Pottery Throwdown 2022, Episode 8: A Slightly Concerned Spider

Find someone that looks at you the way Keith Brymer Jones looks at a 10 second candlestick.

Welcome to The Great Pottery Throwdown’s Emotional Destruction Week, where not only Keith does the crying for once.

The Abstraction Distraction

For this week’s Main Make, the potters were having to create an abstract sculpture of themselves, but not *too* abstract, they didn’t want them to go the full Kazimir Malevich, there had to be a recognisably human-form to it, they just wanted the potters to accentuate and exaggerate some (or all) of their body parts

yeah… It’s *a lot* to ask a group of people to go on national television and tell them to make a very personal sculpture, but I think all of them did a great job of taking the abstract bull by its abstract horns – and thus making me, a-slightly-too-snarky-for-my-own-good recapper, deeply afraid of recapping this episode

complaints can be sent to my manager at idonthaveamanager@gmail.com.

Given that they were having to hand build their sculptures there were a variety of techniques on show, with coiling and pinching seemingly being the most common. Jenny however was opting to make hers as a solid form and then hollow it out like she was making baba ganoush

her sculpture was a representation of motherhood, but not so much the positive sides of it as she stressed that when one becomes a mother, you tend to lose some of your identity as people begin to only know you as a mother. I suppose this is the part where I apologise for repeatedly referring to Jenny as “your mother’s nicest friend”? – that’s like a twofer of identity theft.

In order to depict this Jenny was creating a very tall figure holding a baby, while a terrestrial owl at her feet represented the things that make her the person she is – because owls are nothing if not symbolically diverse

there’s a strong resemblance to the traditional Virgin Mary statuettes but with the features pared back, which I think was very clever. The sketch does make it look a lot more like a penguin that’s joined the Benedictines than the final result, so don’t worry about it.

One of the other stipulations of the challenge was that the surface of their sculptures had to be smooth because not even abstract art is immune to stressful beauty standards. In order to achieve their smooth surface the potters could basically use any smooth object – spoons are quite popular, as are pebbles and…

it looks like the Tinman isn’t just missing a heart anymore.

Jenny managed to get through the sculpting phase pretty quickly with her hollowing out method, so she gave herself 3 hours to lovingly rub her statue with a tiny pebble until it was literally squeaking and she was on the brink of exhaustion

but she does now have a pair of rippling biceps.

While the other potters all opted for the burnished finished, AJ was just hoping for a simpler smoothed surface – the difference being that burnished implies a shine and smooth is more of a matte finish, which better suited their sort of Stonehenge Golem inspired by rocks that AJ found during their time spent exploring the outdoors – so they wanted a very grounded, earthly feel to their self-sculpture

I find it interesting that with AJ’s previous makes having all been quite round, soft looking pieces that their observation of themself is much more sturdy and block-like.

Anna was also taking inspiration from her love of the outdoors, and her sculpture was certainly the most abstract with the head of the piece being this sort of blossoming, ear-like flower which I love because I get the distinct impression that Anna is a great listener

or at least certainly a great friend who will vehemently compliment your arse in your new jeans

what more could you hope for from a friend?

Anna was going for a very grounded and earthly feel to the sculpture, and with the swirling, protective arm around the body and the plant-like head erupting from the top, it reminded me a lot of illustrations of mandrake roots

she didn’t quite get the degree of a burnished finish that she set out for, but with a piece that had so much little crevices, it looked like a tough job even if you had all day. And she was having to protect her honour as AJ proceeded to tell Siobhan lies about her

Lucinda was drawing inspiration from her faith, as she currently practices Buddhism and so had her sculpture kneeling in a meditative position that once you see as the face of a slightly concerned spider you won’t be able to unsee it

as well as drawing inspiration from her faith with the pose and the lotus flower on the head, she was hoping to showcase the body of a mature mother of three, paying particular attention to the breasts

couldn’t do that if you were having to sculpt someone else, could you?
And while she decided she couldn’t give her sculpture a pair of pert breasts, apparently Buddhism does your derriere the world of good

We look, respectfully.

And lastly we have Christine who certainly had the most emotionally raw piece, with it depicting her experience with breast cancer at the age of 32 – with the sculpture having a hole through its chest in place of one of the breasts

there are rare moments on television that feel like they’re a privilege to watch and seeing Christine build this sculpture, the love and effort she put it into it was one of them – it truly was an honour to see that lump of clay transforming into a beautifully realised sculpture and the catharsis that came with it for Christine

and so it did fill me with dread when she began stamping in the letters, as I feared she would misspell “STRENGTH” (which I may have done while I write this sentence)

luckily she is more orthographically stable than I.

