Pottery Throwdown 2023, Episode 1: Potentially Divorced Mammoths

It’s as good as any way to celebrate the show’s return.


The most wholesome and somehow filthy show on television makes its very welcome return, softening the blow of Another Year™ and the gang’s all here: Keith, Rich, Siobhan

and Keith’s tear ducts which only took Keith gazing upon a beautiful French man trying his best to make their presence known

and of course Rose was on hand to gatekeep Gladstone

granting permission to our 12 new potters, and thus the only 12 people who can keep us sane for the next few months (no pressure guys)

and for their first day at Gladstone, some of them were starting on a strong sartorial foot – George and his Quite Good Yellow Dungarees

coming in second only to Fabiola’s Say Something Hat Kind of Day

I hope she has a different one for every week – although I was worried considering how statement hats have gone for potters in the past

I’ll never forget you First Boot Bill.

Spilling Tea

Their first challenge was a fairly sizeable one, with the potters having to make a Party Tea Set featuring a cake stand, a seemingly extremely impractical ceramic cake slice, 2 cups and saucers, a clotted cream pot (WITH A SPOON HOLE – Jon) and a side plate which all had to be themed around a loved one.

Trees reared their heads as a very popular sculpt for the cake stands, with Vithu being the first to declare that his was going to be a Banyan tree as a nod to his friend who lives in Thailand

and would then do a dramatic look over his shoulder every time someone else mentioned their cake stand was going to be a tree as though he was going to challenge them a duel

it’s backflips at dawn and I don’t fancy George’s chances

that plan for my pottery themed circus is going well

Welcome to the Cirque du Soil – it’s mostly handstands and backflips right now, but I’m sure I can find a trapeze artist somewhere…


Once you’ve torn your eyes away from that gif, we’ll return to The Great Arboreal War of Gladstone, with George making his a Baobab as a nod to both his childhood in Africa and his mother’s love of nature, with the rest of his tea set being themed around African wildlife

her favourite being a chameleon, and instead of sculpting one he was planning to paint them along the side of his cake stand, putting emphasis on the tongues because tongues are easier than reptiles, as his losing battle against the anatomy of a crocodile will illustrate

their technical name is “some death”

I do enjoy the term “crocodile skin cake slice” though – it sounds like something that would be on the more extremely unnecessary end of the Prada spectrum, alongside their £1200 leather tic tac toe set

don’t do it George, I will be forced to eat you come The Revolution.

The last of our Tree Musketeers was Jon, whose set was inspired by his son’s favourite apple tree

and while I was prepared to find the notion of a child having a favourite apple tree extremely funny, I did then remember that my gran used to take my brothers and I to the Harare Botanical Garden to visit our favourite tree which has a very bouncy branch and it’s something of a miracle that none of us ever broke our arms on it.

The Inherent Eroticism of The Ocean was another popular calling, James not entirely finding himself able to fully escape the eroticism part

IT’S. A. LIGHTHOUSE. But we’ll put a pin in the very appropriately named “lighthouse knob” for now

Gently, we don’t want to Prince Albert the lighthouse.

And now I somehow have to transition from that talking point to Caitlin’s dad… but if anyone knows anything about transitions, it’s me. Caitlin’s set was drawing from her and her dad’s love of the sea, her dad also happens to be an ex-potter, but not in the ex-parrot kind of way, he’s still around to loom over her at any opportunity

can you imagine the chaos of the day they have two family members competing against one another?
Caitlin’s seafaring tea set was not all smooth sailing though, having had the brilliant idea to make two extra cups just in case.. well, one extra mug because she de-bottomed one of them

it’s all fun and games until someone loses their arse.

As it turns out, the one extra mug would come in very handy because her snorkel mug unfortunately plummeted to the ground where it now forever lies in peace with Cellan’s flat-bottomed gnome

Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shootin’ stars.
I could really use a wish right now, wish right now, wish right now.

But hope was not lost because Vithu, taking a break from staring at anyone that muttered the word “tree”, rushed over to Caitlin with the determination of Superman hearing that a little girl’s cat was in peril

and then proceeded to talk Caitlin through trying to squash her mug back into shape like he was a midwife

but the clay having reached its leather-like dryness had to be remade in the end.

Derek was also having issues of his own with dryness (clay, not personal) with his cake stand being thrown from a single piece of clay and only being able to be turned the right way up once it had dried, and after having tried to stare it into drying like Vithu trying to mentally tear down a baobab, he took the heat gun to it

which you know, wasn’t entirely in keep with the Stone Age theme of his set

Derek’s Stone Age themed set was dedicated to his wife who he described as “a history nerd” and if you thought that would mean they’d show a photo of her surrounded by books, no, she’s the OTHER kind of history nerd

she was doing Marilyn cosplay before it was cool and Twitter discourse.

