Week five on the Throw Down was ‘Music Week’, with the main build being life-like busts of music legends Tom Jones, Dolly Parton – who sent the potters a video message – Dame Shirley Bassey, Ozzy Osbourne and Ed Sheeran. Busts are very hard to make, especially if it’s your first time, because of the weight of the clay.
The kiln-opening was nail-biting, with the vast majority of the busts sustaining varying degrees of breakage. With great team spirit, everyone lent a hand to reassemble the pieces when possible, and Alon won Potter of the Week with his rendition of Bruce Springsteen.
The spot test was a 20cm miniature instrument build. Sally drew the short straw with a large horn, which proved all but impossible to make, with its various parts suspended in mid-air. Lee’s rather plain drum, taken in conjunction with his Dolly Parton bust, which lost both sides of its face, led to him being the fifth potter to leave the show.
We caught up with Lee:
When did you start pottery, and who inspired you?
I’ve always been interested in being creative and art. I have had many creative hobbies, but pottery and ceramics have been the ones that have stuck! I began my pottery journey in September 2017 proper, but had been on little taster days; for example, on my 37th birthday, in 2012, myself and some friends had a pottery morning handbuilding bowls – but I knew then that I really wanted to have a go on the wheel!
Where do you do your pottery?
I am fortunate enough to have my own pottery studio in my basement, which is an old Yorkshire under-dwelling. My house is three storeys, and the bottom storey leads out to the back garden, a level below the roadside. I spend most of my spare time there. I have a massive old stone table in the centre, which is perfect for handbuilding and wedging! Margot the dog shares with me.
Did you enjoy being in the midst of pottery country in Stoke, and filming at the Gladstone Pottery Museum?
The setting for the show and our stay was amazing. The lodge where all the potters stayed was surrounded by countryside and nature, the place I am most comfortable and relaxed in! The Gladstone was a perfect location for the show. I have also been to Middleport a couple of times, and they equal each other in history and sheer oozing of pottery culture. The bottle kilns are so iconic, and the Gladstone had more than you could shake a stick at! It is hard not to be inspired by those surroundings; it felt like home.
What was it like, walking in on the first day?
Well, it’s not every day you get a camera and furry animal thrust at your face! It was strange, but I was surprised how quickly I got used to the cameras. I don’t think I got away with any errors from them though!
Was it liberating to be filming this series?
I really enjoyed it, mainly because we were in the bubble living together. I have never had the chance to spend so much time around other creative types, and we all benefitted from our discussions and bouncing ideas around each other.
Pottery is usually relaxing and takes time. What was it like to be working under quite strict time constraints that first week?
That first week was soooo stressful! That feeling of time pressure did not go away for the entire time that I was on the show. My job demands that I perform under often very stressful and emotional situations, so I thought I would perform well under that kind of pressure… boy was I wrong! The time flew by, and it was strange to fully realise my design into completed ceramic in such a short timeframe. It was both stressful but also gratifying and enjoyable at times!
Which judge did you want to impress the most and why? Did you find Siobhán a support when the going got tough?
Of course, we all wanted Keith to cry in appreciation for our efforts! But I actually thought Rich was an amazing judge – he really knows his stuff! He knew exactly how to critique our work, what we had done right but more importantly, what had gone wrong! But always gave supportive criticism combined with praise! Siobhán, I felt, was a lovely host and knew when we were stressed, always making the situation light-hearted.
What were your best and worst moments overall in the series?
In terms of the challenges, my first week was the most challenging, but I feel it was the best outcome. My make showed technical skill in throwing, and it was bright and colourful, almost exactly how I wanted it! My worst moment came in my final week, challenge five and that darned bust! It was also a comedy moment, and I was less disappointed leaving on a sculpting week, as I’ve never done this and there wasn’t a great deal of time to prepare. I knew I was leaving very early on, so just had fun with the process!
Do you think your friends were surprised to see you on television?
There were only a handful of people who knew I was doing the Throw Down, so yes I think most people I know were surprised, but pleasantly so! It may be a little surreal if the patients that I visit recognise me!
How hard was it to keep a secret?
It was very hard keeping it secret. So many things to hold back… I wanted to explode!
Which is your favourite build technique?
I prefer to throw. I am relatively new to handbuilding, which I have been trying for the past 18 months. I have made some lovely pieces, and it has helped me understand the way clay behaves and can be manipulated, so I am appreciating and enjoying it more and more! Throwing is where I prefer to relax and unwind between work shifts. I love making mugs and have tried all sorts of shapes and sizes. My kitchen cupboard is full of them!
What is your favourite piece of pottery you’ve made and are there any memories attached to it?
My favourite piece of pottery is a mug that I had made and glazed with my own glazes. I had been using bought brush-on glaze before this point, and I had ventured into making my own, and discovered an oilspot glaze layering technique which, combined with a well-crafted ergonomic mug, looked and functioned amazingly! I use it every day. It is two years old now and has a hairline crack after I dropped it recently – sad times!
What is your favourite thing to make for friends and family, and do you get any special requests around Christmas or birthdays?
I am always making things for friends and family, but as mentioned before, mugs are my favourite. A good mug can be used and appreciated every day! I made mugs to raise money for the NHS during the pandemic prior to the show, as part of the ‘#throwfortheNHS’ movement on Instagram, which was very heartwarming!
What do you feel that you will take away from your experience on The Great Pottery Throw Down?
I have taken away all the things I hoped to find – a wonderful pottery community! We have all become such great friends and plan to meet up soon outside of the show. It was all over too soon! I would love us all to live together in a pottery commune!
What’s next for you in the pottery world, and what are your hopes and ambitions after The Great Pottery Throw Down?
I feel like I have learned so much going through this process. It has helped me to know where my strengths and weaknesses are and what I want to do more of in the future, and I would say that I have had to learn to be more confident in my skills. I already have a great career, which I love, and pottery will always be my fun and challenging hobby. Who knows if it will take me in other directions, but at the very least I feel so happy to be a part of a new clay family, and I know we will all stay creatively collaborating and meeting together. I know that my skills in clay have improved immensely during this time, and I have discovered new passion in the ceramics field!
The challenges in week six are terracotta cookware, and engraved tiles
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