Welcome to another episode of Breaking Derek.
The bird is indeed the word.
The Birds and The Potteries
Well, if this isn’t just my favourite challenge in a long time, as the Beswick Ducks are one of those kitsch pieces of interior decor that I absolutely covet – alongside Staffordshire Dogs and novelty rocking horses modelled after famous war generals
What’s wrong sweety? You’ve hardly played with your Lord Kitchener Centaur?
The Potters were of course having to make their own spin on the Beswick Ducks, of which Keith only had a singular example and I’m not sure there’s a sadder thing in this world than a solitary Beswick duck
They did also specify that it had to be inspired by somewhere they wanted to go on holiday – imaginably to limit the amount of people that would end up saying “I’m making some Great Tits” – I know how your minds work, pottery people. But where there’s a will, there’s an innuendo as George proudly told us he was making a trio of boobies
his inspiration coming from the fact his parents regularly leave him behind while they go away on nice holidays, a fate I am similarly used to. (I am contractually obligated to assure everyone that it is because I steadfastly refuse to go anywhere near a beach that could potentially be over 20 degrees.) And George was taking particular care to carve out the angular booby bones
and now I wish someone had just done a trio of KFC Chicken wings in various stages of eatenness. As for what I would have done, I would have made three, intricately carved ceramic Birdramon because I do think in general that more birds could do with having fangs
I was of course beaten to anime reference points by friend of the blog, Dan, who made a truly incredible set of evolutionary line pigeys from Pokemon
he and Adam do their own takes on the weekly challenges I thoroughly recommend keeping track of them at AdamCeramic and DanMakeyStuff. Adam made some Splendid Fairy Wrens
fairywrens come in a multitude of delightfully twee stylings including Lovey, Superb and the aforementioned Splendid.
George wasn’t the only one going for coastal birds, with Derek, despite being dressed like a canary
making a set of Herring Gulls, each one accompanied by a stolen piece of food in order to add a little bit of colour to an otherwise quite plain bird
I love the design and I think it’s a great way to add a little more personality to the piece, and in order to get him into the frame of mind of someone being terrorised on Whitby Beach by a chip-stealing menace – Siobhan was still playing the neverending game of terrifying Derek
there’s always one nice, mild-mannered man whose inhibitions she must destroy.
The last of our coastal birds was from Jon who was staying firmly in the UK to limit his carbon footprint and making a trio of carbon neutral Puffins, which I am very glad SOMEONE was
I thought that if any of the birds had an overlap it would be the, as Siobhan described them, Charlie Chaplins of the bird world, but with the specification calling for a holiday destination, it was a duo of tryptic macaws that were doing battle and really testing the limits of the artist’s ability to draw birds
those of course being Fabiola’s creatively named Blue-and-yellow Macaws, which she was inspired to make after realising how beautiful Colombia was having moved to the UK
as someone who moved to the UK from Zimbabwe – I get it, going from regularly seeing brightly coloured birds like louries, paradise flycatchers, woodhoopoes and sunbirds in your garden to the swathe of impenetrably brown garden birds takes some getting used to. But eventually you learn to see the beauty of the tits.
Fabiola was taking a bit of a different method with making her macaws, instead of carving them out of one lump of clay she was creating individual feathers that she was sticking on one by one, which did add an alarming realism to the limp body of the macaw that she was trying to get into the drying room
her macaw rival was James, who was making a trio of Scarlet macaws which are his daughter’s favourite birds
and the parrots weren’t stopping there, with Rebecca and Helen giving us a strong showing of Australian wildlife – sadly nobody was brave enough to risk it all on three running Cassowaries.
Helen, inspired by a year long trip to Australia was making a flock of Galahs – which do look a bit like your dad who refused to put on sunscreen while on holiday in the Algarve because he thought a hat would suffice
continuing the parrot theme, Rebecca, who lived in Australia for 5 years and therefore has stolen all of Helen’s Australian clout, was doing three Rainbow Lorikeets – the middle one of which was doing a comedic look to camera which really tickled me
it’s very Hanna Barbera.
Caitlin was going similarly colourful, with her three hummingbirds, the wing placements of each sort of working like a flick-book animation
the obvious problem here being the fact the beaks are notoriously thin, which would be too fragile to perfectly replicate out of clay so she was wanting to merely capture the essence of the beak – “Essence of the Beak” also being the name of Anton duBeke’s cologne.
