Week 7, and with the last episode’s terracotta nightmare behind them, the potters were ready for Garden Week.
The main challenge was an animal water feature. It had to be 70-80cm tall, with a lifelike animal as the focal point. The build was given three and a half hours, with another three hours to fettle and decorate. While the water features were being bisque-fired, the Throw Down challenge was to make a 30-35cm strawberry planter with six pockets, using a whopping 10kg of clay. Keith demonstrated, explaining the technique needed to centre such a large mass, and they were off.
Henry won this challenge with a 30cm, strong-rimmed, confident throw that had “balanced pockets” and was a “lovely shape”.
The water features survived the bisque-firing with very little damage on the most part, although Henry had construction issues that led to his base tank not being functional. Although praised as ‘the comeback kid’, his build wasn’t up to scratch, and he is the next potter to leave the show.
Adam’s octopus build showed great attention to detail, with corals, anemones and other sea life festooning the base, but it was Jodie’s howling wolf that saw her named Potter of the Week.
As Henry left, he said: “I am really sad to be leaving, but every single person here has taught me something different about ceramics and also about being a good human.”
When did you start pottery, and who inspired you?
I started pottery at the age of 19, and the thing that inspired me the most was stress from outside life. Through the use of pottery and the time spent with the artistic people around me at the time, I was able to relax and focus myself and really, really improve my wellbeing.
Where do you do your pottery?
I have a little wooden shed in my garden, where everything gets made. It’s very cold in the winter, but it’s really nice having a separate space to work in.
Did you enjoy being in the midst of pottery country in Stoke, and filming at the Gladstone Pottery Museum?
The atmosphere and visuals of the pottery centre of the country were wildly inspiring and just fascinating to see that much of the industry in one place. It almost didn’t feel real, like it was a theme park!
What was it like, walking in on the first day?
That first walk in was incredible fun, it felt so real, and everything felt like it was really, really happening. I was terrified; what if I didn’t walk right? What if I fell up the stairs? Oh man, it was mad. But I loved it!
Was it liberating to be filming this series?
For me, the experience has been incredibly liberating. It has allowed me to feel like I can create the art I want to create. It’s given me a self-confidence boost and a real artistic kick up the butt. I feel liberated as an artist, and my passion and enthusiasm have been significantly improved and brought to the forefront thanks to this filming experience.
Pottery is usually relaxing and takes time. What was it like to be working under quite strict time constraints that first week?
Having such a drastic and intense time constraint was incredibly difficult. It makes all the micro-decision making so difficult and often leads to making lots of silly, stupid and quite often ridiculous decisions.
Which judge did you want to impress the most and why?
I really wanted to impress Rich. His knowledge and technical experience blow me away. If he was impressed with my work, then I will have made myself proud! Siobhan was amazing. Her humour and support made the whole experience more enjoyable. When I was struggling or getting emotional, she’d be there to make me remember that the experience was fun, that it was all about making great art and that I did belong there.
What were your best and worst moments overall in the series?
The best moment in the show was winning the strawberry planter challenge in Episode 7. I never thought I could throw big, ever. It was a surprise for me for sure! That, and possibly Siobhan cutting my hair, was an absolute highlight!! The worst moment I had was the total creative block in the terracotta tile challenge [in week 6]. I totally lost all focus and went into blank panic mode. I really struggled there.
Do you think your friends were surprised to see you on television?
I think they were so surprised. I was always a little reserved when it came to my art and pottery, so it was a massive step outside the comfort zone that I don’t think they’d have been expecting.
How hard was it to keep a secret?
Oh my goodness, it was difficult. The hardest part was trying to come up with cover stories for my Nana. She normally knows all of my whereabouts. I felt pretty bad hiding it from her, but I know she was so proud when she found out!
Which is your favourite build technique?
My favourite technique is throwing, mainly because I’m very, very impatient, and I am much quicker at throwing than I am at handbuilding! However, practising handbuilding more and more has given me a whole new appreciation for it.
What is the best piece of pottery you’ve made, and are there any memories attached to it?
The best piece of pottery I made before the show was a really rubbish blue bowl. I was so happy I made it that I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner out of it, every day for three weeks…
What is your favourite thing to make for friends and family, and do you get any special requests around Christmas or birthdays?
I often make lots of silly gifts for friends and family. I really love it. I try to make pieces that reflect a little hobby or interest that they have, or more likely a piece that takes the mick out of them!!
What do you feel that you will take away from your experience on The Great Pottery Throw Down?
I will take away an amazing set of new friends. The best set of potting friends I could ever have asked for. That and a really wonderful sense of purpose.
What’s next for you in the pottery world, and what are your hopes and ambitions after The Great Pottery Throw Down?
I want to make the art I’ve always wanted to. I now feel I have the confidence to do so. I’m hoping to jump headfirst into the pottery and art scene. I’d love to make my dreams of being a fully-fledged artist happen.
Next week the potters will be making Native American Acoma-inspired pottery and an Alabama ring bottle. Watch the show on Channel 4, Sunday at 8pm.
For more updates on previous shows, see here