Pottery Throwdown 2023, Episode 8: The Anti-Matisse

This is my Multiverse of Madness.

I’m a little coffee pot and ce n’est pas mon bec.

Abstract and Multiply

The quarterfinal is upon us and the potters were given their biggest challenge yet in order to prepare them for the insanity of Semifinal Bathroom Week – the challenge being a 7 piece coffee set consisting of a coffee pot, a cream jug, a sugar pot and a pair of cups and saucers. But these couldn’t be any old coffee sets, they had to be not-like-other-coffee-sets as the potters were further challenged to draw inspiration from abstract art in order to manipulate and radically alter their thrown forms

unfortunately nobody went quite as far as to render Siouxsie Sioux as a coffee pot and more’s the pity for it.
I would personally have gone the Magritte route and just done as ordinary a coffee pot as possible and merely etched “Ce n’est pas une cafetière” into it and repeated it across the set. Would I have been eliminated before I was even allowed to throw anything? Probably.

It was amazing to see quite how far some of the potters were pushing the limits of what a coffee pot could be, Caitlin certainly seemed to be going the biggest and looked a bit like she’d bought an elaborate kid’s toy from IKEA and was halfway through putting it together and thoroughly regretting the decision

her set was all about big voluminous shapes and permanently being at risk of third degree burns as your cowbell-shaped mugs precariously balanced in their wavy little saucers

even transporting them to the drying room proving to be perilous

I called them “little saucers” but Caitlin got to the point of making them and opined that she’d run out of clay despite the fact there was at least half of the clay George usually ended up having on his face by the end of a Throwdown Challenge

Lois was also going big and bulbous with her Gladstone Pottery inspired set, the mugs of which looked a little bit like if you weren’t paying enough attention you could easily mistake them for one of those dog’s chew toys that you fill with peanut butter

They’re perfect for coffee AND vaccinating Black-footed Ferrets.

Her abstract idea was certainly challenging because Keith couldn’t quite get to grips with what he was looking at

Keith looking at everyone’s moodboards this week did have the same energy as a parent trying to discern a picture that a 4 year old drew for you

that’s a lovely drawing of a…. bludgeoned grasshopper moving at lightspeed?

While Caitlin and Lois were both going big and bulbous, Jon was sticking them with the pointy end with a set that if you stuck googly eyes on them, they would probably look like pokemon

in fact, give me two minutes

Pay up Nintendo.

In order to create the perfect cones for his tripodic set, he’d brought in a supposedly very useful tool to help him make them as identical as possible

said tool did not prove to be as helpful as anticipated and was promptly abandoned for something a little simpler

not everyone can be Ian from Bake Off and his weekly homemade kitchen gadget that looked slightly like a medieval torture device for misbehaving children.

James and Helen were both going a little more minimal with their approaches to the abstractness of their sets, although I say “minimal” but Helen’s did look a bit like one of those clown ornaments that only the weirdest of great aunts collect

the problem she was facing was managing to push the shapes far enough to make them read as abstract and not just retro kitsch – and as it turns out, it’s very hard to waist train a ceramic jug

it’s not exactly giving me Violet Chachki

actually, I might have to eat my words

but while Helen performed keyhole surgery to remove the ribs of her milk jug like an unlicensed surgeon in Mexico (ALLEGEDLY)

James was embracing the abstract weirdness of ballroom dance

BBC4 is showing old Come Dancing episodes from the 70s at 7pm every Sunday and it’s the perfect pre-game for Pottery Throwdown.
The dancerly stylings of The Rush-hour Tag team from the Home Counties South aside, James’s coffee set was veering a little understated (in as far as abstract art goes)

albeit, the process of cutting the steps into each of his pieces did seem like a very difficult process, and time consuming as he was basically having to make 2 sets become one set


Bowled Out

For this week’s Throwdown Challenge the potters were having to make as many High-footed Rice Bowls as they could in only 15 minutes

and they were going to have to make them out of porcelain, which sounds like the most cursed substance known to man

Do not give Bake Off any ideas, we do not need to experience hand-sculpted ice cream cakes being made in the middle of July.

Aside from the fact Porcelain is apparently the texture of the least stable dairy products, the bigger issue facing the potters was the thin line between a high-footed rice bowl and a goblet – which at some point Jon just stopped caring about and began pioneering the rice goblet in vain

he had somehow managed to make 7 in the given time, but Keith did send 3 of them to their buckety deaths, leaving him at the bottom of the heap, only narrowly being beaten by Helen who valiantly tried to throw one of her porcelain bowls in 10 seconds and ending up with what I can only describe as a knuckly girth

but like a mother dotterel faking a broken wing to distract a predator from her chicks (sometimes I do real animal facts) the 10-seconds-or-your-money-back rice bowl at least drew Keith’s attention away from her other leggy bowls – until Rich decided to out the one she’d strategically moved to the back

Rich, you’re supposed to be the nice one!

Caitlin also tried the ol’ diversion technique, doing the lions job for them and separating her weakest bowl from the pack

not that it mattered, by this point Keith had had his full and was happy to let all of her bowls live another day which is very impressive given that she’d never touched porcelain before, as you can tell from this reaction

and so her job for the judging was mostly to just look absolutely aghast every time Keith threw someone’s bowls into the bucket

I mean, I too would look that terrified knowing that I was further biting into James’s Tyrannical Throwdown Chokehold – who having made 6 bowls lost two of them to The Bucket, while Siobhan barely flinched and contemplated how much porcelain might taste like ice cream

this landed him in third place, just behind Lois who had made 4 rice bowls and what appears to be a miniature toilet bowl

to be fair, the miniature toilet was made in under a minute and was very swiftly axed by Keith, who only accepts ridiculously large toilets decorated to look like you’re writing a sea turtle

Guys, it’s been long enough, you can do the toilet task again – we don’t mind.

