With Jodie winning the final challenge to be crowned the overall winner, we must also applaud the runners up, Adam and Peter. All three potters performed magnificently and the resulting Art Deco-inspired punch bowl sets were stunning. All very different, all very much exhibiting the character of their makers – it must have been a tough decision for the judges.
For the last time this year, here are the thoughts of the final three potters…
When did you start pottery, and who inspired you?
Jodie: I started pottery two years ago at the age of 33. I had seen the Great Pottery Throw Down on television and knew straight away that I would enjoy working with clay. I have always been creative, and I like to get my hands dirty, so I thought it was just up my street, although living in the Valleys meant that there weren’t any classes to attend. This was until I saw an advert for a new pottery class in Cardiff. I took a six-week course and then bought my first pottery wheel. I reclaimed everything I made in that first year of practice while I saved up for a kiln and built a shed to put it in! Then I had to learn how to fire and glaze my work. It has been two years of intense learning and firing disasters, but I wouldn’t change a thing because I have learnt so much.
Adam: I have always held clay close to my heart. I first made a pot in Year 3 when my friend’s mum brought a wheel into school, and we all threw a pot. I would have been eight or nine, so calling it a pot might be a bit of an exaggeration. Something about clay really resonated with me, and from that point onwards, I would always ask for a bag of clay for Christmas. I had no way of firing or keeping the things that I would make, but I just loved the process of creating something with my two hands.
Peter: I had an interest in pottery from a young child and was encouraged to develop my interest at school. However, life took over, and I did not return to pottery until my mid-forties. The work of Mo Jupp and Paul Astbury were my biggest inspiration when I returned to pottery, as their sculptures are inspirational.
Where do you do your pottery?
J: I make all my pottery in my shed at the end of my garden. It took me and my dad four long winter months to make my purpose-built pottery shed. It is small but perfect. It is my safe haven that allows me to make everything that my heart could ever desire.
A: If I’m doing clay work, I’ll do it in the lounge while watching tv with Dan and our pug Egg. And that’s absolutely the same for screen-printing, drawing, painting or candlemaking, to name a few. We make the house work around the craft, not the craft around the house… which means every room is a studio! My kiln was £100 from eBay and just plugs in in the kitchen; it’s not fancy and doesn’t have a controller, so I just turn it on and then when it looks hot enough, I turn it off. I generally have only ever done unglazed work before auditioning for GPTD. Firing the kiln inside the house will involve opening every window, and glaze firings smell soooooo bad!
P: I have a studio/workshop at home where I create pots by throwing and hand-building.
Did you enjoy being in the midst of pottery country in Stoke and filming at the Gladstone Pottery Museum?
J: I found it a little intimidating when I was driving past all the signs for the different potteries on my way to Stoke-on-Trent. It was like I had entered a pottery realm. I thought that pottery is in the blood of the people who walk the streets of Stoke. It is their history and family heritage. I have a similar feeling about the South Wales Valleys. I appreciate the hard graft that the people of the Valleys put in to help the British Industrial Revolution through coal mining. I had a similar feeling in Stoke, whereby the history of the city lives on through the people’s love of pottery. This feeling inspired me to graft hard and hopefully produce work that I could be proud of.
A: Being in Stoke and doing pottery in Gladstone pottery was an amazing thing. Stoke feels like the centre of the British pottery universe, and so it was the perfect place to be. You could feel the history and the importance of clay in every brick and every inch of Gladstone. I think it would have been impossible not to have been inspired by the place.
P: I loved the whole experience of being at Gladstone. The atmosphere was fantastic, surrounded by all that history, and the bottle kilns were so inspiring. Filming on the cobbles made me feel so much in touch with the past and how it was for the potters of the days when it was a working pottery.
Was it liberating to be filming this series?
J: I kept pinching myself at the start of filming. I couldn’t believe that Love Productions had seen something in me that they thought was worth filming. I kept thinking it was a complete fluke that I was there, but I kept telling myself that if others see talent in me, then maybe I should start to see it too.
A: This series felt new and different from the ones I have watched on the TV, because we were all together all the time. We went from isolation into a world where there were 12 like-minded people; each of our pottery dreams were coming true at the same time in a froth of creativity. It was a truly liberating experience that I often described as stepping into Narnia, where our imaginations were free of limitations, and we could create, learn and discover new things together. To even apply for the Pottery Throw Down is a liberating experience in itself, as it asks you to look in at yourself, to describe and challenge your creativity in ways that you wouldn’t normally do. I completely recommend anyone to apply! Even if you doubt yourself, you can’t throw as well as you’d want, or hand build. Something inside you will ignite, and you will learn fast. The process forced me to practice and push myself harder than I ever would have otherwise.
P: This was the most amazing, a once in a lifetime experience.
What was it like, walking in on the first day?
J: Walking in on the first day, I was a complete bag of nerves. I never once worried about being filmed, or messing up while being filmed. I was always worried about the final product and whether it was worthy of being on The Great Pottery Throw Down. It was a complete honour to walk on those cobbled stones. I am so thankful to be given the opportunity and was so willing to give it my all.
