Week six and  ‘Terrifying Trial by Terracotta’ sums it up.

The challenge was to make a chicken brick, a tagine and a lidded casserole dish. All large, heavy pieces that would take a long time to dry. Chicken bricks seem to be a mystery to anyone under 40 – you can see how to make them here. In an amazing coincidence, we talked about them a couple of months ago.

The drying room was open throughout, and the contestants were (strongly) encouraged to use it, although the results would suggest that it actually made little difference. Shenyue, who opted not to use it during the bulk of the build, had no worse results really that anyone else. Not one potter escaped without blowout, cracks and shattering during the single-firing.

The spot test was a six-tile frieze, on which the judges wanted to see stories from the potters’ lives. Adam’s ‘Brighton’ and Jodie’s Welsh Maid stood out, but Sal beat them with her Canada-based theme., which the judges said showed a wonderful use of the tools in different ways, and had made best use of the depth of the tiles. Sal went on to consolidate her strong position when the terracotta was returned to the studio. Her Inuit-inspired decorations provoked the only tears of the episode from Keith, who said it was a brilliant set – all individual but they worked together well. Sal was awarded Potter of the Week.

Shenyue’s terracotta firing was not particularly worse than anyone else’s – everyone suffered breakages – but her hakame decoration was judged not to be sufficiently deliberate, and it was enough to see her leave the show. Keith’s final words were, ‘This week there were a lot of people in the running to go home. It came down to design technique.” I’m sure that ALL the remaining potters consider themselves lucky, and probably never want to see terracotta again!

Shenyue

When did you start pottery, and who inspired you?
I started 18 months ago (when I was 26). I had always wanted to try it but never pulled the trigger. My boyfriend bought me a course for Christmas and I got completely obsessed straight away!

Where do you do your pottery?
I’m in the process of trying to build my tiny shed in my garden! Previously I used to be in a members studio.

Did you enjoy being in the midst of pottery country in Stoke, and filming at the Gladstone Pottery Museum?
Yes, it was really incredible, like stepping onto a film set. I have never seen anything like it.

What was it like, walking in on the first day?
Super fun – and really eye-opening about how TV works! I didn’t have any idea about how these types of shows are filmed.

Pottery is usually relaxing and takes time. What was it like to be working under quite strict time constraints that first week?
The time constraints in making were fine, because I like to try to make things efficiently. However, I found the drying time very stressful as it is far better for your pottery to let it dry very slowly.

Which judge did you want to impress the most and why?
Both! I have never been critiqued on my work and it was really interesting to see the different things that each judge would pick up on.

What was your best worst moment overall in the series?
My favourite day was Lee’s birthday. It was one of our days off, the sun was shining (literally the only non-grey day). We tanned up on the roof, many of the potters got stick and poke tattoos, then we played rounders (I magically managed to catch the ball so many times, even though I have never been able to catch), and Alon and I cooked a huge Chinese meal for everyone.

Do you think your friends were surprised to see you on television?
Yes! Especially because I have never really wanted to be on TV. When I was offered the spot, I was really in two minds about whether to go on the show or not. In the end, I decided to push myself, as I was really keen to try new things and learn new techniques.

How hard was it to keep a secret?
Very – a few of my friends guessed it, some of them thought I was on a break with my boyfriend, and some thought I was away getting plastic surgery (haha!).

Which is your favourite build technique?
I would have said throwing, but I’ve learnt so much about handbuilding from the show and I’m definitely going to incorporate some of those ideas into my work.

What is the best piece of pottery you’ve made and are there any memories attached to it?
I hope my best piece is always going to be the next piece I make. I want to keep improving and exploring new things…

What is your favourite thing to make for friends and family, and do you get any special requests around Christmas or birthdays?
My friends and family get all my test and sample pieces!

What do you feel that you will take away from your experience on The Great Pottery Throw Down?
My clay family – I love them all – and a broadening of my mindset and techniques.

What’s next for you in the pottery world, and what are your hopes and ambitions after The Great Pottery Throw Down?
Hopefully, my shed will be done soon.  Then, I want to start figuring out what I want to make. I’m toying with ideas around sculptures, furniture and sinks. I am also considering starting to teach beginners classes.

 

Next week’s challenges are the biggest build so far – an animal water feature – and a strawberry planter. Watch the show on Channel 4, Sunday at 8pm.

For more updates on previous shows, see here