Three weeks of the show being branded the most wholesome show on television and then BAM! Filth.
Raku Week returns with everyone’s favourite elements: Fire! Combustion! And lots of questionable hand movements.
What’s The Tea?
Given that it was Raku Week, which is basically the Bread Week of Pottery Throwdown, the more hirsutally blessed amongst the potters had decided to all put their hair in space buns, apparently at the behest of Christine
in Cellan’s case it was more of a defense mechanism against me comparing him to yet more triangular objects. You can have one week off my Pythagorean friend. Apparently Nick could not be bullied into joining in with the fun lest he be ousted from Barry on the grounds of being too fabulous
AJ on the other hand was not going to be left out and had given themself a pair of tiny little devil horns
All hail Theydes, God of the Underworld.
Miles meanwhile had settled to hide his coiffured shortcomings beneath a hat that was ever so slightly too small and did give him somewhat of the effect of a Victorian School child who had been sent to sit on the naughty step for looking at someone’s ankle for too long
but he shouldn’t be too put out because apparently Ellie or Rose weren’t invited to The International Space Bun Station either.
As Raku is a Japanese technique, it seemed fitting that this week the potters were making a Japanese Tea Set consisting of handleless tea bowls and a teapot with a non-ceramic handle. Miles was particularly excited for this week given that he has spent a fair bit of a time in Japan, apparently being particularly taken by their work with denim, which I can’t say is the first thing I would associate with Japan so it’s nice to get a new insight into their industries. In order to represent this he was using a lot of indigo glaze and giving his set the most traditional look of the lot
there’s something very old world and feudalist about it – like something that’s centuries old, which I think works very well for the challenge.
Given that Raku Week is essentially Unofficial Japanese Week, a few of the potters were showcasing other traditional methods with Anna and Jenny both somewhat borrowing from the Kurinuki technique, which traditionally is about hand carving an object out of a solid lump of clay, usually leaving a fairly rough surface that shows off the process. Jenny was contrasting this against a more defined and exact carving for her multi-faceted set
doing so meant she had to leave her walls thicker than you would initially want so as to give herself space to cut it all away, which was a very satisfying process to watch
Anna’s use of the technique was to give her set a more natural and organic look while abiding to the Japanese aesthetic concept of Wabi-Sabi – which is all about showcasing beauty in natural imperfection and incompleteness, which she naturally named after a reference to Father Ted, a sitcom that mysteriously has no writer
truly it is nature’s greatest unanswerable question.
Anna had apparently once attempted to make a teapot before but apparently it came out so bad the poor thing has been banished to the realms of ceramic shame and she has never attempted the process ever again, which is potentially why the Pottery Gods punished her with failed second attempt
Do not forsake your pottery children, Anna.
Tom was also basing his set on the art of Wabi-Sabi, with a contrast between man-made machined style looks and very organic design with his polka dotted set and relatably petrified seaweed handle
he was also the only potter to completely shun colour for a monochrome look in order to create the Cruella deVil of tea sets.
Christine was going for the most stereotypical Japanese influence with a nod to the cherry blossoms, but admittedly handling it better than anyone managed on Bake Off’s Japanese Week (the bravery to continue doing specific country themed weeks after that week of discourse is admirable.)
I’m not entirely sold on the BMX handlebars she’s attaching to the teapot but I get the juxtaposition of something quite industrial against the more delicate ceramics. And the fact she was attempting to paint on the flowers and then subject them to the unpredictability of the Raku process was admirable – as was the fact she was piping them on using slip which heavily ate into her time given that she was having to draw a blossom onto every tea bowl
but given that this is Christine, a woman that seems to do everything, she managed to do it all just in the nick of time.
She wasn’t the only potter that was begging for a little extra time as Lucinda came up against the clock as she tried to calculate the exact positioning of her lugs in order to be able to attach her immovable heather branch handle
given that the branch did not bend and had absolutely no give, she was having to calculate the exact placement of her lugs and give room for shrinkage, which did have her pushed to the existential brink when Ellie called 10 minutes left on their refining time
that is the look of a woman that is mentally setting the Long Mynd alight, BURN SHROPSHIRE, BURN! Interestingly, you can also tell how anxious Lucinda is based purely on how much of her lips are visible – that’s a solid “GET ME GIN” out of 10.