The Butcher, The Baker and The Candlestick Makers

This week’s Spot Test was indeed another throwdown challenge, which did mean that the fires of revolution were once again burning in Christine’s eyes

the potters found themselves having to make as many candlesticks as they possibly could in a mere 15 minutes, all of which had to be done “on the hump” – which means that you put one 6kg lump of clay on the wheel, hope to God you can centre it in time and then proceed to make as many candlesticks as you can before either Siobhan calls time or you lose the will to live.

Christine has often struggled a little in the throwing challenges, especially when speed is not on her time and she has Keith and Rich in the corner shouting “GET IT OFF” at her, but this time she really got in the zone and managed to centre her clay wonderfully

and managed to produce 3 candlesticks that all looked a bit like they were glaringly disapprovingly at the significantly smaller one that she bashed out in about 20 seconds at the end

which does meet its fate and is hurled into Keith’s Bucket of Doom.

In her eagerness to just get on with things, Jenny hadn’t really centred her clay so it was all a little bit precarious which did go on to affect the erectness of her candlesticks

there’s nothing worse than a flaccid candelabrum.
The only thing really going for Jenny was the fact she was a woman possessed and proceeded to knock out candlesticks like Tom knocked out milk bottles – and one of the highlights of the series has to be Jenny making a candlestick in the last 10 seconds of the challenge – it is iconically unhinged

and then the poor thing had to go and stand amongst her other candlesticks, which were actually really good

bless Rich saying “It has energy” – you would too if you were brought into this world kicking and screaming in only 10 seconds! It does of course get chucked into The Doom Bucket, as does another of hers, or at least half of it does because Keith somehow missed the gaping maw of clay hell

Lucinda had also managed a pretty impressive 6 candlesticks, the only downside being that her bobbles were all a little bit irregular but Keith was feeling merciful and only two were flung into the bucketty abyss

given that she watched Keith making his candlestick like she was having all of the unfathomable secrets of the universe poured into her brain, she did quite well

The Lucinda’s Lip Scale of Stress: 12/10 – We’re beyond the help of gin!

AJ only continued to excel in the throwdown challenge, upping their winning streak from 4 to 5 with a group of candlesticks that really did all look pretty identical

but Keith didn’t want the other potters to feel too bad and AJ does need to be kept humble, so one of them is destroyed – sacrifices have to be made sometimes.

And lastly we have Anna who made the fewest candlesticks, with three and an Agatha Christie murder weapon

the hefty one is very quickly removed from the pottery before anyone could get any ideas, and the rest of her candlesticks are left to live their lives in peace.

A Candlestick Throwdown Ranking

  1. AJ Supremacy Continues, Apace
  2. Jenny, Candlestick Demon Extraordinair
  3. Christine Is Finally Learning To Love a Throwdown Challenge
  4. Lucinda’s Bobbly Irregularity
  5. Anna’s Three Candles and a Murder

The Kilning Game

With their sculptures having been through their first bisque firing, the potters could inspect the damage the Kiln Gods had decided to wreak, with Jenny being sent a clear warning to never put a candlestick through such torment ever again

she was far from the only one with a crack as, I think just about all of the potters had some sort of a stress fracture on their pieces – but nobody had a completely destroyed piece so they could all get on with preparing their pieces for their kilning, which might involve dappling certain spots in various oxides, seasoning their piece with salt and sugar or if you’re Anna, just covering it in all of the trash like you’re making an shrine to Oscar The Grouch

apparently the seaweed was bequeathed to her from Tom, who in turn got it from the beach where Nick surfs – I can’t wait to see where The Sisterhood of the Travelling Seaweed takes us next.

As for how Jenny was navigating her cracks, she first of all mummified her piece in steel wool

before bundling it up in such a way that suggests she may have helped the mafia dispose of a few bodies before

out of sight, out of mind as they say.

And with all of their pieces covered in their desired bits and bobs, the potters could then move on to their second firing, for which they would all have to build their kilns. And because Rose apparently cannot be trusted with open flames, Master Potter Kevin was on hand to supervise

meanwhile Siobhan stood atop the balcony bellowing at the potters while wearing a floor-length coat and looking very much like the tyrannical leader we have to overthrow in the ceramic dystopia

Get ready for Battle Royale Doulton. That *might* be the stupidest joke I’ve ever written.

This firing process did mean that the potters could fill their kiln with any other things to give any other effects to the pieces, or if you’re Jenny you could just make a biblical sacrifice and beg the Kiln Gods for their protection

and do you know what? They listened

I’m so glad her sculpture managed to come out in one piece, if it hadn’t, I would’ve had to hunt down my own ophiotaurus intestinal tract. That’s one for all the other Greek mythology kids out there.

There’s a real beautiful elegance to Jenny’s sculpture, and the colours of it were absolutely divine. I also really love the fact that, as I said before, it does resemble a statuette of the Virgin Mary whose features have been lost because that really speaks to loss of identity in motherhood that Jenny was trying to depict – it’s a beautiful piece, and sure there were some issues on the technical side but I would hate for Jenny to think that that took away from the emotion she infused into her sculpture.

