Keith berrate your left-handedness like a 17th century nun whose convinced it’s a sign of the devil
God bless the panic in Keith’s eyes when he realised that what he said was a little bit rude as he began damage control
but the damage had been done and Christine switched the direction of her wheel to that of a right-handed potter and was plunged into an even more miserable time and not quite getting round to finishing her Bottle Kiln to the standard we know she can achieve
but she was at least saved from coming last because Miles apparently took one look at the bottle kilns outside the window of the pottery and thought “Nah, I’d rather not” and produced more of a Bocksbeutel Kiln
which you know, is at least still a bottle, just not the correct bottle, but he wasn’t the only one that struggled with squatness as Jenny’s bottle kiln somehow managed to look like that very cute duck that makes more money on Instagram than I could ever hope to
and maybe she made a valid point that all bottle kilns should remind me of social media influencing poultry.
Josh’s bottle kiln was meanwhile afflicted with the same curse as himself: being all too straight
don’t worry, he’s a banter warrior, he can take it.
The question that this challenge did bring up was “At What Point Does a Miniature Bottle Kiln Become a Vase?” with Tom’s apparently being the exemplifier of this “too vase-like” tipping point
and everyone else kind of just teetering on the edge of it, except for AJ would somehow miraculously bashed out a near perfect bottle kiln
somehow this did not reduce Keith to tears, I imagine he was sulking because nobody let him smash all of the subpar bottle kilns into nothing like Godzilla himself tearing through Gladstone.
AJ’s only real challenger for the title of Britain’s Next Top Miniature Bottle Kiln Maker was (rather unsurprisingly) Lucinda who continues to thrive as The Patchwork Menace of Gladstone Pottery
meanwhile Cellan continues to struggle to throw anything that isn’t triangular and thus vaguely reminiscent of his own hair
who needs Pythagoras when you’ve got such a spectacular barnet?
A Miniature Bottle Kiln Ranking
- AJ’s Miniature Gladstone
- Lucinda Vows Revenge on AJ’s Miniature Gladstone
- Cellan’s Pythagorean Hair Aid
- Nick’s Strong Rim
- Anna’s Neckless Wonder
- Tom’s Vase Tipping Point
- Josh Heterosexual Bottle Kiln
- Jenny’s Was At Least The Cutest
- Christine vs Right-handedness
- Miles’s Bocksbeutel Kiln
It’s All Black and White
With their porcelain paper clay pieces having finished drying, the potters could get to decorating them with their very limiting black underglaze – although a few of them had some repair jobs to do – most notably Anna who seemed to basically have to revert her build back to its original sodden phase and repair whatever it was that had gone wrong with her cursed Pagan artefact. It was at this point that I began worrying for her, convinced that there was absolutely no way she was going to manage to repair it, glaze it and still get it dry enough to survive a kiln firing in a mere 2 hours. AND YET, she did it
it’s spectacularly haunting – my gran used to have an old Lord of the Rings poster illustrated by Jimmy Cauty hanging in her house, which did terrify me because Gollum looked like THIS
and Anna’s sculpture very much reminded me of that – not that I particularly appreciate having the memories of trying to get to sleep with that hanging in the bedroom, but it gives me something to discuss with my therapist.
The issue the potters faced with the decorating is that, obviously, the black glaze is a liquid and the paper clay seems to do everything in its power to join the realms of the liquid-y, so they had to be very careful with how much they applied – none more so that Miles and his very, very precariously stable apple. However, he proceeded with painstaking caution and came out the end of it, to pretty much everybody’s shock, with a fully fledged sculpture
is it a little weird? Yes, but what’s not to love about a sort of Lovecraftian Lowly Worm’s Apple Car? He certainly captured the sort of vaguely threatening horror of mistletoe’s parasitic tendencies – Keith does however point out that it does lack some definition, his cautious application of the glaze not picking out enough detail in the leaves.