AJ was also going for a set inspired by the landscape of their home, which does sadly mean another week without adorable reptiles because despite my theories, AJ does not live in The Shire
they were giving their tea bowls dimples, both to make them easier to hold and to give them a human element, which they unabashedly admit was pandering to Keith’s teardructs because we all know Keith loves a fingerprint in clay as much as a forensic investigator loves a fingerprint in blood.
Also hoping to give their tea bowls a touch of the unique was Cellan who was giving them a pointed base, meaning they’d wobble around a bit like a Weeble
or in more professional pottery terms, like a ship’s tumbler.
Obviously his calculations had to be very precise so as to make them at least stand a little bit and keep at least *some* of your tea safe and sound – I must admit I was worried because the whole concept was reminding me of Alon’s infamous slatted fruit bowl for one (1) berry
what is about boys with enviable hair and clay-based chaos?
Lastly we have Nick who wasn’t straying too far from home and was once again embracing the inherent eroticism of the ocean
given that he had apparently never made a teapot before, I don’t blame him for maybe not wanting to attempt anything overly conceptual, which might also explain the aversion to space bun supremacy. He’ll give in eventually, the Pottery Gods demand it.
Get Your Coat, You’ve Pulled
For this week’s Throwdown Challenge (deep breath Christine, it’ll be fine) the potters were joined by a very special guest judge, Florian Gadsby, who I am assured is not the murderer in an Agatha Christie novel despite everything his name is telling me
and apparently he’s particularly well know for handle pulling given that all of the potters seem to instantaneously know that that’s what he’s here to demonstrate, most notably Jenny who adorbly lost composure for a brief second and was possessed by the spirit of her internal Florian Gadsby stan account
Play it cool Jenny.
I SAID PLAY IT COOL, JENNY.
AND BOY IS HE PASSIONATE ABOUT HANDLE PULLING
look at him go; such vim, much vigour.
And given that this was Ellie’s first exposure to handle pulling in quite such a graphic sense, her eyes were so wide she was emoting through the shallow depth of field
meanwhile Nick did everything in his power not to look slightly insecure as Florian… handled the handles
and given that the potters only had 20 minutes to pull 10 handles, they did have to work quite fast at getting their clay to the desirable girth and length, which Lucinda got a bit too carried away with
take that as a threat to engage with next week’s hair related shenanigans, Nick.
but even with Lucinda foreshortening her pulled clay in quite such an aggressive manner, she still ended up with a full set of handled mugs, even if the last one she did was a last ditch effort to just finish
and it’s a testament to the rest of her handles that even with the runt of the handle litter she still managed to place top of the class. While Miles landed at the bottom having only completed 6 chonky handles
but given that Miles seemed to spend more time than anyone pulling his handles and talking extensively about how much he wanted to impress Florian I can’t blame him for winding up 4 handles short
With Banter Warrior™ Josh having fallen by the clay wayside, Ellie continued her efforts to break Jenny through the power of innuendo alone by asking her if she had ever slipped into Florian’s DMs, a conversation Jenny steadfastly ignored, completely lost to the rhythm of her handle pulling
but apparently Jenny does know a thing or two about Florian’s handled penchants with her low slung handles apparently being his preference, quick Jenny, STRIKE WHILE THE KILN IS HOT!
Anna didn’t manage to impress Florian quite as much given that the whole challenge was designed around showcasing your handle pulling abilities and with Anna’s preference apparently being to go completely handleless, she seemingly did everything in her power to make her handles look as not-pulled as possible
personally, I admire the audacity, the gaul and the gumption. Florian did not and she wound up in second last position because at least she had 10 maybe-pulled handles.
A few of the potters struggled to maintain a consistent size for their handles, and to be honest, who can blame them with only 20 minutes to do this all and no time to try and navigate the embarrassment of doing THIS on camera knowing some weirdo on Twitter was going to immortalise it forever
At least I’m self aware.
Cellan, AJ and Nick were all dinged for inconsistent handles, the latter happy to take the hit given that he had openly admitted he was going for quantity and not quality, meanwhile Tom tried to revive his One Man Milk Bottle Factory approach and powered through the challenge at a rate of knots and while his handles were well thumbed and marked, apparently they were too large for Florian’s delicate little fingers
and he was narrowly pipped to second place by Christine whose handles also landed on the chunkier side of life but were smooth and consistently made, so at least Christine is back to her usual lofty finishing skills.
