If you stare for too long into the abyss, the abyss quacks back.
It’s the finale! And once again we’re doing Garden Week, this time with 100% less gnomes, it was the only way to get Cellan to come back to Gladstone.
It’s finally here, which does seem doubly sad considering I think now more than ever we’re in need of a cosy sunday night show consisting of a great deal of Keith Brymer Jones sobbing as he gazes upon the unassuming beauty of a well glazed sugar bowl. It is a really, utterly wonderful piece of programming isn’t it? And I think Siobhan said it best
and I cannot stress how nice this group of potters have been – I’ve heard from just about all of them and the fact they’ve enjoyed reading the recaps has meant the world to me – especially considering they’re the current Nation’s Sweethearts (Adele, whomst?) and they could have had my guts for garters with but a single Instagram post about “that awful snarky blogger” as I am currently being referred to on a certain prosecco fuelled forum – I have referrer analytics, I can see you. It has once again been a very validating experience doing these recaps and seeing how much people are enjoying them, which is something I’ve needed now more than ever, so I really do have a very special fondness for these amazing craftspeople.
Now that we’re done with our sappy introduction, let’s get leather-hard-hearted!
Because it was the final, Keith had dressed himself up
I love that the suit jacket is ever so slightly too small so he does have to stand like he’s in the character builder mode in a 2000s video game.
For their final build of the series, Anna, AJ and Christine had to make a Garden Totem Sculpture™ and rather impressively Keith and Rich had managed to find themselves a forest of Garden Totem Sculptures™
they were looking for something a little different though as they wanted the potters to use them to depict their histories and their lives which only added to the emotional pressure of the final but worked very well as a final challenge. And because it was such a big build and we didn’t want another Great British Bake Off Wedding Cake situation, the potters were given 8 hours and 50kgs of clay to accomplish this feat.
Given that the structures were obviously going to be quite tall – with Christine and Anna both going for 7 components and AJ casually flexing on everyone with 9 seperate pieces, one of which was a Jekyll and Hyde teddy bear torn between its lion and rabbit identities. This did mean that the base had to be extremely stable – so something wide and rounded was the preferred technique and while Christine rendered her sister’s wok potentially unusable
Anna had apparently decapitated one of the Poddington Peas and made sure that it would never talk again
which is quite impressive considering that the Poddington Peas are all head – I may have googled “Poddington Pea skeleton” in order to try and find what the inner schematics of a sentient pea might look like but I am disappointed to find that not a single artist has ever bothered to render this. I am actually quite shocked considering the general state of the internet.
The creation of Anna’s base was certainly a journey – it all started well enough and then of course she had to demould it later on, a process she roped AJ into and for the most part they succeeded, although you could see the BIGGEST crack beginning to form on the side
and Rich had no choice but to watch on in utter horror
but I did love the excited “We did it!” and Rich very much just emoting “But have you?”
as it turns out, they had and Anna had no real issue with the build in so far as her base went.
As for the rest of Anna’s sculpture, she was incorporating a backpack as a nod to her travels and the time spent living in Southern Africa as well as a duck named George as a nod to her husband Skip
and definitely not the story of anatine justice from the first episode, lest we forget
I’m always fascinated by Anna’s building process, I think if I could watch a full 8 hours of someone creating something from beginning to end it would be Anna, the way she shapes and forms things doesn’t feel like it should ever work and yet, every time it does – although she did have a near disaster as George’s neck nearly got the old Hereditary treatment
but if there’s one thing this group of potters have proved themselves adept in, it’s emergency animal neck surgery, as pioneered by Lucinda
and luckily George made a mostly full recovery.
One of Anna’s other totem components was a globe, as a further nod to her travels, but Christine was also making a globe because the two of them are apparently gluttons for punishment as globes are notoriously hard to make given that you have to throw two bowls to exactly the same size and then try to fuse them together and round them out. While Anna was mostly happy to do that and kind of just shrug and say “that’s spherical enough!”. Christine’s struggle for sphericalness pushed her ever closer to donning a tinfoil hat
Ah, Dan Olson forgot all about the stressed potter to conspiracy theorist pipeline in his YouTube documentary about flat-earthers.