A: Walking into the pottery actually was me walking into a dream! One that I absolutely didn’t think would come true! I only applied on a whim and because applying would push me to practice more. It was so surreal and wonderful, and I wish everyone could experience it. I am always the person who takes the photo rather than being in the picture, as I usually shy away from cameras and the spotlight. My friends were absolutely astonished with disbelief when they found out I was on the show, as I will always choose to be the sidekick rather than the lead man. My absolute nightmare is when everyone looks at you and sings Happy Birthday!! So I was really nervous about being seen and on camera! I think that because I hold Keith, Rich and Siobhán in such high regard, my nerves about the briefs, the throwing and then my work being judged by Keith and Rich surpassed my fear of the cameras. In some way, the cameras and people behind the cameras became a welcome distraction from my nerves.
P: I was both apprehensive and excited at the same time. I was in awe of the setup and the number of people needed.
Pottery is usually a relaxing hobby and a lengthy process, so what was it like to be working under quite strict time constraints that first week?
J: That first week in the pottery studio felt like a race! Things that I would normally take an hour to do were done in two minutes flat. It didn’t help that I was a complete bag of nerves and couldn’t stop shaking. In a strange way, though, I enjoyed the pressure.
A: One of the most attractive things about clay is that it asks you to slow down and work in harmony with it. Clay dries slowly, and each part of the process in making a clay creation asks you to wait, think, and be gentle and considered. When you’re in the Pottery Throw Down studio, you feel like you are on ALL the rollercoasters at a theme park at the same time; you have no time to wait for the clay!! Everything needs to be done faster, like making a cup of tea in five seconds and drinking it straight away in a single gulp! You have to make every stage and every process faster and fill it with energy; the faster you can be, the fewer stages you need to trim down. I absolutely loved the pressure, the thrill and the excitement, which blended into something that felt like terror and bliss at the same time, really addictive and a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. To my surprise, in the first week, the pressure and the adrenaline seemed to be the perfect mix to make me throw better and faster than I am used to. It was thrilling, and in that first week, I learned so very much about myself and my abilities – which was exactly why I applied for the show.
P: The first week was quite stressful; there were a lot of items to make in a short timeframe. The measurements had to be accurate for the cheese dome base and lid to fit together correctly, as well as the lids on the pickle jars. I am used to working at a more leisurely pace but found that I actually enjoyed working with the pressure of a tight timeframe.
Which judge did you want to impress the most?
J: I wanted to impress both judges because they were the ones who decided whether I got the opportunity to make more pots. Siobhán was a diamond. She brought humour to the pottery, which was much needed when the stress took over. I felt bad at times, though, because I was so focused it must have been like speaking to a brick wall! I could tell straight away that Siobhán was supporting the potters all the way. She really cared about how we were feeling, and she didn’t like seeing us get stressed.
A: Keith and Rich are both very traditional potters. I knew coming in that Keith would often praise technicalities over creativity. You would get a good grilling and be held up to a high standard by Keith and Rich, and then in Siobhán, there would be a champion with a huge heart and cheeky wink. I absolutely LOVED Siobhán and think that she will be the wonderful glaze on top of the Throw Down this year!
P: I really wanted to impress Keith. He is an amazing potter with a wealth of experience. Siobhán was amazing; such a sunny personality. She cheered us on if anyone was down and celebrated everyone’s successes with them.
Do you think your friends were surprised to see you on television?
J: They were very shocked to see me on television. I have always been known as a quiet person growing up.
A: I think everyone I know will be astonished and amazed that I am on TV. I am not usually keen on having my photo taken and hate the sound of my own voice, so I can’t wait to see how they react. I don’t think anyone would have thought that I would apply.
P: A lot of friends and acquaintances will be surprised, and I am sure I will have a few ‘blasts from the past’ contact me.
Was it hard to keep it secret?
J: If I’m honest, it wasn’t hard to keep it a secret. I think this is partly due to the fact that I have to be very discreet in my role as a nurse, so I am used to keeping things confidential. Lockdown made things easy, too, because we were all stuck indoors. I didn’t have to skip my triathlon club meetups because they were all cancelled anyway.
A: Obviously, I wanted to stand in the street and shout it from the rooftops, but I was very excited to do that when it was announced.
P: It has been okay keeping the secret. I told people that I was away for work, and they accepted that explanation readily. I did have to watch what I said on the odd occasion, but managed to pull myself back before there was a need to explain. I think the neighbours thought I left my wife, though!
Which is your favourite build technique?
J: My favourite technique is throwing. I didn’t excel in throwing when I went to my first class. It took me a whole week to learn how to centre the smallest lump of clay. But I loved the process so much. My stubborn streak and determination certainly paid off as soon enough I could throw a basic cylinder. This gave me the confidence to invest in my own wheel, and I have spent all of my spare time sat behind it ever since. Some days I get frustrated because I fail to throw a shape that seems to come so easy to others, but I will sit behind the wheel until the job is done, even if it takes me into the early hours.