An Official Pulled Handles Ranking
- Lucinda with a Solid 9 out of 10
- Christine’s Well Handled Redemption
- Tom’s Groovy Chonkers
- Jenny’s Low Handled High Score
- AJ’s Odd Bunch
- Cellan’s Slightly Odder Bunch
- Nick Refusing To Make Eye Contact With Anyone
- Anna, Did You Pull Those?
- Miles’s Got Lost In The Rhythm (And Florian’s Eyes)
Burn After Glazing
With their tea sets having been subjected to their initial bisque firing and on their way to being subjected to a second raku firing at roughly 1000 degrees, the potters were all being very careful about how they handled their pieces so as to not weaken them in any way. Well, all of them except Anna who wasted no time in dropping her teapot’s lid
that honestly got a bigger scream from me than Adrian Lester being pink misted on Trigger Point. But truly nothing was going to damage Anna’s pots given that she had quite literally put the kettle into kettlebell
do you even lift, brew?
But I really like that Anna stuck to her very naturalistic aesthetic and instead of trying to force herself to stick to the more stereotypical elegance of a Japanese tea set and by all means gave us a tea set that looks like the Stone Giants of Middle Earth would use
disappointingly she didn’t get much of a reaction from her copper glaze on the rough bottom of her teapot and bowls which robbed them of some of the depth and didn’t allow her roughing carving work to truly shine, which Jenny had similar issues with as her copper oxide didn’t have much of a reaction and her thicker application of the crackle glaze meant it didn’t properly bond with her pot and ended up chipping off something fierce
what did work really well though was the juxtaposition of the more precise faceting and the rough, kurinuki carving
and with the thin line of blue between the two of them, it reads very much like a depiction of the White Cliffs of Dover which is fun.
Lucinda had no trouble with her oxide glazes as her pieces came out of the raku process positively gleaming
what did give her trouble though were her lugs as she tried her best to force that unforgiving heather branch into place, at first losing one lug and then uttering the fateful words of “I will not let this beat me” before the second lug popped off in a moment of divine comedic timing
how does one go about nominating up and coming comedic duo Lucinda and Lugs for their BAFTA Rising Star Award?
So with her lugs firmly hidden in her pockets, Lucinda had to MacGyver herself a new handle and with her only options being to either fight Rose for a bowtie or to use whatever else she could get her hands on, she chose whatever else she could find
we all know better than to fight a woman with a bob that sharp and Doc Marten’s, it’s like like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
On the bright side, Keith and Rich both rather love makeshift handle, so much so they appear to be willing to adopt it and co-parent it
We’re all agreed that Keith is the Gwyneth Paltrow in this situation, right? There’s a GOOPiness beneath that friendly exterior. Sorry to Rich for making him the default Chris Martin, but he does look like he might be able to play Yellow on the guitar.
But you know, back to Lucinda’s tea set, which had some really lovely details throughout it, making it wonderfully tactile and usable
and the landscape effect just came out phenomenally well, it is a slight pity that the straw binding kind of hides some of it on the pot, but again, you have to admire the quick thinking.
AJ went for similar colours to Lucinda, with the final result being similarly verdant
I think it’s incredible – and even with the distinct Japanese influences, it’s instantly evocative of the Scottish landscapes with those blues and greens and the fern-like motif, which Rich and Keith thought was a touch too stiff for a piece made using the Raku process, which I can’t entirely disagree with but I think it still suits the contemporary feel that the set has. AJ might want to recalibrate the Keith’s Tears Algorithm though, because not a single tear was shed for those dimpled bowls AND THAT’S A TRAVESTY.
Nick was also embracing a modern aesthetic with his curling stone of a tea pot
his brushwork is utterly phenomenal and works very nicely against the crisp lines of his pieces, which really does give it that effect of waves breaking against a harbour wall. Keith isn’t overly taken with the modernness of it all, and sure, it does kind of look like the fanciest camping kettle you can buy at GO Outdoors, but at least it’s the fanciest one. There was also the fact that Pottery Gods had decided to exact their revenge for turning his back on the Space Bun Extravaganza as they tore his pot lid in twain
so when Christine suggests fishtail braids next week, you do it, ok Nick? It would be a shame if something were to happen to your novelty garden gnome, wouldn’t it?