Christine’s totem put an emphasis on her love of teaching and even moreso, her family which meant it was another emotionally charged build from Christine especially given that after losing her father so recently and somewhat losing her love for pottery, which the show has helped rekindle
And given that Keith began tearing up the moment he so much as looked at Christine, you knew where this was going
And after the success of her abstract figure in the quarter-final, she was embracing abstract design again with a finial that represented her mother and father, which would be mirrored by a base of faces at the bottom
and I’ll be honest, I cannot look at the mound of faces without feeling a little bit ill because it does remind me of the protoplasm pool from the Scooby Doo Movie which always terrified me as a child
or it does also look a bit like someone made an omelette out of everyone’s favourite eggy boys
but I do love that Christine used a wok to make them so now you know your average family wok can old up to 9 faces in it. You’ve heard of imperial and metric units, but have you heard of the Geinic system? *niche joke klaxon*
Christine did however want to stress that the wokful of faces was not meant to share a direct likeness of her family members, although I don’t know, I think there’s something of a likeness there
I apologise to both of Christine’s very good looking sons for doing this to them.
Both Christine and Anna decided to handbuild their bases, AJ however was throwing their absolutely massive baby bath of a basin, and probably wisely not letting Siobhan anywhere near it
nightmarish visions of Siobhan trying to use her crutches to help stabilise it and being about as useful as a praying mantis trying to pivot a sofa.
AJ’s was certainly the most eclectic of the the builds,
featuring a roleplaying dice because of their fondness for whacking things with a great axe
and of course, front and centre were a pair of Doc Martins, which were being well represented on the show
the trans agenda is actually just hefty footwear and all we want is for you to know when we enter a room, *clomp* *clomp* *clomp*.
The most interesting piece of AJ’s build though, or at least to me, was the teddy bear the bottom that was half lion and half rabbit
it was actually a nod to AJ’s childhood toy lion and their sister’s childhood toy rabbit and not an abstract depiction of a struggle between two identities because as we know Rabbit and Lion are indeed the two genders, so I suppose you could AJ is… non-bunnery.
And because AJ’s build was so big and even with 50 kilograms of clay on offer, they had managed the seemingly impossible
remember when KFC ran out of chicken that one summer? Very that energy.
I’m still amazed that everyone got everything they needed to build built in time, even with the 8 and a half hours they were allowed, especially when Anna looked like Siobhan had just told her that they only half an hour left when in actuality they still had 6
but everything was in the drying room, safe and sound
I mean, when is it not though?
You Should See Me In A Crown
For their final Spot Test Challenge Rich decided to send the fear of God into all three of the potters by unveiling a very intricate porcelain crown
which did have Anna looking for the nearest exit
luckily for them, they didn’t have to actually make the crown, instead they were given what is absolutely just an unfired cheese dome
from which they would have to pierce out pieces in order to make an elaborate geometric design while still hoping to keep their crown intact, because a monarch can not have a flaccid crown.
It was a very therapeutic challenge to watch, the piercing out of the clay certainly scratched the same itch that r/popping does and mercifully comes with 100% less chance of seeing someone squeeze a botfly larvae out their armpit
a large part of this challenge relied on the potters carefully planning everything out – after all they had to make sure that everything was perfectly measured so that everything aligned. And there were a few different approaches, AJ spent a considerable amount of time drawing out various crown designs in silence
Anna just drew a few tear drops in what I believe might have been a cry for help
and Christine had no time for the two dimensional confinces of paper and instead drew her pattern straight onto her crown
Christine was particularly determined this episode given that this was her last chance to win one of these smaller challenges and she certainly made a good go of it with the sheer intricacy of her patterns
the top of her crown is a marvel in the same way that a stained glass window is, I still can’t quite understand how any of it is holding itself together, which is… relatable, truly it’s a crown for the people. The only slight complaint she gets is that she hadn’t added a anything to the top of the crown in order to give it some added height, as AJ had done with theirs
bonus points for making it into a handle and thus making it a still somewhat usable cheese dome, or I suppose it’s more of a cheese cage. AJ had however run out of time to fully adorn the base of their crown
and Keith was most upset that he had been shortchanged on some porcelain diamonds – it’s the Millenium Dome Raid all over again!