It was very exciting getting to see the potters unearthing their pieces from their kilns – purely for how excited they all were. Although nobody was as excited as Lucinda

Fire? Someone screaming “I GOT PINK!”? The looming threat of total destruction? How was this not a gender reveal party?

Although, if you thought she was excited about pink, she got one glimpse of the yellow on her piece and you would’ve thought she was my mother watching the curling at 1am

and she had every right to be so excited because the colouration of her piece was fantastic, especially the spiral on the breasts which the camera operator very much wanted you to know about

Ah yes, the inherent eroticism of a slow zoom.

And the piece at large was an absolute triumph

that red blush across the stomach and the burnt look on the legs are great, but the whole form is just so… tactile looking, I mean Rich could barely keep his hands off of it

so much rubbing, but he insists that his favourite part was the backbone of the piece

Yeah, that’s what they all say, Rich.

I always look forward to these alternative firing episodes, and sure this one wasn’t quite banishing the potters to a field to watch over their Viking funeral kilns

but I still loved the image of Jenny, in her bobble hat, holding a flamethrower and casually talking about how much she loves lighting fires

meanwhile AJ was watching their self-sculpture being slowly consummed by the flames and one of the camera operators was feeling their cinematography oats and chose to film it like a scene in a BBC crime drama in which the murderer is disposing of evidence

Nobody steal that screenplay idea, I’m working on Porcelain of Duty as we speak.

I have to say though, I think the colouration of AJ’s sculpture was my favourite, the dappling on it is so natural and adds a real weathered look to the piece

and AJ managed to once again work magic with the face of their sculpture

there’s a playful quality to that pufin-beak of a nose that somehow they managed to make really work with what was a very Brutalist looking piece.

AJ’s and Anna’s pieces were very similar in concept, with their figures representing a oneness with nature and the environment, but while AJ’s piece was all geometry, Anna’s was fluid and almost looked like you could still manipulate it

I was a little worried that her piece would be a little too abstract and the form become a little bit undefined, but the firing process really helped her bring out the legs and arms from the body. It feels strange to say, but the piece just feels “kind”, which is pretty much Anna in a nutshell – I’ve said from the first episode that she’s the emotional support potter and the beating heart of the entire show and I can’t think of a better way to represent that than with this sculpture.

And lastly, but certainly not least, was Christine – and I think we all dreaded the opening of her kiln the most because if ANYTHING had happened to this piece, Gladstone would have been the site of the start of the revolution. Luckily it all came out in one piece and everyone got to have a big hug and a cry

and then Lucinda was going to be Lucinda

I guess it was Unofficial Butt Week!

Christine’s sculpture really was everything it deserved to be

I really can’t stress how much I utterly adore this piece and how happy I am for Christine that she got to make it – she didn’t just reduce Keith to tears, she got a hug out of him too

and for the record on the Love Productions Currency Exchange 1 (one) Keith Hug is worth 700 (seven hundred) Hollywood Handshakes.

My favourite detail, and it’s one the cameras didn’t concentrate on, was the colouration on the back of the sculpture, with this scar-like red blot running over the hole

it adds a visceral feel to it that only enhances the narrative of it all.

I would ordinarily do a ranking of the pieces after I talked about the judging but I really don’t feel it’s particularly appropriate, these pieces were all so personal and emotional and I wouldn’t want to categorise them like that. But I do think Christine thoroughly deserved the win for this episode

it was just a homerun for her.

I did wonder if they would do a non-elimination this episode given that Jenny did very well in the Throwdown Challenge while Anna struggled in it but did very well in the Main Make challenge. They could have then gone on to do a double elimination in the semi-finals and make it a little easier on the person who narrowly missed out on the final. However, they weren’t going to do that and sadly it’s Jenny who was eliminated

I’m gutted (I would have been gutted whoever went though) – but Jenny has been an absolute joy to watch on the show and off – she’s been extremely supportive of the recaps, which I’m in turn hugely appreciative of. So if you want to see what she goes on to do, you can follow her on Instagram at JenniferCobbCeramics – and tell her she’s cool, and that I sent you.

And so, 4 potters remain as we head into the semi-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.

2 thoughts on “Pottery Throwdown 2022, Episode 8: A Slightly Concerned Spider

  1. mims

    I thought Siobhan standing in her floor length fake fur plush coat looked like a quokka. All she needed was a pair of black gloves.

    1. Margie Pike

      Great review of this fabulous episode, third time I’ve seen it now and it never gets dull! Actually tears flowed by the end. Yes Siobhan has that furry feral quokka look about her and I say that as a compliment! Great program and fills me with inspiration and joy each episode!

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