Throw Down week 3 Susan

Susan was the third potter to leave the Throw Down, after a week of contrasts. Very intricate fruit – needing an eye for detail–  and blindfolded throwing challenged the potters at both ends of the scale.

Was it liberating to be filming this series?
The filming bubble was a liberating experience, being taken completely out of my day-to-day life and just being able to spend all my time thinking about clay or talking about clay with likeminded folk – a total gift.

It was difficult being away from loved ones while I was in the bubble, but the silver lining was getting to know and bond with the other potters. 

What age or time in life did you start pottery, and who inspired you?
Plasticine, as a child and a brief try at hand building at school, had been all my experience of clay until I went to an evening class in 2004, as an escape from full-time Mum duties. Five weeks in I was hooked, but unfortunately, the class was stopped. So, with a ‘how hard can it be?’ I got some clay and books and went from there, eventually getting an elderly kiln at home.

I am constantly amazed at the pottery created by our ancestors and different cultures through the ages. It is incredible the difference pottery has made to human development and the variety of shapes, finishes and uses that people through the ages have made with the same basic ingredients: mud, fire and water.

What’s the best piece of pottery you’ve made, and what memories are attached to it?
I love when something I’ve made resonates with other people, and I make such a range of pieces it is difficult to compare them. “The Last Drop in the Ocean” is definitely one of my favourites. The teardrop-shaped pot has a variety of sea creatures contained within it and a humpback whale curls around it with the fluke of its tail breaking out of the drop. Everyone who has seen it has been touched by it and its message.  

I love when people form an attachment to a piece whether it’s one of my curvy ladies – ‘Oh, that’s just me!’ or ‘That’s my bum’ – or my aunt, who knows that all is right with the world when she comes down in the morning to see’ Myrtle Bog’ smiling back at her, and who hides ‘Myrtle Bog’ in the cupboard when she goes on holiday, just in case she is burgled and ‘Myrtle’ is stolen.

Where do you make your pottery? Do you have a shed or workshop that you share?
I have a room in my house that I share with my daughter, who uses it to make her cosplay creations.

 What is your favourite technique – hand-built or thrown – or both?
Hand building is definitely my favourite. Clay is such a versatile medium – the only limit is your imagination. Every day is a school day, there is so much to learn with pottery, and I love that I am always trying something new.

Pottery is usually a relaxing and lengthy process. What is it like to be working under quite strict time restraints?
Oh, my goodness, working to the time restraints on TGPTD without any way of knowing the time, except when Siobhan gives you a time shoutout is soooooooo difficult! Having always watched the show before, I now realise just how stressful doing a challenge is. When I get engrossed in making something, I lose ALL track of time, and I like to take my time to make things perfect, so this really went against the grain for me.

What is your favourite piece of pottery that you make for family and friends? Do you get special requests for Christmas and birthdays?
Hares and seals are always firm favourites, with unicorns and incense-burning dragons being great for smaller gifts.

How was it, walking in on the first day?
Wow, it was so surreal. It was like an out of body experience… I had to keep pinching myself to believe that I was actually there, and the whole filming process is so complicated and interesting. There was just TOO much to take in on the first day.

Which judge want to impress most and why? Did you find Siobhán a great support when the going got tough?
It was a lovely surprise that Rich is now a judge and that Siobhán is the new presenter. 

I probably wanted to impress Keith the most, and the ultimate would be to make him cry – for all the right reasons. I have always loved watching him on TGPTD; his passion, enthusiasm and how he cares about the potters.

Siobhán is an absolute delight to work with – so down to earth and so funny, and not afraid to get her hands dirty to help. 

What will you take away from your experience?
It’s an amazing, intense, surreal experience – and so much fun. If anyone asks me about doing it, I would tell them to go for it. I applied never dreaming that I would end up standing behind one of those benches. I feel so lucky to have done this, to have met Keith, Rich and Siobhán, and to have met all the other potters – my new clay family! 

Did you enjoy being in the midst of pottery country, did it inspire you?
It was really inspiring being in Stoke-on-Trent, seeing all the pottery buildings and everyone is so welcoming. Gladstone Pottery Museum is amazing. It’s such a remarkable and atmospheric place; I felt very privileged to be there. Market Drayton, not far from Stoke, was one of my first schools when I was little. 

 Do you think your pottery friends or work friends were surprised to see you on tv?
Everyone was soooo surprised. 

How hard was it to keep a secret?
It was agony to keep it a secret. It’s such a relief now my family and friends know.

 What next in the pottery world, and what are your hopes and ambitions after TGPTD?
I would like to get more people interested in pottery. If I can do it, anyone can, AND you are never too old or too young to start. I hope that my being on the show encourages other people to play with clay. Playing with clay – CLAYING – is so much FUN!

 Hopes-wise, I hope to get a studio area to myself and spend more time ‘claying’. I’ll have my dog and cat snoring gently in the background. Probably all of us covered in clay! Bliss. 

 What were your best and worst moments overall in the series, and why?
The best moment was when Keith, Rich and Siobhán first came through the doors. I knew then it was all really happening, and I was really there!

The worst moment was leaving all the potters and the whole TGPTD. Second worst was throwing the wine carafe and beaker set blindfold but, when I lifted the blindfold, I was pleasantly surprised AND relieved! 


Next week

It’s naked raku week in the pottery, as the potters throw, burnish and fire a pair of vases to impress judges Rich Miller and Keith Brymer Jones. In the spot test, guest judge, flower making expert, Rita Floyd sets a floral challenge, but who will be named potter of the week, and who will leave?

Will you be watching?  Make-along with the show, and send us photos of your work, to be in with a chance of winning over £100-worth of prizes! See more here

For our 18-page feature on the show, buy issue 47, available here