Pottery Throwdown 2023, Episode 9: A One Woman Rube Goldberg Machine

I just needed a slightly clickbait-y title image.

Long live the Tile King.

That Sinking Feeling

For this year’s bathroom week the potters had to create a pair of (fraternal) Twin Sinks and a set of 10 tiles with Keith specifically requesting the designs be “elegant, timeless and unique” because we would never make weird bathroom novelties on this show

and the pressure was on them in regards to the tiles because Rich is after all the Tile King[citation needed], he’s going to have to fight the Tile King and his husband the Kitchen King in Sunderland if he wants to really secure the title though

but at least Rich is a merciful Tile King and gave each of the potters a tile harp in order to help them cut their tiles evenly

I am genuinely surprised that Jon didn’t walk into the pottery with one that he’d 3D printed beforehand, but he did have a 3D printed roller stamp in order to imprint his tiles

he was taking inspiration for his pieces from some ancient pottery he’d seen in Cyprus and going for a particularly intricate pattern on his tiles

in order to create their tiles, the potters were all doing the slip inlay method of filling their imprinted pattern with coloured slip and scraping it off to leave a clean, flat surface with the pattern remaining coloured – in theory at least, Jon’s wasn’t going the cleanest with his pattern smudging and being a little over scraped

I mean, just say it’s meant to look like pottery from the 11th century BC, I’m sure they didn’t mind a bit of a smudging back then – but Siobhan was quick to take his scraping tools away from him like she was clipping the nails of a dermatillomaniac

if you don’t stop we’ll put you in the mittens again, Jon.

One of the big potential issues with the slip inlaying was the fact that with adding the slip the potters were adding more and more moisture to their tiles – nobody more so than James who was icing his tiles like an 8 year old icing a traybake for their school bake sale

and because by this point Lois has obviously clocked James as her biggest competition, she was keeping an eagle eye on him

it’s the power of a really good red lipstick, you’ll put it on and you will become the sharp-tongued gossip of every ITV period drama

But watch out, because you will die from Victorian Novel Disease in series 2.

As for why James was layering his slip so heavily, he was hoping to produce a mottled effect in the green and blue colours frequently seen in Moorish pottery, which he was pairing with a pair of (very high) tulip-esque sinks

and while James was creating his bottomless sinks, Lois was going for a much smaller offering, which Siobhan was at least appreciative of

*hides my hands that push the limits of one size fits all gloves*

Lois’s theme for her sinks and tiles was Mindfulness with both her sinks and tiles being decorated with her signature, very illustrative designs

she was a bit worried about the fact she was only using one colour for her tiles, but I think with Keith asking them to go with timeless and elegant looks, you can’t go wrong with blue and white – Lord knows it’s worked for Delft, Wedgewood and all of China for God knows how long.

For her inspiration, Caitlin was drawing from her time spent in New Zealand – decorating her sinks and tiles with volcanoes and abalone shells and sadly not a single ceramic kiwi

unfortunately she had a bit of trouble with her stamps not leaving deep enough impressions in her tiles

so tidying them up to make sure she could inlay them with enough slip did eat into her time and she was very begrudgingly applying said slip

meanwhile Jon had the time to put on his very on production of Rear Window starring his sink

“these are just a few of my neighbours…”

There’s Always a Silver Tube Lining

This week’s Throwdown Challenge was a Spot Test, with Siobhan unveiling an intricately and lavishly decorated set of Moorcroft pottery

and the moment she locked eyes on it, Caitlin began pondering if she’s need more or less gunpowder than Guy Fawkes to blow Gladstone to the moon

and it was quite the challenge with the potters having to tube line a pre-drawn on pattern, draw their own fruity pattern and paint one of the ginger jar lids in the traditional Moorcroft style – all of which had to be done in only one hour – the first 10 minutes of which had to be spent discussing snail poo

Moorcroft hands over 4 of their £930 ginger jars and you all liken the process of making it to defecating gastropods – THEY’RE NEVER COMING BACK NOW!

It wasn’t much of a surprise that Lois excelled in the self-drawn portion of the challenge with her strawberries

and her line work and painting of the ginger jar were pretty strong too, meaning she topped the leaderboard this week.
The others didn’t do too badly though – Siobhan was at least able to guess that James’s were grapes

and Caitlin’s was a pomegranate

then she got to Jon’s attempt at fruity portraiture and absolutely lost her mind because his extremely sincere practice sketch of a pineapple looked like a growling carrot

the final product did look more pineapple-y though and the texture of it did lend itself nicely to the snotting caterpillar tube lining

whereas James’s decision to do grapes felt a little bit too safe and he didn’t really bother to do the mopping technique to paint the lid, instead just opting to paint it regularly

Narrator’s voice: They knew.

