Pottery Throwdown 2022, Episode 7: Aesop Could Never

You will be hearing from the Springwatch lawyers.

No labradors were harmed in the writing of this recap.

Animal Lamps

For Wildlife Week’s main make the potters had to hand-build a table lamp in the shape of an animal – I’m not sure they needed to specify that it had to be hand-built, but I would have liked to see someone try to throw an ocelot-shaped lamp on a wheel. Keith and Rich, who this week came with an entire luminarie menagerie

did want the potters to make their animals look as realistic as possible, so sadly there was no chance of AJ churning out a fennec fox with this face

so I have taken it upon myself to render the possibility

I apologise for the nightmare fuel.

And just to add an extra bit of difficulty, the potters would have to create the texture of their chosen animal’s fur, feathers, scales or whatever we call the skin of an octopus using the sgraffito method of scratching back glaze to reveal the white clay they were using.

One of the biggest dilemmas the potters faced was deciding how to incorporate the bulb into their design, as they weren’t being given a lampshade to hide any potential sins. Because of this, I was a little surprised that we didn’t end up with a pair of the potters being locked into a bitter anglerfish feud. But I’m sure Jenny was happy, both because the pressure was slightly eased and she had a monopoly on the anglerfish facts

Feminist Icon, The Anglerfish.

Jenny faced the issue of making sure the rod she was attaching to her anglerfish was able support the weight of the bulb. And the unspoken issue was that it didn’t look too… phallic

The jury is out.

Jenny wasn’t the only one diving into the deep as Tom was embracing the tentacled life as he set about adding to The Pottery Throwdown’s Octopus Oeuvre

It’s like Adam never left, except we would have had an entire wall-sized cephalopod moodboard in shot at all times, but Tom had done some fun sketches

He was playing a risky game as he wanted his octopus’s weight to be supported entirely but its tentacles (which are technically not tentacles and are just legs) (HAH, WHO’S GOT THE ANIMAL FACTS NOW, JENNY?). I was a little bit surprised that Tom went with the octopus, especially considering he opened the show by listing off all the traits he shared with a seal

He did forget “wears funky shirts” though

everybody remembers Andre The Seal, right?

I was also a little sad that we didn’t get Big Barbara immortalised once again as a piece of interior decor that you would only find amongst the chaos of TK Maxx. In fact, there was a distinct lack of birds, so next year I demand Avian Week – unnecessarily bird-shaped plant pots or DEATH. So Future Throwdowners, get practicing your vulture sculptures.

Anna was being a lone proponent of reptiles, and joining Jenny in the creation of toothy horrors, with her crocodile lamp

which was inspired by the fact she used to live on the Cubango River in Namibia, and which came accompanied by a Tale of the Labrador Macabre which I cannot believe was left in the edit of the show, but does mean the Parental Guidance sticker on the episode listings does suddenly make sense. And because she was so familiar with the gnashing death-jaws of a crocodile, she was having to play her hand at crocodilian dentistry

and now that we’ve thoroughly discussed Anna’s foray into nightmare fuel, we can move onto more adorable climes with Christine and her Polar Bears

ah yes, the Al Gore for Laura Ashley collection, perfect for making sure you don’t keep the lights on for too long.

Keith and Rich were both a touch concerned for Christine’s design, considering that polar bears are white and the clay fires white, meaning her sgraffito work might not read as sgraffito so much as it might a re-do of the black underglaze challenge from the third episode. And if she was Jenny she would have come armed with the fact that a polar bear’s skin is actually black. But Christine had bigger concerns considering she was having to make a mother polar bear and her cub, the latter of which did eventually get abandoned because it didn’t look so much like a bear cub as it did an errant Garden Week gnome

but this did let her add a little more detail to the fish in the bear’s mouth, which did at one point look like far too happy a dolphin

whatever floats your cetacean boat.

Both AJ and Lucinda were staying much closer to home with their lamps inspired by British wildlife. Lucinda had a bit of a tough time getting her badger into its correct proportions, fretting for a considerable amount of time that it didn’t look realistic enough and resembled a teddy bear more than it did a badger

and if you want to know what the main difference between a teddy and a badger is, well…

and so Lucinda went all Maximilien Robespierre and guillotined her badger with a clean precision that suggests she may have done this a few too many times before


Luckily she did manage to attach the badger’s head back and gave him the medical attention he so desperately needed as he took a long convalescence in the Drying Room

isn’t the NHS amazing?