In somewhat hummingbird-adjacency was Lois with her Japanese Common Kingfishers, or to give it its Japanese name Kawasemi (they are basically the same as the kingfishers we get here but Lois had to make it fit the holiday destination brief somehow and she didn’t think about making this a climate change PSA.)
and she did assure us that she loves kingfishers despite smothering one of them like someone trying to get the inheritance out of their 3rd husband
I don’t know how it could have happened officer, but he was always such a heavy sleeper.
Lastly we have Christophe who was the only person doing a bird of prey, his bird of choice being a Peregrine Falcon inspired by that time he went to Egypt and looked very handsome
look, I’m having to maximise the searchability of my blog because Twitter borked their algorithm and if “handsome French man” doesn’t get me hits NOTHING will.
Christophe was making things a little difficult for himself with his choice because they were quite large pieces, which he was hoping to balance and strengthen with an elaborately carved inner grid
all peregrine falcons actually have internal structure like a Belgian Waffle – isn’t nature incredible?
In Hot Water
For this week’s Throwdown Challenge, the potters were having to make a hot water bottle
which is basically the normal sibling of those circular water bottles Rich tried to pretend were an actual thing 2 years ago
I still refuse to believe it.
Key features of the hot water bottle included the much discussed and never-endingly funny “generous knob”
which involved Siobhan asking A LOT of probing questions
if I had £1 for every time someone’s asked me that, I’d be able to afford a house.
But when they weren’t fiddling with their clay knobs, they were having to throw the main cylindrical form which was mostly a battle against the fact the height of it got very wobbly, with Caitlin finding herself trapped in a lopsided showdown against her own creation
but in the end it came out pretty good for her, landing in third place, the only problem being that her knob needed a little more finger work. OK, maybe I didn’t need to objectify Christophe for the blog hits – “fingerworking the knob” is going to do the job.
Rich had called for a very specific 9mm depth to the base, which Lois was willing to call “near enough”
this being before she realised that Rich, like some sort of mafia hitman, carries around a piano wire in his pocket and was going to be bisecting each of their hot water bottles one by one
completely rocking Lois’s world in the process
it was still near enough to land her 5th place, just behind Christophe and his slightly small knob
George’s knob got a much warmer reception from Keith and Rich (Jesus Christ, this write up is a nightmare)
and yet somehow despite all of this talk of generous knobs, the funniest thing anyone said was Rich describing Derek’s water bottle as having “an unfulfilled height destiny”
I for one respect a Short King.
Rebecca struggled the most with the build and by the end of it was genuinely upset and frustrated with the whole experience but I for one absolutely loved her Minion death mask *sad banana*
and this really showcased what makes Pottery Throwdown so special, other than everyone gathering around to support Rebecca and looking like an Artemisia Gentileschi painting
but Keith and Rich’s critique of it was very kind, they mentioned the mistakes but quickly moved on from them to praise the shoulder form even though Rebecca was in last place
only being narrowly beaten by Fabiola who had made a hot water bottle that basically looked like the younger brother of the moon robot from A Grand Day Out that still terrifies me to this day
it is however much more adorable, and I have imprinted upon on it and have declared myself its mother.
On the other end of the spectrum were Jon and James who had whipped up a pair of perfect water bottles, pictured respectively
the iron grip that James has on Throwdown Challenges is really quite remarkable as he takes his third win.
An Official Hot Water Bottle Ranking
1. James’s Throwdown Domination
2. Jon Can Win As A Treat?
3. Caitlin’s Wobbly Partner
4. Christophe’s Knob Envy
5. Lois’s Mafia Victim
6. George’s Lovely Knobs, Beautiful Knobs
7. Helen’s Knobbly Beehive
8. Derek’s Unfulfilled Height Destiny
9. My Little Hot Water Bottle Son
10. Rebecca’s Deathly Minions Meme
For the first time in the competition, Fabiola’s main make came out of the kiln completely unscathed
there are a few proportional issues with their bodies that make them all look a little bit too similar in size, but the actual detail work on the wings is pretty great and she certainly managed to capture the vibrancy of the macaws.