A lot of Derek’s design was focused on the painting, which was an approach that Helen was also going with on her illustrated set dedicated to her sister-in-law who moved to Australia

“Chateau du Plonk” also being what I call No 10 Downing Street.

Fliss was taking an artistic approach to her set, inspired by her mother who is both an artist and looks like she just glamorously strode off the set of Dynasty

that is the hair of a woman that has accused someone’s champagne of being burnt and probably dramatically removed a hat while crashing a funeral.

Fliss comes from a family of artists which you could tell by the moment she eyed up the evenness of her pieces by doing this

she herself being the only one who does pottery which may or may not be a trauma response to escape the inferiority complex as all of her siblings followed in her mother’s footsteps to pursue art – so her plan was to decorate her set with paint splatters in her mother’s favourite colours

Lois was also basing her set on an artistically minded relative, her sister being both a jewellery designer (All That Glitters, WHEN?) and one of those people that doesn’t somehow immediately kill a cactus as soon as they bring it home

she was leaning more towards the cacti side of things with her set

and she was going for some bonus points by making a spoon to go with her clotted cream pot, which she very nearly forgot to put in the drying room

and upon shouting about the missing spoon, the fear of God was sent into Caitlin who had only just managed to revive a ceramic snorkel in the nick of time

but everyone better start practicing their ceramic spoons for next year.

If you were hoping that Christophe’s cake stand might come as an ode to pole dancing, sadly we were going to be disappointed because instead of honouring his pole dance instructor, he was drawing inspiration from his pottery teacher

the only explanation for the photo being “she loves corn” – it’s as good as any, I guess.
He was decorating the set with homages to places from both the UK and Mexico, his intricate cake stand pattern being done with a stencil because thankfully he’s not a complete maniac

but in his enthusiasm he had made his cake slice a little thin and was risking a crack on the tip, but you know as they say: “out of sight out of mind”

what’s hidden under the sponge, stays under the sponge.

Fabiola was probably the most excited potter to be entering the pottery and looked ready to explode when Keith and Rich walked through the doors

this excitement would not extend into the Throwdown Challenge

but still naive to the pressures of throwing as many milk jugs as you can in 15 minutes, she was having fun making her tea set as a nod to her friend who had been in a coma for five months, playing on the idea of rebirth hence the phoenix imagery painted onto the cake stand

which also happens to be the costume plan for my pottery circus, so Vithu and Christophe, fittings are next wednesday as soon as I can bribe a sewing bee contestant.
Fabiola is definitely an early fan favourite, I think she’s just the sort of person you can’t help but immediately like

every series needs one and everyone promptly goes insane if they ever get eliminated before the halfway mark.

Lastly we have Rebecca who was also making quite a highly emotionally charged set, inspired by her grandfather and the walks they went on, decorating each of her pieces with ladybirds

I cannot confirm or deny if the cake stand is a nod to his proficiency in Mario Kart.

Jugs Away!

For their very first Throwdown Challenge the potters were having to make as many Milk Jugs as they could in only 15 minutes, and given how utterly terrified everyone looked throughout Keith’s demonstration the whole thing turned out quite well

it certainly feels like the first time Keith hasn’t had to throw any of someone’s creations into his McBucket of Doom with James and Caitlin having the potential to apparently open their own two person, mass milk jug production company, having 4 and 5 respective jugs deemed worthy to survive Hurricane Keith

not everyone could be quite so speedy, with George taking the slow and steady approach, which required quite the concentration face (initially that said “rimming face” and I had to go repent my sins for half an hour)

ending up with 3 jugs that were uniformly Strong And Wrong

but Keith was kind and spared the lives of two of them and only mashing the one

putting George in penultimate place, only beating Christophe who similarly ended up with only 2 surviving jugs and some pity-sobs from Keith because he tried his damndest

Vithu, having made 3 jugs that Keith was very much ready to not touch, leapt in like some sort of pottery masochist and dared Keith to wreck at least one of his jugs

which he was hardly not going to oblige him the favour of and this would certainly have no repercussions later on, it’s not like this is a competition or anything

I for one stan our first pottery martyr.