From amongst the list of Scottish wildlife, AJ had chosen to make a sea otter which would be holding the bulb as though it was its favourite bashing stone

Keith was very swift to remind AJ that they were looking for realism, so under no circumstances was AJ to give their otter the face of a flesh-eating gnome. Which they didn’t do, mostly because by the time the modelling stage was over they hadn’t actually finished the otter’s face making it very The Idiot’s Lantern from Doctor Who

Ariadne Stop Referencing That Episode of Doctor Who Challenge.

Only Got 12 Kilos To Save Yourselves

Because we’re now 5 series deep and quite clearly running out of things to make potters make in 90 minutes, this week for their Throwdown Challenge the potters were handed 12 kilograms of clay and told to make whatever they wanted as long as related to wildlife week. And with the limitless possibilities, AJ was quite literally watching their life flash before their eyes, and perfecting the look to camera to a form of high art

while Anna contemplated unionising with Christine in an underground rebellion against 90 minute spot tests

and just to add to the chaos of the challenge, the potters were promised a special guest and immediately everyone’s heart sank because I imagine they thought the reanimated corpse of Jules Moigniez was about to shamble through that door to tell them that their hurriedly sculpted cat doorstop didn’t look feline enough. But to their relief, it was Siobhan who shambled into the pottery to tell them that their hurriedly sculpted cat doorstop didn’t look feline enough

Is it great to have Siobhan back? Yes, I think she’s the best presenter currently helming a Love Productions show. Do I think it’s a bit weird to bring her back after Ellie presented 7 episodes with only three left to go? Also yes.

With the entire animal kingdom to ponder and the weight of 12kgs of clay on their backs, the potters were all very much stumped as to what to make and AJ had no choice but to pull a Jimbo and just ask their clay what it thought about the matter

and from that silent mound of inanimate dirt, they apparently gleaned that it wanted to be 3 jugs in the shape of animals depicting the sea, the land and the sky – which was basically as close as AJ could get to making a trio of Pokemon starters without having the copyright lawyer knocking at their door. I’m just glad SOMEONE gave me a chicken this episode

the shape of them is absolutely perfect – the fish and the what-I-am-assuming-to-be-a-chicken do look quite similar, but you know Tuna is after all the chicken of the sea. And because it was going to be hard to turn that very specific shape into a mammal, AJ went with a werefrog that was howling at the full moon

that they shared a very special moment with

and yet somehow AJ still ended up with less clay on their lips than Anna.

Speaking of Anna, she was purely focusing on using as much of the 12kgs of clay as she possibly could by making a set of tankards that would shame even the most unruly Renaissance Fayre-goer and then decorated them with wildlife motifs to make sure it fitted the theme

I think we should all just be very glad that Anna didn’t make the decapitated head of a labrador puppy, I’m sure a small part of her was tempted.

A few of the potters resorted to the Throw Something And Decorate It Method, with Christine making a set of four bowls depicting the 4 seasons, which were all very well decorated with some well done, simple drawings

They were a little bit thick for Rich and Keith though, which is understandable because each of them weighs about 3kgs and could be used as a weapon in Cluedo. Tom had much the same issue with his set of bowls, each weighing about 6kgs, that depicted the inevitable heat death of the earth

The Al Gore for Laura Ashley collection continues to grow.

Lucinda was doing everything in her power to avoid throwing something on the wheel and basically resorted to doing the Main Make Challenge for the week in only 90 minutes by handbuilding an angry angry Mastodon

all the while pondering “Who doesn’t love elephants?”…

Bill has left the chat.

And in order to add a narrative to her sculpture, Lucinda placed it on a field of crops and added a tiny screaming person that I identify with on a deeply personal level

she thought it was a bit childish looking, and wasted no time in absolutely destroying Anthony Gormley’s entire £50million art empire

can we have an entire show dedicated to Lucinda walking through art museums roasting artists please? I want her full uncensored thoughts on Damien Hirst.
I really liked Lucinda’s sculpture, sure her distant relative of the elephant did look like its bones were dissolving before our very eyes, but it was a fun and ambitious build and I think deserved higher than second last place.

