Pottery Throwdown 2023, Episode 4: Wrist Action Sensei

May the Hat Gods be ever in your favour.

Derek is the main character this year and nobody can convince me otherwise.

Power Planters

It’s that time of year again…

Pottery Christmas comes around earlier and earlier every year.

For this year’s Raku Week the potters had to make a pair of hanging planters – the only requirements being that they had to feature finial decorations and some sort of mechanism for hanging – handles, lugs, wings, prayers – Caitlin was going particularly risky with her lugs that were each in the shape of a dragon’s head

I do believe the Kiln Gods are a draconically aligned pantheon though, so a smart choice nonetheless.

With birds having worked out pretty well for James last week after winning Potter of the Week for his macaws, he was riding the avian wave for as long as he could with his chicken shaped planters that I want to own IMMEDIATELY

the fact they’re hanging upside down does make them look a bit like they’ve been strung up in a butcher’s window, but maybe James needs that looming threat to keep his ungovernable chickens in check

Vive le poussin!

While James was riding high off a win, Fabiola had a little bit to prove having narrowly missed being eliminated in the last episodes and she was doing everything she could to stay in

Fabiola, no! Siobhan has no say in anything that happens outside of how much damage Derek’s eardrums get every episode

Fabiola was somewhat hoping to woo things into her favour with her Love Love Peace Peace Hanging Planters

someone forgot that the Kiln Gods are vengeful and chaotic, thriving off nothing but spite and destruction – did your decapitated clay daughters teach you NOTHING?
Keith and Rich had particular cause for concern about her heart-shaped finial and how she was going to make sure it remained attached but it was the other, clasped hand finial that gave Fabiola the most trouble, leaving her just about to give up on equality entirely

the anti-finial hate campaign starts now.

Fabiola wasn’t the only one who was giving Rich and Keith cause for concern, as Jon had chosen to make his life incredibly difficult by using Fibonacci as his inspiration for his spiralled planters

shout out to the guy in high school I knew who pronounced Fibonacci as “F-EYE-BON-A-KEY” once and we never let him forget it for 5 years – teenagers are terrible people.
The phoneticisation of Fibonacci wasn’t the issue, the issue was that by the very nature of invoking Fibonacci you were kind of promising perfection and Keith was making sure Jon knew that

if you really wanted to do spirals, Junji Ito was RIGHT THERE and then you could make it as weird and visually unappealing as possible and you’d be right on the money.

Lois and George found themselves in something of a sealife face off, both of them having personal connections to the ocean – Lois has her shell tattoo

and George has… the sort of anecdote you can only get on this show

I am absolutely choosing to believe that 6 year old George wrote “An octopus pot” on his Christmas list.
I did think it would mean that the actual pot was going to be the octopus with the tentacles being the lugs, however his narrative was that the entire cephalopod race was rising up against us, which to be honest is only fair at this point

and of course a vengeful consortium of cephalopods needs tentacles…

Siobhan was not a fan of George’s tentaclling

it is probably something you should keep behind closed doors.

As for Lois’s take on the ocean, she was going for the calm of the shallows with her shell-inspired shapes and “Matisse inspired seaweed” – see Jon, that’s how you do it! You use the abstract impressionists not the Italian Godfather of maths I don’t fully understand

the only real struggle Lois had on her hands was the buffering phase having raided the canteen of its soup spoons

the way she wields a hanging planter suggests otherwise

It was Lois in the drying room with a hanging planter!
Like most of the other potters, her wrist action stamina was flagging after several minutes of lovingly rubbing a really quite large object with the back a spoon like they were all trapped in a particularly weird Greek myth where the cautionary tale is that you shouldn’t milk someone else’s goat

“you can’t train for his” isn’t strictly true, you could build an octopus to improve your wrist fluidity

and of course there’s the teachings of Wrist Action Sensei, Derek

whoever edited the cut from Derek doing…. *that* to Lois looking mildly revolted deserves a BAFTA.

Speaking of Derek, he was taking us to outer space with his rocket-shaped planters

and getting caught with his finial out in the process

how is that George was rubbing out 8 tentacles and yet it was Derek walking into innuendo like Sideshow Bob walking into rakes?

I have to respect it.

Helen sadly hadn’t found a way to make this particular make about Australia and was instead keeping it very local, drawing inspiration from an oak tree that had split in half and hoping that she wasn’t tempting fate

she seemed much more confident this week, she herself having bought a raku kiln to try and out-raku her fellow villager because as we know, there’s only room for one in every town – You’ve heard of the Pottery Throwdown, get ready for the Pottery Royal Rumble.