It wasn’t a challenge that particularly leant itself to Anna’s style of pottery, but she was game for the challenge, moreso because it meant she got to brandish a scalpel, which had Siobhan more than a little concerned
that’s the face of a woman looking for the nearest Ellie Taylor.
I did really like Anna’s crown though, it felt like it had the most character – I can kind of visualise the sort of fairytale that this crown would appear in
and yes, it would be a part of Anna’s Big Book of Traumatic Animal Fables.
The only thing that really hindered Anna’s design was the fact she hadn’t cut anything out on the roof of the crown
but it’s hard to do that when Siobhan has had your scalpel confiscated.
An Official Porcelain Crown Ranking
- Christine’s Crowning Glory
- AJ’s Stolen Diamonds
- Anna’s Tears of a Crown Pun Was Too Good Not To Use
Rather miraculously Anna’s Poddington Pea death mask of a base came out with not a single fracture, and George the Duck had managed to keep his head while taking a mildly unpleasant convalescence in a 900 degree kiln. AJ had similar success, however Christine had suffered a slight tragedy
if I had a penny for every time that happened I’d have… no pennies because my mother reads this and I would never put her on blast.
Christine was mostly disappointed that the kiln hadn’t either somehow turned her globe into an actual globe or just completely destroyed it and so she did have to begrudgingly decorate it, and took the Alon approach to geography and decided that this is what the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland looked like
sorry Scotland, we appear to have annexed you and sold you to Iceland, you will be happier this way, or at least stand a better chance at Eurovision.
The globe may not have come out quite how Christine wanted it to, but the build of her satchel was absolutely phenomenal and showed off her wonderful detail work
The doors Cellan opened with his pendulous napsack. (THAT DEFINITELY SAYS NAPSACK, I HAVE READ IT 5 TIMES)
Christine had also managed to reattach her mother’s head and I think she definitely had my favourite of the totem finials – I really love the way the figures of her mother and father are rising out of the bottle kiln like wisps of smoke
the use of the denim stone glaze was very clever, and I love the effect it gave the base, which took on the look and feel of soapstone sculptures
the base had come out a little smaller than Christine had expected and while it may have slightly thrown off the balance of the piece, it still all looked wonderfully cohesive and made perfect narrative sense
and I really liked the neutral tones of it all, it very much had an air of Christine about it.
While Christine opted for neutral tones, AJ was going to be using their last day in the pottery to make the most of the free glazes they were being given
ALL. OF. THE. COLOURS.
Luckily a lot of AJ’s pieces were block coloured, meaning they weren’t having to deal with too much fiddly detail other than the fishing rod they were painting on the side of their house or the letters that they free-handed on the sign post
I have never felt more self-conscious of my truly horrendous handwriting.
Sadly the numbers they had drawn on their dice did get slightly lost in the firing process
but the glaze is so pretty looking that it’s hard to complain too much that it’s kind of just a geometric blob, because it’s the most beautiful geometric blob I’ve seen since the Anthony James Portal exhibit
but also, we must not encourage Anthony James because he might set fire to a Ferrari again.
My favourite part of AJ’s totem though was the lion/rabbit hybrid, that had that trademark cartoonish style that AJ does so well and the lion really reminded me of Cerberus from Cardcaptor Sakura
I do also have to feel slightly sorry for the poor thing as it holds the weight of the world on its adorable little head!