You weren’t going to get anything past someone who had been doing this for 37 years, mate.

An Official Moorcroft Attempt Ranking
1. Our New Throwdown Tyrant
2. Our Resident Snail Poo Expert
3. The Growling Carrot (Jon McThrowdown, 2022. Snail Poo on Clay.)
4. A Misunderstanding of Blind Judging

Who’d Have Sunk It?

With their sinks and tiles being fired, it was time to get on with decorating them and nobody had more work to do than Caitlin who as well as having to decorate her sink, was having to salvage some of her tiles with underglazing, so she spent a good deal of the challenge glazing like a one woman Rube Goldberg machine

but the tiles were the least of her concerns, as one of her sinks had a slight crack that flummoxed even the Tile King[citation pending] himself

and unfortunately it only got bigger in the second firing, so her one sink was a little bit leaky

as were Keith’s eyes

but the other sink worked fine and both of them were decorated really well

I particularly liked the copper oxide on the abalone shells she’d stuck to the side of them – she got a perfect sheen on them

it’s a pity abalone shells aren’t a more defined and recognisable shape, because they do also look a little bit like a colony of some sort of shield bug has laid claim to your bathroom which is slightly unnerving.
As for the tiles, that part of the challenge did just get away from Caitlin so they were a little bit messy and for some reason whenever they showed this one, my immediate thought was Ed, Edd ‘n’ Eddy

it just has a very early 2000s Cartoon Network vibes about it.

In order to avert another growling carrot situation, Jon had digitally pre-rendered his planned pattern

I have to admire the ambition, especially with only about 2 hours to dedicate to each sink BUT, at least by some miracle, Jon’s tiles had come out absolutely perfectly – we’ll just ignore the one patch of yellow missing on the right

but while his tiles said “ancient Mycenaean temple of great religious importance”, the sinks were a little bit more “absently doodling while you’re meant to be learning how to do long division” (ironic because I think Jon can do long division in his sleep) but he just hadn’t managed to get the crisp, even lines he wanted

I do still think they have a certain charm about them, and I loved the concentric circles around the plughole

and he’d made his sinks feel that little bit more unique by going for a crenelated rim which helped him keep the patter that little more even

and it never hurts to have a bespoke rim.

James was going for a much looser decoration on his sink, giving them each a wash of copper and cobalt oxides, to give a drippy effect that looked a bit like the girl you bump into on a night out who’s having a little drunken cry in the toilets

it’s me, I’m the girl you bump into on a night out who’s having a little drunken cry in the toilets.

Having one blue and one green sink did mean that they perfectly matched his mottled tiles, which weren’t quite up to the exacting standards of Rich

but the sinks were stunning, I prefer the green one over all because I think the wash turned out a little bit better

but the patterning he’d done inside the blue one was really, really well done

that double exposure effect is cooler than anything I expected to see on a set that does at first look a bit like the good china that your gran only brings out for special occasions, of which your birthday is never one of them but you better believe Princess Diana’s birthday is.

One of Lois’s sinks also came out of the initial firing with a crack so hers did leak – but so did everyone else’s (it was not a strong episode for functionality)

there is a sort of almost Tarot card look to Lois’s style and I could see you having to wash your hands in these before having a palm reading – and yes, if you choose the sun or the moon sink does say A LOT about you as a person

The only issue that the judges had was that they might have been a little bit on the small side but they did really like the shape, and I do think Lois’s were probably the most practically shaped – everyone else’s felt a little bit deep and like they might be better mixing bowls than basins.

An unofficial Twin Sink and Tile Ranking
1. Please Wash Your Fate Line Before Reading
2. Moor-ish Tiles
3. A Threat To The Tile King
4. The Lonely Abalone

With everyone having leaky sinks it came down to a matter of decoration and given that Lois really excelled there, it wasn’t much of a surprise that she got Potter of the Week and was momentarily overcome by a bit of The Keiths having realised she’d made it to the final

as for who would fall just short of the final, Jon and Caitlin seemed very aware that it was between the two of them

luckily they weren’t going to have to fight, because I’m not sure we could entirely rule out the possibility of Jon having 3D printed his own personal version of Sir Killalot from Robot Wars. But ultimately he didn’t have to worry too much, as it was Caitlin who finished in a very respectable 4th place

she’s been great fun on the show and considering she nearly got eliminated in the first episode, I’m glad she got to go this far! And if you want to follow her on Instagram, she’s PotsFromScots.

And so, we have our three finalists!

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