Rebecca was taking a more religious approach, invoking the name of Christ himself

“Oh Jesus, my jugs!” is absolutely one of the funniest things anyone has said on this show though, but sadly I do believe the Messiah has more of a proclivity to transmogrifying water into wine than clay into milk jugs – it was God that did the whole earth into man thing, but they granted safety to all of Rebecca’s three jugs for her piousness

and it was at this point that Vithu really began regretting sacrificing one of his jugs

Yeah, Abraham fell for the same thing. What is this Bible bit I’m doing? I’m so sorry, let’s stop before I liken Derek to Zacchaeus for some reason.

An Official Milk Jug Throwdown Ranking
1. Caitlin and James’s Joint Milk Jug Venture
2. Helen’s Party of Four
3. Fliss
4. Fabiola’s Well Screamed At Milk Jugs
5. Lois
6. Derek is Zaccheu- STOP IT
7. Rebecca’s Hail Mary
8. Jon
9. Vithu By His Own Direction
10. George’s Strong And Wrong Jugs
11. Christophe, There Was An Attempt.

What’s The Tea, Christine?

With their tea sets having been fired, it was time to find out if anyone had suffered a Calamity of the Kiln with the only real fatality being Christophe’s cake slice, but at least it was just the tip

however Fabiola’s cream pot was on hand to show some solidarity mid-glazing

perhaps you shouldn’t have threatened to eat it?

thankfully Siobhan and Keith were on hand to mediate the situation before Fabiola, in the midst of a minor panic attack, did something silly like yeeting the bird out the window and given the theme of rebirth, rather aptly she had been able to reattach the bird

which was a relief, because I think the cream pot is my favourite piece from her set, although I did also really like the floral decoration on her side plate

and in general, the quality of her painting and build was very good.

Christophe however was making no attempt to fix his cake slice, it was lost now, gone forever, une impossibilité

but he could at least be very pleased with the fact the stencil he had made perfectly fit his cake stand

and the effect on the final piece was very nice, it’s very reminiscent of the Azulejo tilework in Spain and Portugal and the effect gave the broken cake slice a nice sort of antique roman tilework feel (although we’re absolutely not giving him bonus points for that)

but the set as a whole was still very strong, they didn’t really get around to mentioning them, but I loved the faces he’d painted onto the cups

the corn basket cream pot at the back is however verging on looking like a pineapple.

While Christophe’s dabbling in the cobalt blue glaze had worked quite well, Caitlin had fallen a little foul of the stuff with it being a little overwhelming as a whole, although I love the swirling effect on the side plate

it does somewhat flatten everything out a little bit, which took a little bit away from the humour of the set, the snorkel cup had worked out really well and the little flippers on the saucer were a cute extra touch

and the whale-shaped cake slice was a really neat idea

she probably could have afforded to take a leaf from George’s £1200 Crocodile Skin Cake Slice and gone a little more cartoony with it

it’s truly an inspired design and it went in very nicely with his entire set

the guineafowl on top of the cream pot was my particular favourite – it made me feel a very sharp pang of nostalgia for my own childhood in Zimbabwe because my friend had a flock of guineafowl in his garden and they would set on the roof and make one hell of a racket in the morning

Rich however was more drawn towards the flattened tortoise that George begrudged because it ate up an hour of his painting time

not that it really impacted the rest of his decoration – it was one of my favourite sets of the night.

Vithu’s grab for Arboreal Cake Stand Supremacy wasn’t quite as successful, although Rich and Keith did both really like his cake stand, the design elements they liked unfortunately didn’t quite follow through to the rest of his pieces which were all just a little bit too flat

which does make the set look a little bit heavy, especially in that slate green colour, but it also doesn’t help that his side plate is literally quite heavy and potentially as lethal as any other Cluedo weapon. But, I did really like the shape of his cream pot

the handle is very elegant and I can see the inspiration taken from Thai architecture. I for one am as shocked as anyone that Siobhan didn’t spend her time giggling at the tapered shape and appropriately flared base, instead focusing on James’s DEFINITELY A LIGHTHOUSE

if you had asked me who would make the first Accidental Phallus of the series, I’m not sure I would have had James pegged (phrasing) for the role, I would have bet anything on a very sheepish George.

James had similar glazing woes to Caitlin, he had planned to have a beautiful cloudy sky on his cake stand, but the cobalt had bled out the white a little bit

so I’m going to guess nobody is going anywhere near the cobalt blue glaze for the remainder of the series because clearly it is cursed.
His DEFINITELY A LIGHTHOUSE Cream Pot had however been spared The Cobaltening of 2023 and looked really lovely, while Siobhan lurked in the frame on the verge of giggles throughout the critique

I can only imagine they cut the footage of Siobhan asking if she could help James with his glazing

there’s just some lines you can’t cross on national television and having someone blow on your slightly phallic lighthouse is one of them.