While most of the potters did their best to work with their oxide glazes, Tom was steadfastly sticking with his monochrome look despite Keith and Rich very much trying to psych him out of it. His reasoning behind going black and white being utterly solid
I have however now never suspected a man more of having painted a dalmatian red. For science, of course.
And his black and white look, worked, really, really well – both as a striking statement piece, but also with all the subtle details that fully tell the story of how it was made with the tiny little holes from when he turned it with the tongs
and to think, this incredibly sophisticated looking piece of pottery was made by a man who very much looked like he was dressed as Winnie the Pooh throughout the firing process
there’s not a single cartoon bear that Tom doesn’t remind me of: Rupert, Paddington, Winnie, the entire Hair Bear Bunch – he’s somehow all of them, he’s a master of ursine disguise.
But while AJ didn’t manage to squeeze a tear out of Keith, Tom very much had him weeping, the only thing Keith didn’t particularly like was the handle which he wished was half the height. Strangely, Cellan doesn’t get the same critique despite the fact his teapot is now certifiably the tallest structure in Britain
The Shard, WHOMST?
I’m so happy that his wobbly bowls turned out so successfully and the angled glaze on the base really accentuates the effect, although making it dangerously inviting to just keep spinning your mug
the only issue with his pieces being that some of the blue glaze on the inside of his bowls bubbled slightly, but you know, in Wabi-Sabi we trust – truly we’ve found a pottery cheat code, use it responsibly future potters.
Having glazing woes of his own was Miles, whose use of the very bright blue cobalt oxide didn’t go down particularly well with Keith and Rich
this reminded me a lot of Shenyue’s terracotta pieces last year in which she attempted the Hakeme decorating method and Keith and Rich didn’t quite get the look she was going for, because by all means Miles had very successfully pulled off the look he intended, which I think just so happened to be quite a divisive aesthetic. I really like the scraps of denim he used on the handle and I think it really does help his set tell a story of the denim manufacturing process with the indigo dye and the very rough, stone-like black glaze. There is of course the issue with the disparate sizes, it was very much a one and done bowl to pot ratio.
but you know, it was still a full set without a single fracture or glazing mishap…
And lastly we have Christine, who much like Tom was not going to be psyched out of her chosen glazing method and laboured on with painting the very delicate cherry blossoms onto her pieces despite the lingering sense of doom that the raku process would render it all obsolete
and with it being her first time doing raku and very much looking like she was about to run and hide in the drying room at any moment
her pieces came out utterly phenomenally
the crackle glaze does maybe chew up a little bit of the detail, I think perhaps it reads more discernibly in person but the whole set still manages to retain that very delicate and elegant look that you’d associate with a Japanese tea set. I’m still not entirely sold on the handle but at least you might get Freeview with it.
An Unofficial Raku Tea Set Ranking
- Tom’s Unpainted Dalmatians
- AJ’s Verdant Tea Set
- Christine’s Tea-V Set
- Lucinda’s Copper Hills
- Cellan’s Wobbly Tea
- Nick’s Curling Stone
- Anna’s Kettlebell
- Miles’s Jeans Tea
- Jenny’s White Chips of Dover
In Tom’s own words, due to the fact he and Christine had been the only ones to make Keith cry, that did kind of make them the top 2 (once again, I am seeking justice for AJ). They could have honestly given it to both of them, if there’s one British rule it’s that there’s always room for 2 tea sets – however a decision is made and the honour of Big Barbara is avenged as Tom’s set gets its place in Rose’s Room of Pottery Wonders
they are going to have to eventually let Christine not finish in second place lest we create a pottery supervillain.
As for who was being eliminated, this was a tricky one because both Jenny and Nick had clear and obvious issues with the raku process, while Miles’s design just didn’t gel with Keith and Rich – and on top of that he finished last in the Throwdown by quite a way and that meant he was this week’s eliminated potter
I can’t say I absolutely agree with it, I think Jenny and Nick both realise they were quite lucky this week – Miles’s elimination does feel a little more narratively focused, he hasn’t had the strongest previous weeks and it felt more like that led to this decision than the lone result of this episode – but you know, at least everyone else will feel that little bit taller now
Anyway, go follow Miles on Instagram at MilesPottery.
And so, 8 potters remain
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