Lastly we have Rebecca who was throwing it all back to the 80s with her brightly coloured pots that looked like the opening title card of a saturday morning cartoon

it was a bit of a pity this was naked raku-

The “naked” meaning no glazes, so they were having to rely on coloured slip to add some colour which turned out very muted in most instances (it may have just been a case of it not translating to camera as well) so some of the 80sness was a little lost in the end.

Necking It

It was a very special Throwdown Challenge this week, seeing the return of series 2 veteran, Freya Bramble-Carter – the fact she was eliminated during The Infamous Toilet Week sadly meaning we were not treated to any archive footage of the event, Turtle Toilet I think about you every day

I hope he’s happy.

Freya has become known for her fluted, frilly designs which really are quite incredible and sent the fear of God into the potters when the hessian was lifted to reveal their challenge

luckily all they were doing was having to design their own flourished rim and had been given a pre-thrown pot to attach it to, although Helen was still trying to get out of doing it

despite Helen’s foot-dragging enthusiasm for a flourish, Jon was unanimously voted The Least Flamboyant, imaginably because he had just talked at length about Fibonacci


flamboyancy is a dish served best served spitefully and with a cutting remark. The only problem with Jon’s dip into the turbulent waters of the Flamboyant Sea [WHY ARE YOU BOOING ME] the shape didn’t quite fulfill the 30cm requirement, but he wasn’t the only one because Caitlin’s flourish had suffered from a bad case of erectile dysfunction and had actually managed to achieve a negative height

I still really like it and think it looks pretty, but it wasn’t quite what the brief had asked for.
Caitlin’s vertically defunct vase still managed to beat Helen’s which was certainly the tallest and looked a little bit like one of those rafflesia flowers that smells like a dead corpse

but apparently parasitic flowering plants aren’t the Bramble-Carter brand but she is however really into fungus as James maintains his iron grip on the Throwdown Challenge by once again topping the leaderboard

Lois was in very close second with her tulip neck which I really liked the marking work on

and next to Lois’s George did look a bit like the evil twin that gets shut away in the attic and fed on nothing but fish heads and performs weird science experiments on unfortunate animals

while George got dinged for the inside of his flourish looking a bit like it had lost a fight to a bigger, meaner flourish; Fabiola got very highly praised for the smoothness on the inside of hers

I think what put her just a little short of George was that her actual shape didn’t have a lot of imagination to it, but you know, sometimes you’ve just got to scrape by.

Rebecca had a pretty awful time with the last Throwdown Challenge last week, with the hot water bottle proving to be her own Sisyphean nightmare and was out to prove herself with a very tall structure that Freya described as “like a goose neck”

is the goose was suffering from anaphylaxis? Perhaps she meant that it looked like it could break your arm. (I know that’s swans, but what are swans but geese with a sense of self-importance?) And for that little bit of extra flamboyance, Rebecca had finished the challenge with a bit of a flourish of her own

the hair swoop should have earned her at least third place.

And lastly we have Derek whose idea of a flourish was apparently none other than Hatsune Miku’s Dilbert

it’s genuinely uncanny

Freya commended him on “the throat of it all” and I apologise to everyone but I fear Kim Petras has ruined the word “throat” forever so we’re all going to have to learn how to spell oesophagus from now on.

An Official Flourish Ranking
1. James’s Iron Grip
2. Lois’s Decorative Tulip
3. The Tulip We Locked In The Attic
4. Easy Does it
5. A Goose With Allergies
6. Office-based Flamboyancy
7. Jon Can Be A Little Flamboyant As A Treat?
8. Caitlin’s Vertically Negated Flourish
9. Helen At Gunpoint

Out Of The Pottery And Into the Fire

The next step in the Raku process was covering the planters in a protective glaze and layering on paper stencils which would cause certain areas of the pots to go black – at least in theory. But of course the most exciting part was the fire and constant threat of anything deciding to combust at 1000 degrees – and in order to help Rose keep an eye on this lot, Technician Kevin was here

his job presumably being to hold Fabiola back because she posed the biggest hazard to Gladstone since its potential demolition in 1970

please do not dance next to the 950 degree kiln, thanks.
Her Planters had both survived their initial firing, but her further adventures in love and equality were testing her patience

You either die the hero, or live long enough to become the limb eating villain.
Eventually she went with a thicker, more cartoonish cut out… not that this would end up mattering as she went to talk her planters out of the kiln and the glaze just sloughed off of them like skin off a decomposing corpse

I mean… it’s interesting if nothing else?
And because the glaze had removed itself of its own volition, the pots just ended up being entirely black

and when you turn the heart one upside down it’s a little too unfortunately World War 2 to not notice

but to be fair, everyone’s planters looked at least a little bit like pieces of armour you can unlock in Elden Ring

I have no idea who this joke is for.