When not using Siobhan as her own personal hairdryer, Rebecca was busy decorating her cake stand using stickers to leave crisp circles for the mushroom effect

it’s a really lovely set and I like the very simple, undetailed look she went with with the ladybirds being a really clever motif that tied everything together and made it all the more personal – which promptly set everyone off

it is episode one and I believe we’re already in a tissue deficit, we’re going to have to resort to dabbing Keith’s eyes with Rose’s bowties by episode 5.

Derek’s Stone Age theme was causing him a little bit of concern given that he was going to be working just about exclusively in shades of brown which could easily end up looking, for lack of a better word, muddy, but I think he navigated it pretty well, using the glazes quite sparingly

it’s a pity that the cake stand came with a pretty mammoth stress crack through the middle of the romancing mammoths

we won’t read too much into that and the fact the whole thing was dedicated to his wife – Mammothancy is the new Tasseomancy.

The potentially divorced mammoths aside, I really loved the hand decorations on the side of the cake stand

and I don’t think he got enough recognition for the little hand he had?

a round of tiny applaus, please?

Jon was also taking a novel approach to painting his garden wildlife and using one his own duck’s feathers to paint on the grass

“I’m painting with one of my own duck’s feathers” might be the most Waitrose thing anyone has ever said on this programme, so well done Jon! And the feather worked great

He’s a method painter.

I think we can safely say he won The Great Tree War of Gladstone with his cake stand – there were a lot of really fun details through out – the owl in the knot, the beehive hanging off the end, the pierced out branches

he had however spent too much time piercing out branches and had forgotten about the spoon-hole in the cream pot, and had pulled a bit of a Wile E. Coyote

I appreciate the cheek, the nerve, the gall, the audacity and the gumption of it all.

The only other potter to have any issues with their spoon-hole (a term I have grown to hate almost immediately) was Fliss, who had had to frantically do it in the drying room like she was about to be sealed within the confines of the Jungle Run obstacle course, so it was a little bit jagged and snug

she wasn’t overly happy with the outcome of her set, the colours weren’t quite what she wanted – I think you’re always setting yourself up for a bit of a disappointment if you’re wanting a precise colour in your pottery given the pre-fired glazes don’t look at all like their post-fired selves, but I think her teacups looked great

there’s something very Clarice Cliff about them that I enjoy, so it certainly wasn’t a bad set.

Lois and Helen both had a lot of work to do, and on top of having to accentuate all of her incising work, Lois was busy trying to psych James out at the transparent glazing tub

I wonder if she used the same tactics to help her sister get over her fear of crabs?

And THAT is why this show is so great – nowhere else are you going to get someone putting hours of work into a beautifully handmade tea set that largely hinges on their sister overcoming their Kabourophobia

and the ceramic spoon wasn’t the only thing earning her bonus points, as she’s also made this incredibly cute candleholder, which I think everyone should have been making instead of ceramic cake slices

it’s just incredibly charming and is definitely my favourite piece from today’s episode.

Lastly we have Helen’s illustrated party set which could have come across as looking quite safe had she not gone quite as all out as she did – the champagne bottles on the cake stand really were a triumph – although I’m sure Christophe was ready to the get the red pen out for the misspelling of “Chateau”

I do also very much enjoy that the the drawing on the side plate looks very reminiscent of the Groovy Chick character that adorned every girl’s pencil case in 2005

I’m guessing she subconsciously absorbed that during her time as a teacher.
The cream pot, decorated to look like a little boat, doesn’t entirely feel like it fits with the rest of the pieces, but it was VERY cute, especially when it had the spoon coming out of the back of it

I won’t look a gift cream pot in the spoon-hole.

An Unofficial Tea Set Ranking
2. A £1200 Crocodile Skin Cake Slice
3. Rebecca’s Good Luck Ladybirds
4. Helen’s Champagne Storm In A Tea Cup
5. Jon’s Wile E. Coyote Spoon-hole
6. Fabiola’s Phoenix
7. Couple’s Therapy For Mammoths
9. Fliss’s Blood Orange? It’s red.
10. Putting The Can in MexiCAN!
11. Caitlin’s Blue Is The Harshest Colour
12. Do Vithus Dream Of Squashed Jugs?

Taking up the first spot in the Throwdown Gallery was Lois with her tea set inspired by her sister

but as she celebrated, inevitably one of the potters had to go home and sadly that person was Vithu

it’s never nice to see the first person going home and if you want to see more of his stuff, you can follow him on Instagram at LegacyCraftPottery!

And so, 11 potters remain!

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