The winner! 

episode 10

AJ, who also won Potter of the Week, in episodes 5, 7 and 9, talks here about winning the title and the experience of being on the show: ‘It was an amazing moment for me. It was a whirlwind of emotions and I was so happy to have my family there and all of the potters in the beautiful setup in the courtyard. I have just turned age 22 and I do feel like this has been a life-changing year for me. I came into the New Year with so much more confidence and more friends. I had graduated from university, won the series, and moved into a new flat with my partner Celda. There has been a lot of change in my life, but it’s all looking good and positive – the future is looking exciting for me, definitely.

‘Aberdeen is home and I have always lived here, it’s such a cool place to live. It’s a city but it doesn’t feel like one. It’s very close to nature and you can be in the countryside pretty quickly. I was one of the youngest potters, and when I see myself on Week 1 you can see how nervous I was. I came out of my shell as the weeks went on and I gained confidence.

‘A lady in Aberdeen called out to me on the street recently and congratulated me on my gnomes. It was very surreal to be recognised. I was so proud to take the trophy home to Aberdeen. The whole process of getting it home was stressful as it’s so delicate and I didn’t want to break it. It was a very special journey returning home with my family and quite emotional.  It still felt like a dream.

‘When we got the brief for the Final we were like – we have to do what?! It wasn’t like making a bowl or a cup, a garden totem was quite a shocking brief, but an interesting one as there was so much you could do with it. The projects and the makes were getting bigger each week so for the final, it was a real showstopper ending using aspects of your life. I was worried that I would have the least life story to tell, I haven’t travelled a lot, so I just wanted to make it something really personal that represents my life and my journey.  It was quite emotional to make and it was at the end of a long process,  reflective and involving our families.

‘Some of my favourite moments overall were in between filming – having dinner together with the potters talking about the briefs and going through the sketches. They were all really special moments, that sounds soppy but it’s true. The whole production team were so amazing and supportive. I felt very looked after and would like to thank them for what they did for me throughout the whole experience.

‘Keith cried at my tiny lamp post in Episode 2, but it’s a badge of honour for a potter to get that response,  it’s very special. And you know that you have moved him, and he appreciates your art. He’s such a genuine guy. In Episode 7 I had no idea of what wildlife to make. My partner Celda suggested the otter that is on the Scottish £10 note, so I got my inspiration from that, and it worked!

‘It was so good to meet the judges, and getting feedback from both Keith and Rich on my work was such a privilege. They did give me praise for creativity and originality when I got Potter of the Week for my gnomes in Episode 5. Going on to be Potter of the Week in Episodes 7 and 9 was bizarre and surreal. It became more and more like a dream world as the episodes went on. It was almost, did that actually happen? When I was interviewed in Episode 7 after getting Potter of the Week, I literally could not say anything, I was speechless!

‘Rose was brilliant and I wish I could take her home with me so she could look after all my pots! She was so good at looking after all our makes, and knew how to make us laugh.

‘The moment of taking my self-sculpture out of the sawdust kiln in week 8 is a favourite moment.  That whole episode was just brilliant to be a part of and I hope I get the chance to do something like it again, but I know it will never be as special as that first time in the pottery.

‘What stands out to me as my worst moment on the show was when my clock exploded in week 2. I think I pulled it back, and there are definitely things I would do differently now with hindsight, but in the heat of the moment, it seemed like game over. Although other things went wrong later down the line I was still new to the pottery in that episode,  and much less used to the pressures of the show. It was intense, but I am grateful for the experience.

‘Presenters Ellie and Siobhán came in together for Episode 7 – they bounced off each other really well, and I appreciated having them both there for the final. They were both such a good support, lovely and approachable, and they brought levity to the intense moments on the show. They are really good at checking in and seeing how you are.

‘Walking in with my fellow finalists Christine and Anna on the last day was such a special moment. I think we were all a bit terrified and were so pleased that we were all together. It was great to have friends there at the end, who are both such talented and creative potters.