Lastly we have Jenny who, like Anna, had resorted to making the biggest tankards she possibly could as well as a jug, using owls as her motif, but in her rushed state she did forget to give us an owl fact, so… Owls have three eyelids. WHO HAS THE ANIMAL FACT EMPIRE NOW, JENNY? I think she can be forgiven though for how well her set came out

That is almost main make quality, it’s mostly just the finishing that’s a little rough – I would love to see her do this as a finished piece where she can take her time with it because it really is incredible.

An Official Bugger It, Do What You Like Challenge Ranking

  1. AJ’s Stealthy Pokemon
  2. Jenny’s Parliament of Drinking Owls
  3. Christine’s Seasonal Murder Weapons
  4. Anna’s Game of Thrones-sized Tankards
  5. Lucinda’s Angry Boneless Mammoth
  6. An Inconvenient Burial Urn

Let There Be Lights

With their animals having dried to a leather hardness, the potters were able to refine their builds or make any last minute changes before applying the glaze and going to Sgraffito Town. Or if you’re Anna you could observe that your crocodile’s limbs were too small and make up a harrowing backstory for it

I eagerly await the publications of Anna’s Big Book of Traumatic Animal Fables in which I imagine we’ll find out all about why her crocodile was slowly swallowing its own teeth. Aesop could never.

I don’t blame Anna for just forgoing any restorative dentistry when she had A LOT of sgraffito work to get through with the sheer amount of scales on her crocodile, but it was certainly worth the repetitive strain injury

a crocodile was such a good choice for Anna because she could get away with her quite lumpy, gnarly way of building and it only working in her favour – the rippling on the belly is a truly incredible detail and so true to the musculature of a crocodile

my one complaint is that I maybe wish it wasn’t quite so lime green, but with the amount of time they had I can see why she maybe didn’t get around to dappling it with browns and deeper greens because all of the potters went with a one colour glaze.

Jenny’s toothy horror was also slowly becoming a slightly-less-toothy horror

and I think we might have finally broken Jenny as her usual unflappable Nicest Mum Friend persona glitches into a foul mouthed tirade when she accidentally knocked those teeth out

Where were the censors when Anna was telling us about dead puppies? WHERE WERE YOU WHEN WE NEEDED YOU MOST, YOU GODDAMN BLEEPS?

Much like Anna, Jenny also had a lot of scales to sgrafitto, and had a similarly successful result

it’s so good! As much as I want to say I wish there was a touch more life to the eyes, an anglerfish does just have very dead eyes and they wanted realism. My favourite part of it though are the fins and tail

the slightly distressed look to their edges is a subtle detail that adds so much to the whole piece.
And of course it only gets better when the light is on

I do think one of the round bulbs might have been a better choice as it would have complimented the shape of the fish’s mouth, but I get that she was very worried about the face-rod and how much weight it could hold.

Jenny’s rival in sea creatures, Tom, was struggling a little bit at getting to grips with the sgraffito and managing to get clean lines

as well as getting through the workload that was trying to scrape the glaze back on every single one of his octopus’s suckers, eventually caving in and just spongeing it all away.

But the biggest stress was at the end when he needed to remove the metal stand he had built his octopus on, where he would finally find out if it stood all on its own. In order to do this he had recruited a very reluctant AJ to do it, all the while he gripped it like Homer choking Bart

luckily it came out almost disappointingly easy, you could just about feel the camera operator planning what they’d wear when they won a BAFTA for cinematography for the crash zoom they were going to perform when Tom’s octopus slowly fell apart before his very eyes. But alas, they shall go BAFTAless (for now) because Tom’s octopus survived all of its trials and tribulations

he’s very cute! And I love that the lightbulb he chose kind of mirrors the shape of its head and the way the wire works through all of the tentacles – which are sublimely built and do have a real sense of movement about them. I think the dark blue glaze really worked against him though, both in that it didn’t really reflect much of the light when it was turned on

but it also really shows the bits of sgraffito that weren’t as neat as Tom would’ve liked them to be, but it was nice of him to come dressed to match it nonetheless

I do think, in terms of a build, this octopus was maybe the best of the night – it really is a triumph and I’m not sure he got enough praise for it.

