Pottery Throwdown 2023, Episode 2: Nature’s Pregnancy Test

The reviews are in!

RELEASE THE BEES! Oh.

Safe As Boxes

It was getting all secretive in the pottery this week as the potters were all challenged to make Keepsake Boxes with a hidden lid that were large enough to contain a smaller, keepsakier box and in order to make it more personal, the design of the box had to in some way represent their passions. So if you’re wondering what I would make, as someone who is obsessed with the teen dramas of the 2010s my keepsake box would be the bust of Alison DiLaurentis and the lid would be the Lady Gaga wig they inflicted upon her

Got a secret, can you keep it? Swear, this one you’ll save.
Better lock it in your pocket, taking this one to the grave.

Sadly nobody’s boxes involved scalping someone to open them (on purpose anyway, we’ll get to it) and I was rather grateful that Lois had decided the lid of her French Bull(Foo)Dog wasn’t going to be its head because I’m not sure I could have bared to see her slicing through the poor thing’s neck, instead the lid was a Peruvian rug because this box was a three culture pile up

4, if you count her representation for the catgirls of the world

My culture, Nya!

She was adding an extra element to her box by implementing a key mechanism involving the collar which Caitlin was also doing in her backpack-shaped box that sounded harder to open than the puzzle box from Hellraiser but with significantly less risk of summoning a Cenobite (I think) if you do work out that you need to pull out the water bottle to release the secret pocket-lid and not the decoy top-lid

Caitlin has some very dark secrets she needs to keep safe, apparently. DIG! UP! THE! PATIO!

Given that slab building comes with a high risk of things warping, making quite organically shaped boxes that would allow you to get away with a wobbly edge was a bit of a life hack, not that this stopped Derek from trying to make a vintage portable TV with his smaller box being a transistor radio, which was a really cool concept that tied the two nicely together

but the sharp angles were giving him a little bit of trouble and it did look a bit like he was making the crooked TV that sat in the crooked house that the crooked man lived in

and he wasn’t the only one having a bit of a wobble, as Jon’s spaceship-shaped box suffered a bit of a turbulence in hyperspace

I was impressed by how calm he kept because if this had happened to me, this would have been my Dark Side origin story but Jon managed to stay on the straight and narrow, with the help of Lois

the speed at which she swooped in to help him was very sweet.

The most straightforwardly box-shaped of all the boxes was probably from Helen who was making a sunken tea caddy

it was a nod to her love of mudlarking with an elaborate backstory involving the Cutty Sark which I’m sure Sam Mendes will eagerly buy the screenplay rights to. In order to make the lid of the box look slightly less obvious, she was covering the seam with sprig moulded shells and aquatic plants. Keeping it quite simple was a good tactic for her considering she had said she wasn’t very experienced in slab building having only made a butter dish in the past – as my television production tutor had to constantly remind the guys with dreams of being the next Tarantino: “Keep It Simple, Stupid” because for some reason they were including more cuts in a TV interview than in a chase scene from Taken. Love you, Patrick.

James was basing the design of his box off of his love of running and sadly not his other hobby of being beaten up his own daughters

so it was shaped like a pair of trainers and there’s something about a man lovingly building a pair of trainers out of clay that is quite endearing

sadly the lid didn’t involved a complex lace up mechanism. Caitlin’s would have, after all she does have bodies to keep a secret.

In Week Two of Christophe Not Making All O His Builds About Pole Dancing, his keepsake box was shaped like a pitcher plant for his fondness of actually caring for houseplants and not killing them (imaginably because they’ll kill him first)

I very much enjoy how squat it is, it almost feels like a bit of a nod to Little Shop of Horrors – which also would have been a fun shout for a box because then you could do the Audrey 2 voice every time you put something inside it

sadly there were no theatre fans in the house, even if Rebecca’s cat and dog did look like they were in a community theatre production of West Side Story

and she was of course using them as inspiration for her box, but instead of committing to trying to slap build a cat or a Jack Russell, she was building a bed-shaped box with the two of them lying on the duvet-lid because a bed is significantly less stressful to build out of clay than a life-sized jack russell

AND you still get to show everyone your pets THAT ARE DEFINITELY FRIENDS AND GET ALONG

God bless Jack Russells.

Fliss was also going down the animal route without building an animal-shaped box, with her chosen animal being nature’s pregnancy test, the dolphin (please do not wee on the dolphins)

I feel like there’s at least three parts of this story missing and all of them are going to be locked inside her wave-shaped keepsake box

it’s a very ambitious build, given the unusual shape that I did very briefly think was going to be a nod to Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas

I did wonder how the copyright lawyers had worked their way around that one considering AJ couldn’t even say the words “Zelda” or “Dungeons and Dragons” last year – and of course Jon couldn’t even name any science fiction novels and had to just sort of vaguely gesture towards the genre.

George was going down the animal route without having to sculpt any animals by making a beehive box that would contain a small box printed with a honeycomb pattern

and if you’re thinking “that small box looks a little bit like a mausoleum for bees!” YOU JUST WAIT.