‘I will stay in touch with all the potters  [Anna, Bill, Cellan, Christine, Jenny, Josh,  Lucinda, Miles, Nick, Tom and Zahra]. We are such a tight-knit bunch and we all share the same passion, and we are always texting each other with advice. I have some lovely new friends!

‘I am very close to my family and can’t thank them enough for all their support, and to my partner Celda for all her encouragement, input and advice across the whole process.

‘My family were really great at encouraging me. I didn’t tell them when I first applied but when I got an interview I told my dad, and he said let’s keep it a secret until you get in, otherwise, your mum will explode. When I did finally get accepted and told her she did explode with excitement.

‘The trophy will have pride of place in my new living room.  Up till now, I have been hiding it in the drying cupboard next to the Christmas tree!

‘The response from the public and social media has been so positive the whole way through and it has been so nice to get messages from people online that they are enjoying the show. I have had great messages from non-binary people all sending encouragement.

‘I love comic conventions and skateboarding – I am really a big kid at heart, I hope I never grow up too much. It’s always important to enjoy your hobbies and have fun.

‘I would absolutely say to any budding potters out there to apply for the next series. It was such an enriching experience for me personally, but also for my pottery. Anyone who loves pottery and loves people should definitely apply.

‘The best thing I will take away from this experience is all the brilliant people I have met at the pottery. And working in the Gladstone Pottery Museum was very inspiring. We had so much history around us in Stoke it was easy to get lost in the magical world of ceramics.’

‘I don’t know what the future holds for me in the pottery world, but I am more motivated than ever to make pottery and enjoy every minute. I have so many new things I want to try, and being on the show has opened my eyes to what I can do and the many different ways clay can be used to create! I hope that one day I can make pottery my day job. I want to introduce more people to this amazing medium and help to teach and facilitate more people making with clay.’

Was it liberating to be filming this series?
It was a total out of this world experience to be working creatively with so many amazing like-minded potters in a totally new and exciting environment.

What age or time in your life did you start pottery and who inspired you?
I started to dabble in pottery when I was 18 studying 3D design at university. From there it became a growing passion until I went to the International Ceramics Centre in Denmark where I met so many brilliant ceramicists and from then I decided it was something I wanted to really pursue.

What was the best piece of pottery you have ever made, even if it was your first piece and are there any memories attached to it?
I think the best piece of pottery I have ever made is a vase that I made while I was in Caithness working with a potter learning how to throw and fire a wood kiln. It was inspired by the cliffs just down the road from her pottery and I remember being so driven to make this piece from start to finish. It was a magical moment when it finally came out of the kiln and it will remind me of that amazing landscape forever.

Where do you make your pottery, do you have a shed or a workshop that you share?
Until recently I made my pottery in my garden shed, or rather I made pottery outside and stored my wheel and kiln in the shed, which made making things in the winter quite… snowy. Now I make my pottery from a local artist studio where I have a room that I share with my jeweller friend from uni. It is a brilliant community there, and much warmer.

What is your favourite technique – hand building or throwing?
My favourite technique is throwing, I love the motion of the wheel and getting to know the clay as you shape it into something new. It takes a lot of practice and I can see progression every time I sit down at the wheel. I have only recently begun handbuilding pieces in lockdown as I didn’t have access to the wheels at university. I can only make small things so far but I would love to get better at it.

Pottery is usually a relaxing hobby and a lengthy process so what was it like to be working under quite strict time constraints that first week?
Working under that intense time pressure in week one was definitely a shock to the system. It was like a super-fast university project, only instead of six weeks we had just a few hours, and the submission date is tomorrow!

What is your favourite piece of pottery that you make for friends and family, and do you get any special requests around Christmas or birthdays?
My favourite things to make at the moment are little creatures that I call blobs. At first, they were just a way to destress and make something fun with clay, but every now and then I get requests from friends and family to make some as gifts, usually holding certain things or posing in a certain way. They are still always fun to make.

How was walking in on the first day?
Walking in on the first day was like stepping into another world. We all had no idea what to expect, it was all so exciting and scary, there was a buzz in the air.

 

Read more interviews with the potters here

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