AJ had a big task ahead of them as they needed to finalise the face of their otter and I think we all knew we were in for some magic when they added the teeny tiny adorable ear to it

the cuteness only slightly hindered by AJ slathering the otter in their chosen glaze, only to describe it as “poopy brown” because they hated the colour

and I hope they’ve somewhat come to love it because it worked magic with their otter

the sgraffito work is incredible, and I can never quite believe just how clean AJ’s shaping is – everything is always so impeccably smooth and refined, it’s hard to believe they made it in such a short space of time. And of course it looks even better when the light was on

as Rich said, the round shape of the otter and the warm brown compliment the light so well – I honestly cannot sing the praises of it high enough I am… bes-otter-ed.

While everyone got on with their glazes, Lucinda spent a significant amount of time giving her Louis XVI’d Badger a manicure

which did add a lot of realism to the piece but did seem to eat up her time quite significantly so I was a touch worried about how it would all come out, especially when her sgraffito method was a little bit hack’n’slice

Ah yes, the ol’ Victorian Surgeon method of sgraffito.

And yet, the result was great and incredibly lifelike

Granted, it is a very flat badger, but he’s getting one hell of a core workout and I really shouldn’t be commenting on badger anatomy when I, at 4am, once saw a running badger and my immediate thought was “My God, that’s a fast Pekingese!” – it was early, shut up.

I think what gives him such a great sense of character and life is how she sgraffito’d in the eye-lights

it adds a real sense of intent and purpose to the face.

I was worried that Lucinda would be overly penalised for the fact the tail of her badger had fallen off the in the kiln but she at least had a moth sitting atop her badger’s head to make up for it, and add a bit of the old Hannibal Lecter to it

again, it’s just a very good use of black glaze and sgraffito to give it that lifelike, fuzzy quality.

Lastly we have Christine who struggled to get the life-like build the challenge called for, more so because she was having to scale it down so much, which is always going to play havoc with your proportions, and while she had a very cute build, there was something a little bit serpentine about her bear’s neck

but you know what? The animators of the original Japanese Pingu Test Pilot made the same mistake

in a blog riddled with irrelevant media references, I think The Japanese Test Pilot of Pingu might take the biscuit. I’ve peaked as a film student, bury me beneath the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

Rich and Keith were a little cool on the amount of sgraffito work she had done, moreso that it just didn’t show up as well as everyone else’s, but I just really loved the bear’s expression as it held onto that fish that seems to have become a seal along the way

You know that feeling when you try to swallow too big a mouthful and you suddenly think “Oh God, they’re going to have to tell my family I died choking on a stale cupcake from the Sainsbury’s bakery!” – it’s very that.

An Unofficial Animal Lamp Ranking

  1. The Terrifying Fish Lamp
  2. AJ Putting The Otter Into Potter
  3. Hannibal Badger’s Core Routine
  4. Anna’s Lamp of Crocodile Tragedy
  5. Tom’s Messy Little Cephalopod
  6. Christine’s Necky Polar Bear

It was a close run race between Jenny and AJ and I genuinely thought they might just do a double win because both of them were so good, but in the end they decide that AJ’s otter can go and join their gnomes in Rose’s Room of Wonders – and it was worth giving them the solo win purely for their delighted little face

a stellar reaction jpeg episode for AJ, we thank them for their service to killing my computer’s internal memory.

I did think that because it was a Very Special Welcome Siobhan Back Episode, and everyone kind of did such a good job, we might get no elimination this week but apparently it’s a ruthless series of Pottery Throwdown and we do not get such a reprieve. Thus, the unfortunate potter falling just before the quarter-finals is Tom

I’m really gutted, his pieces have always been so interesting and have been some of the most fun to write about – he was also the first potter from this year’s bunch to tell me he was reading the recaps and was therefore my favourite – it’s first come, first serve babes x.
Love you all, really.

And if you want to carry on seeing what Tom makes, you can follow him on Instagram at Tom_Demeranville.

And so, 5 potters go on to the quarter-final!

And if you’ve enjoyed this recap of the Great Pottery Throwdown’s Wildlife Week and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small donation via my Ko-fi HERE.

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