I really enjoy a lot of the creative themed shows on the TV, from the Sewing Bee to the Bake Off, there’s a wide range of shows around the offer viewers the chance to watch people creating in a competitive style. My personal favourite is the Great Pottery Thrown Down, which has just returned to our screens for the 2023 series. But what is the show all about, and why is it so good? Well, let’s dive in!
It premiered on BBC Two in the UK back in 2015 before moving over to Channel 4 where it now currently resides. The show is presented by Siobhán McSweeney, an Irish actress and presenter, and successful potters Keith Brymer Jones and Richard Miller. The show is a competition format where amateur potters from all around the UK compete to become the “Great Pottery Throw Down Champion.”
Each episode of the show is a round-robin, and features a series of challenges that test the competitors’ skills in various aspects of pottery making, such as throwing, glazing, and decorating. The contestants are judged on the quality of their work by potter Richard Miller and ceramic designer Keith Brymer Jones. The judges provide constructive criticism and feedback to the contestants, and at the end of each episode, one competitor is eliminated until only one remains, who is crowned the winner.
The show is shot at Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent in England, and the contestants are given access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, including pottery wheels, kilns, and various glazes and clays. The contestants are also given a set amount of time to complete each challenge, adding an element of pressure and excitement to the competition.
There’s an added element of jeopardy that really pumps up the suspense in the show – the infamous Kiln Gods. It’s quite possible to see one potter’s work explode after a catastrophe in the firing process. It happens from time to time and can really scupper the potter’s chances to progress to the next show. Sometimes they can fix it with a bit of glue and glaze, and others it’s blamed on the aforementioned Kiln Gods and leads to some interesting critiques by the judges!
One of the things that sets The Great Pottery Throw Down apart from other competition shows is the emphasis on creativity and individuality of the makers. The contestants are encouraged to push the boundaries of traditional pottery techniques and to experiment with new and innovative methods. This has resulted in some truly unique and beautiful pieces being created on the show.
Another aspect of the show that has been praised by critics and viewers alike is the camaraderie and support that develops among the contestants. Despite the intense competition, the contestants often form close bonds and provide encouragement and support to one another. This sense of community and shared passion for pottery is a big part of what makes the show so enjoyable to watch. it’s heart-warming to see the affection the contestants have for each other and the judges as well.
For me, one of the special things about the show are the times that Keith Brymer Jones is often nearly overcome with emotion at what the contestants produce, and you know someone has done well when the tears start to flow. It’s rare to see this kind of emotion in this kind of show from a judge, and the fact this will often happen several times during a show is part of the joy. The judges also have a cheeky sense of humour, as the show also does a mean line in double-entendres, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but is certainly part of the fun for myself as well.
Throughout the show, the contestants are mentored by the judges, who not only a judge their work but are also renowned potters themselves. They provide tips and advice to the contestants, helping them to strengthen their skills and refine their techniques. They are also an inspiration for the contestants as they share their own journeys and stories of their time in the pottery world, and how they overcame problems to become successful potters themselves.
The Great Pottery Throw Down is a successful show, garnering high ratings and positive reviews from both critics and viewers. The show has also been credited with sparking a renewed interest in pottery and ceramics among the British public. Many viewers have been inspired to take up pottery themselves, and pottery classes and workshops have seen a significant increase in enrolment as a result of the show.
For me, The Great Pottery Throw Down is a unique and entertaining TV show that celebrates the art of pottery and the creativity and skill of amateur potters. With its emphasis on individuality, experimentation, and community, it’s a refreshing change of pace from traditional competition shows. The Great Pottery Throw Down is not only entertaining but also inspiring, bringing the ancient craft of pottery to a new audience, and encouraging them to explore their own creativity. If you’re in the UK, it can be seen on Sunday nights in January and February, but if you’re not, don’t despair, it can be seen on other platforms such as HBO Max.