Lastly we have Fabiola whose box was based off of her love of dancing, with the whole thing being set on a pair of rockers so that it could have some movement

and Rich was very eager to monopolise on the innuendo afforded to him by the curved bottom

before Fabiola herself just barrelled through it like an unstoppable freight train completely flattening the insinuation economy, much to Siobhan’s delight

and in order to make the piece that little bit more personal, the figures on the side of the box were her two daughters

We won’t read too much into what happens next, shall we?

Bowl Movements

Having been baptised in the fire of mass producing milk jugs last week, the Throwdown Challenge was not being made any easier as this time they had to make three stackable mixing bowls while blindfolded

so it was all about muscle memory this week

WRONG MUSCLE MEMORY FLISS!

The Blindfold did immediately send the fear of God into all of them, with Lois looking particularly prepared to dive out of the nearest window

and she probably did psych herself out a bit but even with her nerves and despite finishing the challenge in 11th place, at the end of the day she still had three vaguely bowl-like objects on her desk (that Keith described as “Unhinged” which wasn’t helping matters)

and it was a bit of a pity that her emotional support Siobhan couldn’t stay by her side at all moments because she was busy harassing Rebecca

inside of you are two potters.

Getting the bowl-shape proved the most difficult part of the challenge, unless you were James who had enough time to stop for a game of Marco Polo with Keith and Rich

and then promptly whipped up three perfect mixing bowls that leaves me to wonder quite how much time he spends blindfolded

it’s always the ones you least suspect. And Caitlin wasn’t far behind him, I’m less surprised considering the suspicion of an allegiance with the Cenobites though

Derek however thought he was throwing wide, only to take off his blindfold to realise he had made a trio of beakers in the Starbucks cup sizes

the fact they were all like that though is something of an achievement so… well done, I guess? George on the other hand had ended up with three bowls that bore no resemblance to one another

but you know, found family is as valid

and after ending up at the bottom of the Throwdown Pile in the Jug Off, Christophe was redeeming himself with a trio of distinctly stylised bowls that got him a very strong third place

big fan of his His and Caitlin’s Redemption Arc Episode.

An Official Mixing Bowl Ranking
1. James Was A Little Too Good At this
2. Caitlin’s Redemption Arc
3. Blindfold Me Like One Of Your French Girls
4. Fliss Getting Fourth Place Doesn’t Matter Later, Apparently
5. Helen’s Waterlogged Bowls (I reread that umpteen times to make sure it said “bowls”
6. The Jack Russell to Siobhan’s Cat
7. Fabiola Got Edited Out Of The Critique For Some Reason
8. Jon’s Thin Support
9. George’s Found Family
10. Derek’s Tall, Grande, Venti
11. Lois’s Unhinged Bowls

Gaslight. Keepsake. Girlboss.

Once again there had been one or two casualties taken with the Kiln Gods once again proving to be an utterly ruthless pantheon and taking a child sacrifice by beheading both of Fabiola’s clay daughters

and unlike her bird last week, apparently they couldn’t be reattached through the power of glaze, gravity and prayer so she did have to serve up a pair of dancers who had well and truly been Marie Antoinette’d

but in her favour was the fact the box could still rock

it’s a fun design and I think ultimately that extra element of the movement really came in handy, as she and Fliss both found themselves in trouble this week with Fliss’s wave coming out with a stress crack that she couldn’t quite repair in the glazing process

I did still think her box was quite good and even with the few cracks is still a very impressive build, and the oxide she’d used for the dolphin gave it that sleek sheen that felt very appropriate

ultimately the well observed dolphin may have been her biggest error because without any other focal points, your eye did kind of feels drawn to the lid, which was meant to be disguised – so perhaps she could have channeled a bit more of Hokusai’s Great Wave and made it all a little bit shapier to juxtapose and distract a little bit

but given how much everyone who used the blue glazes struggled with it last week, I do think the depth and varied colours on her wave is very beautiful.

While Fabiola and Fliss both found themselves having to deal with damaged builds, Jon found that a supporting wall inside of his spaceship was blocking the space for his smaller box so he was having to go all Joan Crawford on it

there were a million jokes I could have made about Jon thrusting a rolling pin into a gaping hole and yet somehow the Mommie Dearest reference was the gayest.

Thankfully he was gentle enough with the rolling pin to break the wall and not the entire spaceship and the box which was just a sort of… non-specific alien artefact fit perfectly

as for the main build, it was very impressive give that it did still look pretty sharp and angular

I think my favourite part of it was the back though, there were a lot of fun little details on it

unfortunately a few of the finer details on the main body had been somewhat lost beneath his glazing which is a shame because they looked really cool

I did also love that amongst everyone else having quite personal, sentimental little items to put in their keepsake boxes, Jon had clearly panicked and just written down a few book titles on a piece of paper and shoved it in there

I would REALLY love to know what books he listed in there so I can ruthlessly judge his taste in sci-fi.

