We are well and truly into 2017 now! We’ve lived through blue Monday so it’s all up from here, fingers crossed 🙂 Perhaps the new year’s resolutions have faded a little and you haven’t lost those 3 pounds you’d planned to by now but never mind there’s always next year! So, before more of the new year whizzes past, we’ve pinned Keith Brymer Jones down and asked him about his highlights from 2016…and here they are written by the man himself…

Gulgong Clay Festival – Australia

Being invited to the Gulgong Clay Festival to appear as a Master has got to be one of my highlights from 2016! It’s an amazing festival set in a small, old mining town called Gulgong which is 400km North West of Sydney. It’s a sleepy place but every 2 or 3 years it is descended upon by 600-700 potters. The whole town erupts into a gigantic and incredibly enthusiastic…almost religious… clay environment. Shops, launderettes and even barbers’ shops transform themselves into temporary gallery spaces to cater for the wide and electric ceramic pieces that are put on display. The Masters, and the potters alike, come from all corners of the globe – Australia, New Zealand, Spain, America, Japan, Netherlands, Italy and Norway.

The whole Gulgong Clay Festival is run by the Mansfield family who have a farm not far from Gulgong. Janet Mansfield was the one who started the festival many years ago. Sadly she has passed away now however the clay baton has been handed to Bernadette and Neil Mansfield and subsequently their sons and daughter, Josh, Max and Siobhan.

Upon my arrival at Gulgong I was cornered by Bernadette – an incredible lady on lots of levels however she’s no shrinking violet! She asked, in a somewhat persuasive manner, if I wouldn’t mind singing my cover of Pharell’s Happy song (from my video) at the opening ceremony…I’d only been there two minutes and singing certainly wasn’t in the brief. As previously mentioned, Bernadette is a very persuasive lady so I ended up dutifully accepting. The whole ceremony went down a storm and I’m happy to say that I pulled off the song. However I was quite rightly upstaged by a women performing an aboriginal blessing which was incredibly moving and really emphasised the symbolism of the land we walk on and the fact that we potters make things literally from the earth.

What struck me most about the festival was the ‘unpretentiousness’ of it and the humility of all the other master potters taking part- each one excelling in a particular area of ceramics. I met, and keep in touch, with new friends from all over the globe.

The Great Pottery Throw Down Second Series

So, we started filming the second series of The Great Pottery Throw Down in the summer and although the initial novelty of filming had worn off, it was still very exciting to embark on another series. With lots of familiar faces in the cast and crew, it was great to see everyone!

The potters that took part in the show were as wonderful as the last series and what never ceases to amaze me is the level of passion for the craft amongst the potters. It’s quite contagious and I find myself being further inspired by this thing that I have done all my working life.

Everything seemed to run a lot more smoothly the second time around as the production company (Love productions) were more aware that clay cannot be sped up when drying or firing, or making for that matter. Also filming two extra episodes meant that we could pack in more disciplines and different clay each week.

I felt that Sara, Kate and I (‘royalty’ as known by the crew) really got to know each other as more of a team and as friends too. Sara’s enthusiasm and communicative skills in relating to the potters was only getting stronger with each encounter and the whole filming seemed to run much smoothly…one negative though, I have a dodgy eye infection in the last episode but who knows what they’ve done in the edit! That’s the thing though, once the show is ‘in the can’ as they say, it’s all down to the edit. You leave the filming, the wonderful people who work on and take part in the show all in Middleport only to see and be reminded of them on the telly a few months later 🙂

I was incredibly rundown by the end of filming as when I am filming I still have to keep up the day job – designing, making and visiting factories for MAKE International, the company that I run with my business partner Dominic Speelman. However, after some rest and recuperation, I was back in the studio on the wheel doing what I love best.