I did also like AJ’s non-binary socks, the colours may not have been quite right post-firing but it was still very recognisable as the non-binary flag
and as TV continues to struggle with how it talks about and includes non-binary people, I think this series has been pretty groundbreaking in that it just didn’t make a big deal of it. AJ was first and foremost a potter, there was no awkward questioning or explanations, no press releases, no self-congratulatory “Look what we did!” tweets from Love Productions just… “Here’s AJ, they’re incredibly talented, be nice to them.” In fact, I think this episode was the first time anyone actually said “non-binary” on camera! Prior to this it was just context clues and really showed how easy it is to refer to someone by they/them pronouns. And I feel pretty confident in saying that a fair few people probably benefited from this, whether it taught them something about themself or something about a community and identity that they didn’t understand, or perhaps *refused* to understand – it’s easy to erase the humanity of an identity when they’re merely an avatar on Twitter, it’s a lot harder when you can see the person and they’re making adorable garden gnomes.
And now we seamlessly segue to Anna who had given herself quite the glazing job because she too was using ALL OF THE COLOURS, but unlike AJ, she was doing quite a lot of illustrating
which worried me because last year Suz ran out of time just trying to illustrate a cheese dome with pirate caricatures of Keith, Rich and Siobhan
meanwhile Anna was having to do an entire Garden Totem Sculpture™. I did really love the dancing silhouetted figures she did on one of her pieces
there’s a real liveliness to them and they do feel very much inspired by San rock art, and with the very vivid, sort of dappled background colour they reminded me a lot of a brand of clothing my brothers and I used to wear when we lived in Zimbabwe called Zimbablooba
and of course George the Duck was gloriously rendered in his slightly drunk looking glory
and I’m sure he’ll fit right in amongst the rest of Anna’s collection of slightly rowdy looking poultry
and while I love the character of Anna’s pieces individually, they came together in glorious chaos
I really love that all together it looks like a wagon that’s been overloaded, and with the slight scruffiness and mix of colours it also looks a lot like a Quentin Blake illustration, there’s a real sense of life to it, as there is to everything Anna makes and while the finishing touches may not have been perfect, that’s kind of the charm.
And that was it, the three of them had done everything in their power to take the literal Pottery Throwdown 2022 crown
and really it could have gone any which way: Anna for her natural affinity for clay and spirited makes, Christine for the emotional journey she’s gone through over the series that’s honestly been a privilege to witness and AJ for their creativity and consistently clean builds (legless dragon aside).
I’m also glad that for this year’s finale they managed to get everyone back and I am slightly obsessed with the fact Miles has a coat with pockets big enough to fit a bottle of champagne in them
I need to know where it’s from. For science.
And ultimately the winner of the Pottery Throwdown 2022 was…
AJ! I am unbelievably happy for them, they had my full support the moment they made that baby dinosaur crockery set in the first episode and very quickly established their very unique and creative style – it really was banger after banger with AJ. They are the Charli XCX of pottery.
And of course a big congratulations to two very deserving runners up
they’ve both established themselves in the Pottery Throwdown Hall of Fame and if we ever do get that Pottery Throwdown All Stars series I keep wishing for, I would very much like to see these two showing up for it.
Before we get to The Alternative Montage, if you’ve enjoyed the Pottery Throwdown recaps this year and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small tip over at my Kofi account HERE. And a thank you to everyone that has donated during the series, it’s honestly been overwhelming to know that people actually value these absurdly long streams of consciousness masquerading as recaps.
MONTAGE TIME BABY!
and that really is it – it’s been a fantastic series with a really special group of people, our sunday nights will never be the same again!
And of course, one last big congratulations ot AJ!
truly a star is born.
And if you’re interested, I will be recapping the likes of Sewing Bee and Bake Off whenever they rear their heads in the imaginably not too distant future!
and so, we have our winner
And if you’ve enjoyed this recap of the Great Pottery Throwdown’s final and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small donation via my Ko-fi HERE.