While Miles had been very conservative with his glaze, Nick had gone in completely the opposite direction and seemingly couldn’t apply enough of the stuff to decorate his sculpture that ended up looking like a still from Robert Eggers’s The Lighthouse
it’s so incredibly atmospheric and so well realised that it’s hard to believe that this all came together in a mere matter of hours – or that he didn’t enjoy working with the clay. In fact, all of the pieces this week were rather impressive and I think it’s a shame that everyone seemingly swore off ever working with the stuff ever again, all except Tom who is a lone Paper Clay stan, much to Ellie’s absolute shock and horror
it’s hard to tell if Ellie was more mortified by Tom daring to admit he might work with the paper clay again, or when Josh uttered the phrase “banter warrior”
and thus began Ellie’s secret petition to have Josh eliminated. Although Josh assures us that it was ironic – thereby lodging us firmly in an ironic banter feedback loop for the rest of time – THANKS JOSH. But we might as well let him have his fun because his build was… well, falling to pieces as the wheels quite literally came off
personally, I think, much like I did about his askew wall clock, that this kind of added to the charm of the piece and the only thing working against him was that his wagon didn’t look more rundown beyond the fact it was dismantling itself
when you look how well that effect worked for Nick and even his rival in wagonry, Cellan’s Bute Wagon
that’s just exquisitely well observed and instantly evocative of that industrial age he was referencing. And even beyond his observation skills, the build is near miraculous with his panels being so thin and not suffering a single stress fracture, something AJ pulled off rather impressively too with their bridge
Keith didn’t think it needed the pair of Seussical trees, however I think without them, the bridge might have looked a touch incomplete, because as profound as Rich found the concept of a bridge to nowhere (Hun, u ok? It’s been a hard year, hasn’t it?) I think AJ was right in putting them there, because it did need some sort of a bookend… might I suggest a pair of gatekeeping reptiles?
AJ wasn’t the only one with pieces that Keith wanted to remove, as he wasn’t particularly fond of the imposing wall that Lucinda had made for the back of her sculpture
it is a bit on the bulky side, but I think there needed to be something sitting behind those benches because when he took it away, it all looked a little bit too exposed
but also, Lucinda hadn’t decorated the back of the wall, mostly because she didn’t think anyone would look it – as they say – everything has to have a back. Although, Keith did then remind her that he specified it would be displayed on a plinth and I could almost feel Lucinda’s eyeroll despite there being no actual eyeroll on camera.
Christine was out to redeem herself for her not quite so successfully realised clay crochet last week, with her sewing themed sculpture, between this, the cake and the sighing over the Throwdown Challenges, I’m beginning to think Love Productions mixed up her application forms. But her pottery fabric this week was leagues above last week’s
it’s so light looking and has that genuine swishy feel to it – the whole piece is just charming and she did a really good job of composing everything in such a way that really leads your eye through it.
Jenny had given herself a pretty tough job with her sculpture as she had to give the pouring steel a sense of movement and instead of doing a wipe-on-wipe-off method, she was painting on movement lines which didn’t yield the most wildly successful result
however, the drum is fantastic as she managed to perfectly capture that feeling of buckling metal with her rivets and screws made with the back of a biro which really reminded me of the rocket from A Grand Day Out
and if you’re evoking Aardman with your makes, you must be doing something right.
Lastly we have Tom and his lone, shaky at best, like of the paper clay, and who could blame him for liking it when this was the result
it’s just charming, even as a static sculpture but the inclusion of the letters that you could actually post through the letter box and retrieve because it was all hollow is such a lovely consideration and attention to detail. Also, we have to talk about the cat
it’s so simple in its build and yet has so much personality, it has that real Simon’s Cat appeal to it and I don’t think he got nearly enough praise for it. Although, granted the postbox was the main feature.
A Porcelain Paper Clay Sculpture Ranking
- Nick’s Deleted Scene from The Lighthouse
- Tom’s Postbox Guarding Cat
- Cellan’s Beautiful BUTE
- Anna’s Nightmare Fuel
- AJ’s Bridge To Nowhere Specific
- Lucinda sans The Wall
- Christine’s Fabric Redemption
- Miles’s Eldritch Apple
- Jenny’s Drum of… Fabric?
- The Little Wagon That Just Couldn’t
As I said, nobody’s sculpture was actually particularly poor, I think this might have actually been one of the strongest weeks of makes we’ve seen but Nick’s ship did stand out as being of a particularly high quality and thus he gets to sail on into Rose’s Gallery of Wonders
as for who was going home, with Josh being the only one to have a build that hadn’t quite come together by the end, it wasn’t entirely surprising that he was the one to be eliminated – we cannot confirm or deny whether Ellie’s petition influenced this result
and so we must mourn our fallen Banter Warrior, may he find glory in Valbanter. May your Nando’s always be Cheeky. In ‘Spoons we trust.
And so, 9 potters remain
And if you’ve enjoyed this recap of the Great Pottery Throwdown and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small donation via my Ko-fi HERE.