As a potter, I felt excruciatingly uncomfortable watching the beginning of the premiere of BBC Two’s The Great Pottery Throw Down (I’m waiting for tonight’s nerdy viewing party to watch the whole episode). It put the craft under a strange magnifying glass where all the small things that happen in the privacy of our ceramic world were suddenly announced in front of 1.9 million viewers on Tuesday.
Judge Kate Malone commented, “This one with here with a beautiful rhythm, the space in-between the bowls is almost as important as the bowls themselves.” I thought, “awe, that was a nice comment,” but felt, “oh my, is that what it sounds like out loud?” It was like hearing own your voice in a recording and being startled and uncomfortable.
The Great Pottery Throw Down follows the same model as the wildly successful BBC TV series The Great British Bake Off and hopes to find the same success focusing on the rarely seen (and apparently extremely dramatic) realm of studio pottery. It is presented by Sara Cox, and judged by acclaimed potters Keith Brymer Jones and Kate Malone.
My inkling is that most of Tuesday’s 1.9 million viewers were not potters… an incredibly different viewing experience. Following Tuesday’s debut, the reviews were mixed.
The Guardian’s Sam Wollaston enjoyed the episode saying it was “beautiful and mesmerising – I could watch pot throwing all day,” while The Times flat out titled their review “The Great Pottery Throw Down; Catastrophe.”
The author of The Times’ review, Andrew Billen, described the show as “cracked, half-baked and hollow,” continuing, “The whole idea of turning pot-making into a competitive sport was potty.” There may be some truth to this.
The six-part series aims to find pottery’s future stars, taking a team of amateur potters through an obstacle course of technical tests and challenges each week. Times are changing and… maybe this is how the next Bernard Leach will surface?
Justin Crowe is a Writer and Director of Operations at CFile.