Fabiola wasn’t the only one having issues as Derek was just having a thoroughly Terrible No Good Very Bad Day in the pottery from the moment he lifted the hessian to survey his initial firing

one of the rocket ships had unfortunately lost a finial and he was trying to devour the evidence

Things did not get better for Derek when he got to the kiln with the Kiln Gods not being happy enough with peeling Fabiola’s planters like a banana, Derek’s entire kiln lost its ass and his planter looked like it was about to have its soul claimed by Hades himself

I’m beginning to think technician Kevin might be a traitor

and then to add insult to injury, the other finial decided to detach itself

Kevin had managed to engineer it so that the ropes he was hanging his planters from did so in such a way as to keep the finial attached to the pot which is the closest we’ll ever get to The Great Shibari Tiedown

they’ve also gone quite dark but the idea of having it so that the plants could potentially look like the engine’s flames showed a real thought for the design as a complete object, and I was surprised that Rich didn’t have a bromeliad hidden down his trousers to test out the planters.

Derek wasn’t the only one to lose a finial in the raku kilns as Caitlin spent so long worrying about whether or not the dragon lug heads (great band name) would stay attached or if anything Derek touched would come out in one piece

that she hadn’t given much thought to the finial which did actually detach

but much like Derek, she managed to tie it back on, the result being a very beautiful set of planters

Keith and Rich were both particularly taken with the effect of the 2d stenciled on body looking like it was underwater with the 3D heads looking as though they were poking out

the same effect hadn’t quite worked out for George’s octopus and squid, with some of the stencils just not taking quite enough

they’re still really cool designs, especially the darker blue one

I do enjoy that everyone else came up with fun, punny names for their creations and George just listed it as “Octopus/Squid Pot Hanging Baskets” and called it a day – cephaloPOTS was RIGHT THERE. OCTOPOT WAS RIGHT THERE.

George’s oceanic rival, Lois, also had a set of very successful planters so neither of them can truly claim Seapremacy over the other

I particularly liked the mottled marking on the one Rich was holding

it’s the sort of raku effect that makes the whole process so unique and interesting to me.
Keith and Rich did both raise concerns about how heavy they were, but they soon forgot about Lois’s planters’ heft because Helen’s looked like the sort of thing that gets pushed off the top of a turret to kill someone in a murder mystery

the oak leaf finials do have a little too much heft to them to read immediately as leaves – the actual body of the pots were lovely though, she must have had an untelevisably good wrist action to buff it to a sheen like that, and the ghostly oak leaves are a very effective design choice.

The biggest convert to the art of raku was definitely Rebecca who upon burning something at 1000 degrees couldn’t help but bunny hop around the courtyard

We’ve created a monster.
As for her pots, much like Helen they were a little heavy and maybe lacking definition in some areas but they were very shiny

I think the neon strings are doing a lot of heavy lifting for the 80s theme, but despite the two not being identical, she did a really good job of making them look like a cohesive pair, which was a big part of the challenge.

My favourite stenciling work may have been Jon’s Fibonacci spirals, especially on the paler pot which I think looked really great

it would have been my favourite piece of the evening had James’s chickens not been so damn charming

the sculpt on the actual chickens’ heads is really quite remarkable and the way the chevron design mimics the blacked stencil was also very clever. I am however extremely annoyed by the lack of clear footage of the chickens sitting in the kiln because I had a roast chicken joke ready and waiting to go. Give me the names of the camera operators, I’ll make heads roll.

An Unofficial Hanging Planter Ranking
1. James, The Throwdown Tyrant
2. Caitlin’s Dunkin’ Dragons
3. Jon’s Downward Spiral
4. The Inherent Eroticism of the Ocean
5. George’s Octopots
6. Rebecca’s 8 Teas
7. Helen’s Weapon of Choice
8. Derek’s Spaceships to Hell
9. Fabiola’s Collection of Warhelms

I did get the feeling they really wanted to give Potter of the Week to Caitlin but she was unfortunately scuppered by a finial and so for the second week in a row James dominates both the throwdown and the main make challenge

if he does it again, I do believe that constitutes a dictatorship and violates at least three of the Geneva Conventions.
As for the the elimination, it was down to Derek and Fabiola so Siobhan was being forced to kill one of her darlings and announcing that Fabiola was a goner

never have we eliminated the Emotional Support Potter this early… we’re on new chaotic ground here, anything could happen. In James we trust.
And you can follow Fabiola at FabsCeramics on Instagram.

And so, 8 potters remain:

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