I think by now you might have figured out that I like ceramics. You might also have figured out that I like (the idea of) watching reality shows about art and makers, but am usually disappointed in them. Well, thank you Laurie Jane Kern for hooking me up with a way to watch the BEST art related reality show I’ve even seen!
The Great Pottery Throw Down is a British show that follows a format like the Great British Bake Off, but features potters who show their talents each week in a variety of ceramic techniques. What makes this different than most of the American reality shows is that they don’t focus on creating personal drama among the contestants. The focus really is on how well the participants throw, build, and glaze their pottery.
It was a great mix of contestants from a wide variety of backgrounds and each week they had one big project focusing on a specific technique (throw 5 identical vases for raku firing, handbuild a 5ft garden sculpture, make a slip cast bone china chandelier) and two smaller projects that helped the audience learn about historical (and modern) techniques. These would be things like throwing as many cups off the hump as you can in 15 minutes, create nine tiles using surface textures, or throw a sphere on the wheel. Each week one of these was a blind judging and one was a speed trial.
Don’t know anything about ceramics or have any idea what things like “throw off the hump” mean? THEY EXPLAIN THEM TO YOU! They talk about the different techniques, what they are used for, and even give you snippets of the English history of ceramics. IT WAS AMAZING! If you get the chance, you should watch the series. I wish that we would have more of these types of shows here. The only crying was because the one judge, Keith Brymer Jones, would be so moved by the work that the contestants did, not because one called the other a name or some other such contrived drama, or sleep deprivation, or whatever they do to rile contestants up on shows like Work of Art or Steampunk’d. It was a fantastic look into how 10 different artists approach different facets of ceramic technique.