I am a big fan of The Great British Bake Off and The Great British Sewing Bee, but when The Great Pottery Throw Down aired on the BBC back in November I wasn’t convinced it could possibly be as good! However, I thought I would at least give it a chance and watch the first episode. Well, I was hooked and not only that, my husband Steve enjoyed it too AND all our friends at work! So the day after each episode had aired we’d have a discussion about it at lunch and talk about how we’d all really like to give pottery ago.
Well 2 weeks ago a group of us got to do just that when our friend Wayne organised a 2 hour throwing workshop at Hands on Pottery in Nottingham for our friend Claire’s birthday. Of course in advance of the workshop we all talked about what we might like to try and make. Trying not to be too ambitious I thought something like a simple yarn bowl would surely not be that hard…I was very wrong!
To start off we were all given a chunk of clay and shown how to wedge it in order to remove any air bubbles. This basically involved repeatedly throwing the clay down hard on to a table, rotating it each time. It is a great stress-buster!
After wedging our clay, we cut the clay in half with a wire to check there weren’t any remaining air bubbles, and then cut the 2 halves in half again to give us 4 pieces of clay, which we then rolled into balls. These 4 balls of clay basically meant we had 4 chances of creating something on the wheel.
Before being set loose on the wheels we were given a demonstration on how to centre the clay, open it, and thin and raise the walls before shaping the clay into something…our instructor made this all look very simple!
So then it was our turn. I ended up on the easy wheel as it was the only one without a foot pedal, the speed instead being controlled by a knob on the side meaning you could just focus on what your hands were doing and not have to worry about your foot. However, I don’t think it really helped me much! Turns out throwing a pot is really quite hard! By the end of the session though I felt like I was starting to get a feel for centring the clay as on my last attempt I managed to do this without help and was really quite pleased with myself. But where I really seemed to struggle was in thinning and raising the walls. I just couldn’t seem to get a feel for this and every time I started to get somewhere I would start to lose it. The first time this happened the instructor turned around and said ‘Oh look, you’ve created a jug!’ So I left it at that! It is pretty abstract (its on the left in the photo below), but I was pleased to at least have something that could be fired! And then the next time I was getting somewhere the same thing happened again! So it would seem I’m good at accidentally creating abstract jugs!
The workshop went superfast and 2 hours just isn’t enough to really get to grips with working on the wheel. However, it gave us a good taster and I think there will be a few of us that may look at booking onto a longer course as a result. I feel that with a little more time I would start to get the feel of things. If you have thought about giving pottery ago I would thoroughly recommend doing a workshop. We all found it great fun!