While Jon managed to keep his angularity, Derek’s television had suffered some warping when it came to the TV screen, with it bending the wrong way

but I still thought the whole thing was really cute, and there was just something a little bit Wallace and Gromit about the softness and slight lumpiness of the whole thing that I found particularly endearing

and I also really loved the small detail of the inside of the television being painted like the SMPTE colour bars

and Derek wasn’t the only one who was adding some extra details to the inside of their box, with Rebecca’s bed box coming with actual slats which was just a thoroughly smart and fun little detail to add and also meant the keepsake box was kept more secure

and the box was equally successful with the lid on, although she might want to invest in some fabric softener

and Keith got a little choked up over the very cute jack russell that was doing a big ol’ pancake stretch

and you would think that if Keith cried or the little dog, he might cry about some of the more poignant items and stories being told and yet Christophe talking about being fostered and the little teddy bear he’d kept since it was given to him as he entered the foster system was somehow met with completely dry eyes

The simple majesty of a well formed tea cup? Uncontrollable sobbing. Opening up about an unimaginably difficult thing to go through as a child? Well done mate, maybe a singular, stiff nod? I would be fascinated for Keith to do a Rorschach Test.

As for Christophe’s main build, the teddy bear was very successfully being devoured by a pitcher plant

I quite like the fun, slightly psychedelic interpretation of the pitcher plant’s colouration – the whole thing does however immediately make me think of those novelty urinals you get in some garden centres

which if anything is only praise given that pitcher plants are actively, on purpose designed to look like a toilet

I just wish the rats would learn to wash their hands. “Customised outhouse for local shrews” also what I call the local gay bar.

Having finished last in the Throwdown Challenge, Lois did have to come in swinging with her Foo (Bull)Dog and to be quite honest she hit a home run with this one

I genuinely think it’s one of the best things I’ve seen on this show, it’s just so cleverly designed and decorated – she managed to bring a lot of reference points together to create a very cute, complete looking piece

it’s one part Foo Dog, one part Staffordshire Dog, one part that Llama that stands outside the York wool shop on The Shambles that everyone insists on taking a photo with – it’s just damn good.

It was also a relief that Lois’s key mechanism worked and Caitlin’s was similarly successful with both Keith and Rich lavishing praise upon her backpack box and how good the texture and patterning had come out

the differentiation in intensity of the blue is what I like most, it gives the whole thing a real sense of wear and tear – so I suppose Caitlin can forgive the colour blue after last week? I had thought that if they criticised anything, they might ding her for the fact she gave it a glossy finish when it might have suited a matte effect more.

Helen was creating a nice contrast with hers but keep the wood effects parts of her haunted tea caddy matte, while giving the gubbins on the lid a glossy, WET finish

the fact the lid was so detailed, coming with a variety of shells, aquatic plants and the corpse of a royal guard was doing her a lot of favours because I’m not sure I’d call it a hidden lid

but it was at least a fun-shaped semi-hidden lid

and Helen was absolutely hoping to just skate by with this challenge as she wasn’t particularly familiar with slab building.

James had also opted for a matte finish to add to the realism of the trainers he’d sculpted

it’s not my favourite build, I’m not sure I find it the most interesting or attractive but as for the observation of the shapes and textures of the shoes, you can’t really fault him – he’s made the clay look as much like a pair of canvas trainers as you could possibly hope for and that’s part of the charm of this show – I doubt James would have ever thought to sit down to make a pair of clay shoes and yet there he stands having made the perfect pair of clay shoes. He’s the Manolo Blahnik of Gladstone.

Lastly we have George and his beehive

I don’t know if it’s the most original concept in the world, but he’s made it beautifully – the word texture is AMAZING, the weathering on the roof is great and the tiny little inner box was lovely. Then we were all left wondering what keepsake could George be hiding in his beehive – something from his childhood in Africa? Something from his time spent studying for or working as a doctor, perchance? Perhaps some of the beeswax from his first hive? NO! IT’S A MASS BEE GRAVE – one of them’s a bumblebee I am 100% certain he just found dead in the pottery on the day

George is absolutely going to insist on being buried in a mausoleum with all of his bees and it is going to confuse A LOT of anthropologists in about 2000 years.

A Keepsake Box Ranking
1. Lois’s Bulldog of Many Cultures
2. Caitlin’s Lucky Backpack
3. Rebecca’s Bedknobs and Good Pets
4. George’s Mass Bee Grave
5. Jon: IN SPAAAAAAAACE!
6. Christophe’s Rodent Urinal
7. James’s Golem Athletic Wear
9. Helen’s Haunted Tea Caddy
9. Derek’s Square Eyes
10. Do Not Wee On Dolphins
11. The Box That Rocked

In a complete turn of events from last week, Caitlin having been at risk of leaving had risen to the top with her bakcpack gettin get Potter of the Week

All aboard the Caitlin Hype Train!
On the other end of the spectrum were Fabiola and Fliss for their designs both being slightly damaged – and because they had taken the Throwdown Challenge into account for Potter of the Week, I did think Fabiola was going to go home as Fliss had managed a very good 4th place however it was a narrow escape and instead, Fliss was sent home

I will forever envy her hair, and you can follow her at FlissRowBotham on Instagram.

As a note, next week’s recap might be a day late as I have something on next Monday afternoon.

And so, we’re down to 10 potters!

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