The Great Pottery Throw Down – Episode 1 recap

*** Warning! This contains spoilers!!***

Episode 1 – Breakfast Sets and Egg Cups

So… episode 1 is over and the new season of The Great Pottery Throw Down has finally begun! I always like to give all the potters taking part in the programme a welcome gift box. The box contains a Bucket Mug (with a word that I try to relate to their profile) from my Word Range, a number of pottery tools that I select from my studio supplier in China and an encouraging message. The message is important because they really are the stars and their dedication and commitment to the show is incredible.

The moment I step onto the Middleport site for the first day of filming is truly exciting, and I suspect it’s exciting for the potters too! They are about to embark on a unique creative journey that only an environment like this could provide. It is a wonderful experience for all of the potters taking part on this journey; whether they last one episode or go through to the final. I always think and feel that one must show really strong character to put yourself in a position where you are judged on something you love doing.


Keith Brymer Jones and Mel Sykes

Did you know we are not allowed to meet the potters before we start filming? “We” being Sue Pryke and I. Yes, Sue Pryke, my new fellow judge. Sue and I have known each other for years and she has a very illustrious career in ceramics working with Ikea (designing arguably the largest ceramic range in the world, the ‘365 range’), Next, Sainsbury’s and many many more; not to mention her own slip cast range produced from her studio near Leicester. The reason for not being able to meet the potters is very real and very credible: conflict of interest. If we were to meet them and felt more akin to some more than others we might favour their work more before even seeing it. The underlying and fundamental theme of the show is ‘the clay’ and what they do with it. It’s that simple!

I love how the potters interpret the challenge at hand and see how well they execute their design concept using the clay. It is quite amazing and honourable how the Love Productions team maintain the highest possible standards of integrity throughout the filming. We are not – and nor is anyone else – allowed to call the Potters contestants, participants, or any other term other than Potters throughout the whole of the filming. The respect for the Potters is paramount to the whole show. When I was first asked to do the show, I always said that I never wanted to do car crash TV, whereby we set people up to fail on purpose and I believe Love Productions have created the perfect show within a light entertainment setting. It’s quite incredible.

The Main Make: 

It’s a Friday morning (early), and the Potters are all standing by their workbenches ready to meet us for the first time. Melanie Sykes walks in first and announces the show. The very first announcement of the first episode, the first of many sessions within the Pottery studio. The atmosphere is electric, full of excitement and enthusiasm. You can really sense the anticipation, hope and sheer determination in the studio. 

The Main Make – a Breakfast Set – encompasses so many skill sets! The main one is how to manage the time to achieve the task in hand. To design and make a Breakfast Set is a question of time management, not to mention the Potters actual skill in making what they have conceived in their heads in the first place. It never ceases to amaze me that you can give the same brief to 12 potters, and they will all come up with something completely different. There is usually a story behind their design which is when Sue and I really get to know the potters. This is fascinating as by the 2nd or 3rd Episode we can really start to tell who’s work is who’s, by the way, it’s made and designed. This, for me, is one of the best aspects of being a judge. 

I suppose the trickiest piece within the Breakfast Set to make was the cafetière. Not only did it need to look good, it needed to fit a standard size plunger (they were all provided with the same plunger). So shrinkage of the clay and accuracy of the throwing was paramount. It was a tall order right from the word go. 

What the Potters all managed to achieve was fantastic, and although Tom was the first to leave our pottery studio, his design concept and story was lovely. It was engaging, from the heart, and really showed Sue and I who he was. Unfortunately, the handle/s, especially on the cafetière were not very practical – amongst other technical issues. 

On the flip side to this was Claire’s wonderfully executed breakfast set. It was precise, measured (quite literally), and the use of the glazes showed real integrity in understanding the glazing technique. It really was excellent. Suffice to say I did get quite emotional. The first of many I believe. 

…and who knew (well the production team knew) it was Sue’s birthday on the first day of shooting the show? So they made her a Birthday Cake!

Sue Pryke birthday the great pottery throw down


The Throwdown:    

The first throwdown was… yes, you’ve guessed it: ‘throwing off the hump’. Throwing egg cups off the hump to be precise. In keeping with the Breakfast Set theme, we thought throwing egg cups would be the perfect challenge. This really showed me for the first time who is really competent on the wheel, and who likewise struggle with throwing. Throwing off the hump is a particular skill as you have to quantify/visualise how much clay you need to make the desired piece, in this case an egg cup. If you start taking too much from the top of the hump of clay, your egg cup may look more like a wine goblet and if you take too little, your egg cup could be too small to hold an egg. Not only this, but we asked our Potters to make as many as possible in the time they had. So precision and a good sense of size were the key to this throwdown!

So that’s all folks for the review of Episode 1. Hope you all loved it and would love to hear your comments via Social Media. See you next week. Keith xxx