A: I LOVE hand-building ceramics and have always wanted to do bigger and better makes but never had the courage, the money or the knowledge. Hand building is just you and the clay; you can do it for just the cost of the clay, which can be as little as £4 for 12kg; that’s lots of clay for the price of a coffee! Then it’s you, the clay and your imagination, and the possibilities are endless. You just need to practice, and really you can make anything! People were hand-building clay long before they were throwing it on a wheel, and I love to feel that connection to something rooted in pre-history. In 2019 I bought a kick-wheel (which is a foot-powered, non-electric pottery wheel), and I have been falling more and more in love with thrown pottery ever since. I am a self-taught thrower, and for the first few weeks, I was throwing in the wrong direction, which pretty much sums me up as a potter.
P: My favourite technique is throwing and then altering the form by hand-building into it. I love this technique because it gives me the opportunity to be creative with immediacy.
What is the best piece of pottery you’ve made, and are there any memories attached to it?
J: I made a Welsh lady sculpture. I threw the main body on the wheel and sculpted the shawl and hat. I then decorated her to look like Wonder Woman from the comic books. As a young girl, I was always so proud to dress up in my Welsh Lady costume for St. David’s Day. It is a tradition passed down through the ages and one that all the women in my family have experienced. There are many legends surrounding the history of the Welsh dress, but one that resonated with me is the tale of Jemima Nicholas. At the end of the 18th century, French soldiers would attempt to invade Britain via the isolated coves of West Wales. During one such invasion, Jemima tricked the French troops into surrender by telling local women to adorn their Welsh costume with tall hats and red cloaks, to look like British soldiers. The ladies were placed at the rear of the British army and were considered by the French to be regular troops, thus contributing to their surrender. I always loved the story about this brave Welsh lady who became a hero, so I decided to make a lasting ceramic tribute to her.
A: My favourite pieces of ceramics that I have ever made were ones that I made when I was in a wheelchair. I was in a bubble where my only tasks were getting better and making the clay creation in front of me; one would help the other. This is why I believe to this day that creating things in clay is a skill for mindfulness that everyone should get to experience. The pieces that I would create then were more fragile than anything I can create now and have not survived over the years. They are my favourite things because they were me reminding myself that ‘you can do anything if you put your mind to it’, and that with hard work and determination, you can even surprise yourself. My work then was very symbolic of the mindset that I needed to learn to walk again and recover my memory and sense of who I am. In many ways, clay saved me.
P: To date, my best pottery would be a tableware set that I made for a friend’s wedding gift. It was designed following an oriental theme and was extremely tactile to hold with different shapes and contours. However, I am still working on finding my absolute best piece; I do not think I have made it yet.
What is your favourite thing to make for friends and family, and do you get any special requests around Christmas or birthdays?
J: The great thing about pottery is that you can make anything! But my family are very traditional in that they enjoy a humble mug. My favourite project was when I collaborated with my four-year-old niece, the Christmas before last. I made the mugs, and she wrote the names on each individual mug. We gave out the gifts together on Christmas Day, and everyone opened the present at the same time. It was a really special memory, and my family were thrilled with their gifts.
A: Since being in a wheelchair, I have always made a thing I call a ‘squibbely wibbely’ and a thing I call a ‘crunckle’. Both are coral inspired pinch pots that I perforate or add to with a pencil. You can put a tea-light candle under them, and they create a magical glow through the body of the clay and through the holes. They have taken many forms over the years, and lately, I have been combining lampworked glass with the ceramic, the ceramic being the crunckle and the glass being the squibbely wibbely. I can’t ever make the exact same thing twice, and I would never want to because that’s what machines can do, and I think the true joy of clay craft is in the handmade qualities.
P: I created a series of sculptures based on wizards and imaginary creatures for the children in my family. The grandchildren love them and are requesting me to develop more characters.
What do you feel that you will take away from your experience on The Great Pottery Throw Down?
A: I have learned more than I could ever have imagined about pottery and about myself. I have come home a different person, like the Daft Punk song ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. The most remarkable thing I will take away is a new family of 12 amazing people who will be a part of my life forever. I was excited and hopeful to meet the other potters, but when I applied, I could have never imagined that we would be so alike, get on so well and would live in such an idyllic immersive pottery bubble. I love them all and will always be thankful for that wherever the clay now takes me.
P: This was a once in a lifetime experience, I have made so many good pottery friends and learnt so much about pottery techniques. The experience has given me the confidence to set up my pottery business and ‘just go for it’, regardless of my age.
What’s next for you in the pottery world, and what are your hopes and ambitions after The Great Pottery Throw Down?
A: I would have applied for The Great Pottery Throw Down even if it wasn’t televised. All of the experience and knowledge that I have gained from it will be amazing in invigorating and propelling my makes going forward. If nothing happens, I am happy with that, BUT I am a doer in life, and I want to explore every and all opportunities. I would absolutely LOVE to build on this experience and would like to be openminded and receptive to any and all opportunities that it may create. To bring the Pottery Throw Down and clay to new and different audiences would be amazing.
P: I intend to work in my studio and run a business selling my pottery through online platforms. I will also be teaching throwing and hand-building in small groups at my studio
If you’d like to apply for the next series of The Great Pottery Throw Down, you can find details here