A Porcelain Throwdown Ranking
1. Caitlin’s Porcelain Powerhouse
2. RIP The Teeny Tiny Porcelain Toilet
3. He Shall Take Bathroom Week With Fire and Blood
4. A Girthy Distraction
5. Rice Goblets™

Coffee Fi Fo Fum

Surveying the potential damage of the kiln was a little difficult this time considering things were coming out of the kiln looking like this on purpose

but it seemed like everyone got away with it this week – or at least for a little bit because as the glazing time went on, one of Caitlin’s kettlebell mugs began to slowly fall apart inside

it’s me, I’m the kettlebell mug.
And things were about to get a little bit worse for her, because despite her best efforts to leave a glazeless spot on her saucer to prevent her mugs from sticking to them during the glaze firing, the two fused together

and thus began the most painstaking excavation effort since they found Richard III in a car park

I wonder if they screamed as loudly when they found Ol’ King Ricky’s skull as I did when Caitlin’s mug came loose and fell over?
Unfortunately for Caitlin, despite the mugs working in their apparent defiance of gravity, they drew the line at defying the very concept of liquids and were a bit leaky

quick Caitlin, lie and tell them you always intended for them to be used like you were suckling from a piece of gym equipment!
The mandatory third degree burns be damned though, because Caitlin’s set was something of a bloody feat to have even stood up correctly

that teapot is so striking and the perfect centrepiece for the set which does look a bit like a Portuguese waterpark, and yet despite seeming like you could pull a muscle just lifting it, the whole set was surprisingly light.

James also went for the Mondrian approach of primary colours and gave himself the extra work of having to paint on hundreds of individual, figurative illustrations of what the pieces were like he was the anti-Matisse

I think it’s a fun idea, but it’s a job that you probably need a good 6 hours to do properly and to a standard that doesn’t look like you got bored while you were on hold to fix an issue with your Wi-Fi

the strength of the piece was more in the actual craftsmanship than the decoration, I really loved the fractured and slightly askew effect he’d given them and the coffee pot poured absolutely beautifully – much to Rich’s sheer delight

part of the success was because it was a pretty straightforward coffee pot and not an absolutely furious rubber chicken masquerading as one

I am kind of obsessed with Jon’s pot and the fact it doesn’t really pour so much as it just aggressively dribbles coffee out in every direction

much like Caitlin’s, despite the functionality issues, although Jon’s was slightly more of an egregious error given he’d purposefully designed a coffee pot that was lethal in every conceivable way

the set cut a very striking, ever so slightly ominous figure on the tray

and of course Rich was very appreciative of the engineering that went into the legs of the pieces.

Lois definitely managed to strike the best balance between functionality and style – with her pieces being just weird looking enough to not render them completely unusable

I LOVE that pot, which does look a bit like one of the Chicken Run models melted a little bit, but it’s so ergonomic and inviting

it genuinely looks more like blown glass than pottery with the way the handle works.
There were a lot of smaller details to appreciate about the whole set too – Rich particularly enjoying the Stratum of a Saucer diagram

and of course anything that bares a slight resemblance to Clarice Cliff’s work is going to go down well in Gladstone.

Lastly we have Helen, who certainly had the most to do in terms of decoration because she was painting with all of the colours of the wind

you certainly can’t fault her decoration – those mugs are incredibly charming, as is the lid of the pot but there is the issue with the fact the shapes don’t really meet the criteria of being radically altered, and a little part of me thinks she might have wanted to tap out before she had to make two whole sinks in about 5 hours next week and I can respect that – and it’s always nice when a potter can end things with a piece that they like a lot.

An Abstract Coffee Set Ranking
1. Lois’s Ergonomically Melted Chicken
2. Caitlin’s Leaky Kettlebells
3. James’s Doodle Board
4. Jon’s Spitting Made Rubber Chicken
5. Helen Just Had A Nice Time

You could feel that they really wanted to give the Potter of the Week to Caitlin purely for her ambition, and she would have received it had it not been for that pesky leak, so instead it went to Lois who was very deserving of it too

as for the elimination, it’s the first time James has ever been mentioned as being at risk along with Jon and Helen – ultimately it was goodbye to Helen and if you’re going to go out, you might as well go out with the other potters lavishing praise upon your wisdom before making your last words THIS

it’s certainly memorable! And if you want to follow Helen and her coffee-filled Ori[ARIADNE, DO IT NICELY]. And if you want to follow Helen on Instagram, you can find her at HelenBaxterCeramics.

And so, 4 potters head to the Semi-finals!

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One thought on “Pottery Throwdown 2023, Episode 8: The Anti-Matisse

  1. RP

    Hi there, nice blog! It always annoys me that there doesn’t seem to appear to be a collection anywhere on the internet of each of the potter of the week pieces that make it into the throwdown gallery. seems so logical to be able to remind myself of the best pieces and who did them of the year but it seems it doesn’t exist! Do you know of anywhere that corrals these?

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