While the Kiln Gods took mercy on Fabiola, Christophe wasn’t quite so lucky, with one of his falcons losing its foot during its firing
but one bird’s amputated foot, is another bird’s crown
and for a while it did look like the foot wouldn’t be the only thing that was broken because Christophe trying to hang his one falcon up was the most anxiety inducing thing Lois has ever experienced
eventually the bird did have to resign itself to hanging horizontally
much like Fabiola, his birds were also a little on the large side, not that he’d used that much extra clay, it was just the flattened, diving pose he’d put them in that spread them out
and like a house cat paying its penance, he had even brought them in a bonus dead mouse
and Christophe wasn’t the only person going with a bird mid-catch as Lois’s Kingfishers also featured a soon to be devoured fish
the painterly application of the glaze that makes them look like a watercolour painting was really pretty
I was worried they might look a little washed out given how watery her glaze looked but the effect really suits them, and they were probably must second favourite set after George’s boobies – the glazing of which was just perfection
although I did find it VERY funny that my mum said “the feet just look like blue balls”
the thought of a “blue-balled booby” made my brain short-circuit.
Keith had issues with the fact the boobies were too big and sculptural when the brief called for something a little flatter, so that’s Keith uninvited from the annual Team Booby meeting
this screenshot is The Birth of Venus now, sorry Botticelli.
Carrying on with the fish-eating coastal birds, Jon’s puffins were lovely, they were such a good choice for this challenge – the shape is relatively simple, you don’t have to worry too much about adding textural details and you get to add that fun pop of colour with the beaks
and you can’t not love a puffin, they’re basically tiny little bird hobbits.
The last of the coastal birds were of course Derek’s snack robbing herring gulls which also came out really well – the shape gets a little lost on the smallest one which begins to look like a little banana-adjacent but I LOVE the largest one
but they’re silly, they’re fun, they’re cute – I could see them hanging on the walls of just about every B&B in Whitby, except for the Whitby Goth Weekend when they get replaced by three vampire bats.
Departing from the carbon-neutral puffins and herring gulls, we’re jetting off to the sunnier climes of Australia, where we do have to face the impenetrably accusatory stare of a mother lorikeet
she knows what you did last summer, and she knows what you’ll do next summer too!
With Rainbow lorikeets looking like an entire pride parade in bird form, even more so than most parrots do, there was a strong chance that Rebecca could over do the colours
however, I think she managed it very well by, like Lois, going with a slightly more watercolour-esque approach to the glazes
I LOVE that top one – the proportions of the middle one feel a little off, or at least it looks a bit like the local magpie that’s had one too many run-ins with the local cats and no longer has a tail, but Rebecca had nonetheless done a good job of redeeming herself of any potential hot water bottle penalty.
Helen’s Galahs also went down very well with the judges
I love the heads, I think she captured the crests and their slightly unhinged personality really well – the tails felt a little bit stiff and almost fish-like which does make them look a bit like one of the children of the appropriately named mother of monsters: Echidna. Somehow the ancient Greeks didn’t invent an animal for Perseus to slay that was half bird and half fish, so congratulations Helen, you outdid Apollodorus.
Caitlin was incredibly caught up in wanting to capture the iridescence that hummingbirds are immediately associated with and an effect I think is extremely hard to capture with just glazes and not oxides but she did her best and sure the birds were a little too lime-y but the illusion of painting only a part of the beak in black worked really well when they were hung up
they’re still very cute and I could certainly see them hanging up in the right house.
Lastly we have James and his truly stellar macaws
there’s not a great deal to say other than the fact they’re pretty damn perfect and I do hope he gives them to his daughter because if I were her, I’d love these but unfortunately my favourite bird is the hoatzin
apparently they smell vile, but I love them because they look like a chicken that dared to dream and I admire the hutzpah of that.
A Three Bird Pile Up Ranking
1. George’s Architectural Boobies
2. Jon’s Carbon-neutral Puffins
3. Lois’s Kingfisher
4. The Scarlet Macaw by Nathaniel Macaw-thorne
5. Derek’s Chip Robbing Gang
6. Rebecca’s Airborne Pride Parade
7. Caitlin’s Hummingbird Illusion
8. Helen’s Mythical Hybrids
9. Fabiola’s Intact Macaws
10. Christophe’s Disoriented Falcon Divebomb
It was a tough one to call for Potter of the Week because I think a lot of them did extremely well – I was personally extremely charmed by the boobies but ultimately the judges decided to declare James’s domination of the week complete
as for the elimination, it was a close call between Fabiola and Chris but because of the issues with the hanging and the breakage, it just wasn’t Christophe’s week and he was unfortunately eliminated
the anti-peregrine rhetoric starts NOW.
You can of course keep track of what Christophe makes next over on Instagram at Christophe_Ceramics!
And so, we only have 9 potters left
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