Week 8 certainly threw the viewers a curve ball, when two potters left the show for failing to stick to the brief. Sal and Alon both made beautiful, personal pieces, but didn’t stick closely enough to the criteria required to make Acoma-inspired ollas. Sal added a rim to hers, while Alon – ever one to push creative boundaries – folded his, Origami-style. Ironically, Sal had come first and Alon second, in the Throw Down challenge, which was to make an Alabama ring bottle.
Peter planned his main challenge pieces very well, resulting in light, beautifully finished and decorated pots, which won him a well-deserved Potter of the Week.
Sal and Alon share their thoughts:
When did you start pottery, and who inspired you?
A: I started pottery very young; some time in primary school when they brought us someone who gave us some clay to play with, and my parents saw I really loved it. I’ve been doing it ever since.
S: I started making pottery at 17 but disliked it and failed my ‘A’ Level. I returned to pottery when I was 38 and loved it. My inspiration was my friend and teacher Dan Chapel.
Where do you do your pottery?
A: My dad and I built a small studio/shed in my parents’ garden where I do most of my pottery when I’m not away in university. But I’m hoping to start a pottery society here in Edinburgh at some point.
S: I have a shed in my garden but hope to have a new bigger workshop/studio soon.
Did you enjoy being in the midst of pottery country in Stoke, and filming at the Gladstone Pottery Museum?
A: It was a beautiful location to film in.
S: Anyone who wasn’t inspired by being at the Gladstone must be cold as stone. It was such a fantastic venue! Everywhere you looked you were surrounded by generations of the most amazing history of our craft
What was it like, walking in on the first day?
A: I was really nervous but in the best possible way. I was right at the front, so I had to face a jib crane camera, which is surprisingly sneaky, appearing in random places all the time.
S: Walking in on the first day was exciting and totally terrifying in equal parts.
Was it liberating to be filming this series?
S: It was wonderful to be with other potters with nothing to do but make pots and talk pots and share skills.
Pottery is usually relaxing and takes time. What was it like to be working under quite strict time constraints that first week?
A: Wow it was definitely a challenge; getting to know how the drying room works, the hardest part is understanding that there is just not enough time to get it to the level of finesse that we are used to at home. But we all got everything done and it was amazing to see how much we could physically make in such a short period of time.
S: The time limit was the most challenging part of all, you did have enough time but barely, and you were in trouble if something went wrong as there was little time to make things twice.
Which judge did you want to impress the most and why?
A: I really wanted to impress Keith because he seemed like such a nice guy when I watched the previous seasons. It was great being around Siobhan she could always put a smile on our faces, and it was fun bouncing off her when she would come over to chat.
S: I wanted to impress both of the judges. They are both wonderful potters with many years’ experience. To have them appreciate your pottery is a true compliment. Siobhan was wonderful at lifting your spirits when things were not going well. A kind remark and a funny comment can brighten the darkest of days.
What were your best and worst moments overall in the series?
A: One of my best moments was the raku firing. I was just there dipping glowing hot pots into a weird, fermented flour slurry, hoping for the best. And my worst moment was my last episode because I let myself down by making something I wasn’t proud of and that I knew I could have done better.
S: The best moment was winning potter of the week the first week and the worst was being sent home when I had so much left to give.
Do you think your friends were surprised to see you on television?
A: I hadn’t told anyone apart from my family that I was doing it and so I hoped I’d be able to surprise them by popping up on their tv.
S: People were ‘gob smacked’ lol.
How hard was it to keep a secret?
A: It was really difficult, but I think it was worth it when they saw it.
S: Very hard as people wondered where you’d disappeared to, especially if you were a person that was out and about a lot.
Which is your favourite build technique?
A: I passed through many pottery teachers throughout my life and each has taught me different techniques and skills and so I really do enjoy both hand building and throwing. I sort of see throwing as another tool, which I can use to hand build off.
S: I love to throw pots. It’s always challenging but now I have taken part in the show I also have come to love hand building.
What is the best piece of pottery you’ve made, and are there any memories attached to it?
A: I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I struggle to not find flaws in my pieces and so even my best pieces are not good enough for me.
S: It’s impossible to choose a favourite pot but one of my favourite memories is doing pit firings with friends Roland and Beth and other friends, in a hole they dug in their front lawn. Sharing food and talking pottery and firing pots in an almost primeval way, not knowing if they would be beautiful or broken and not really caring.
What is your favourite thing to make for friends and family, and do you get any special requests around Christmas or birthdays?
A: At the moment I love making my little monsters which I throw then add legs and horns to, they are a great gift and just let me put some of my style into thrown pottery.
S: I love making raku fired bottles, especially ones that use the Copper Matt technique. They are so individual and brightly coloured. Many people ask for these.
What do you feel that you will take away from your experience on The Great Pottery Throw Down?
A: I feel I have got an amazing group of friends. It was incredible getting to know all the potters and crew, and I hope that we are able to stay in contact and share ideas and pottery with each other.
S: I will take away a wonderful experience and memories, but most of all, wonderful friends that I will hopefully keep forever.
What’s next for you in the pottery world, and what are your hopes and ambitions after The Great Pottery Throw Down?
A: I’ll be starting first year of architecture at University right after I finish the show. And I hope to start a pottery society when I get there so that I can get more younger people involved with this amazing craft.
S: I hope I can carry on from this experience and use it to start teaching ceramics closer to home. I also hope to be doing some of the ceramics fairs and shows.
Next week the potters will be making a basin on a pedestal, and will decorate a chamber pot. Watch the show on Channel 4, Sunday at 8pm.
For more updates on previous shows, see here