CR meets: The Great Pottery Throw Down’s Sally-Jo Bond

Sally in Pear Tree Pottery_2016

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In the last of a special series of CR blogs, we meet Great Pottery Throw Down finalist Sally-Jo Bond, who tells us about her aspirations, progress and time on the BBC show

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When did you start working with ceramics?
I had an inspirational and very enthusiastic teacher at school, Mrs Derry. I must have been about fourteen when she showed me a copy of Ceramic Review with Kate Malone’s piece on the front cover and I instantly felt a connection with the material and the process. I just had to get my hands dirty and was excited about creating organic pieces in clay. I started making pumpkins, pebbles, shells – natural forms in all sorts of different clays. It was all about hand building organic vessels and forms from the beginning. I spent most of my A-levels covered in clay and should really have taken my teacher’s advice at the time to do a ceramics degree, but I got side tracked learning languages, which I also loved. It was a good 15 years later that I came back to pottery.

How would you sum up your style as a maker?
Contemporary, fresh, bold, colourful, artistic, free…

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Swoosh bowl by Sally-Jo Bond

Swoosh bowl by Sally-Jo Bond

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‘The satisfaction of making something from start to finish in your own shed is second to none and even though I’ve only done a couple of firings of my own, I know there is no going back for me now.’

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Where do you work on your pottery?
I’ve been going to an evening class at West Street Potters in Farnham for a few years now. Most of us have been attending the same class for years and we’ve become great friends. Our tutor is fantastic; very supportive of our individual ideas and a great thrower. Since the Throw Down I’ve managed to clear out a shed at home and set up my own potting space there, with a wheel and kiln, which has really changed my life! I spend every spare second in there, despite the gale, which howls its way under BOTH doors and the frozen water pipe outside. It’s so worth it.

Whose work are you inspired by?
I love the colours and synergy of form and decoration which Carolyn Genders brings to her work. I have a piece of hers from a demo she gave to our local potters’ group and it’s a real treasure. Also inspired by her landscape, I can’t resist the work of Patricia Shone. Her wood fired and raku fired vessels are so elemental, vital and tactile – I would love to visit her workshop on the Isle of Skye.

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Swoosh bowl by Sally-Jo Bond

Swoosh bowl by Sally-Jo Bond

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What does working with ceramics bring to your life?
Before the Throw Down, working with clay was an enjoyable hobby which gave me a weekly creative outlet after a day in front of a computer, and in some ways it was frustrating because I knew there was so much more that I wanted to do. I didn’t want to have to wait a week to see if my latest creation had survived a firing, and by then I’d have a new idea to try anyway. Now that I have my own potting shed, it brings an enormous sense of excitement and possibilities. I can see a lifetime of experiments ahead.

What was it like watching back your time on GPTD?
It was quite surreal watching the programmes, actually – listening to my voice was just awful – but it was fun to see it from another perspective and hear what the judges were saying behind the scenes. It looked like a lot of hard work and I can’t believe I was part of it. Each episode was exciting for different reasons and became an excuse for a party, but then I would scurry home and watch it again to catch the bits I missed from laughing so much. Getting together with some of the production crew, potters, judges and Sara to watch the final was a fantastic experience – the atmosphere was hilarious and so supportive.

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BBC/Love Productions

BBC/Love Productions

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What are your highlights from your time on the programme?
In a weird way I really loved the pressure of it, and realising how much you can achieve when you focus on a task. It’s not how most people would want to work, but it’s also quite a treat in a way. Winning the technical challenge of ‘The Devil’s Work’ in the final was probably my biggest high, but I also felt a huge sense of achievement making the wash basin, and I’m really looking forward to making more sinks. Even though I could do with a lot more hands-on practice, it means so much to me to have Kate Malone compliment my design ideas, and it has given me a lot more confidence to pursue my own work.

And the lowest point?!
The biggest challenge for me on the show was tackling the ‘throw down’, as I hadn’t got as much experience on the wheel as most of the other potters. I’d never thrown a plate, a sphere or ‘off the hump’ before, so I was rather exposed when it came to these challenges, but I gave it my best shot.

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spot test

BBC/Love Productions

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If a second series is commissioned, what would be your key piece of advice to contestants?
If they make another series, I’d encourage potters to ignore the cameras and relax. It’s a fantastic opportunity to create and you’ll meet some amazing people, which at the end of the day is the best part of all. I actually think I’ve come across more calm and sensible in the programme than I am in real life; a little more guarded perhaps, knowing that so many cameras are there to capture every word, every mess up.

And…what next for you?
Now that my website is finally up and running, I’m busy fulfilling orders for my hand-painted terracotta bowls. I’m also making a sink for a renovation project in Portugal. I have so many ideas for tableware ranges, tea sets, lighting, sculptures etc, that I have to sketch them out when I think of them, as there’s not enough time to actually make it all before I forget what I thought of…

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Swoosh mixing bowls by Sally-Jo Bond

Swoosh mixing bowls by Sally-Jo Bond

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What is the one thing you will be taking from the experience of being part of the show?
The power of TV is not to be underestimated, and anything is possible if you have Rich Miller to help!

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Sally-Jo Bond is an interior designer and potter based in Hampshire. Discover more about her work at sjbceramics.com

Meet Sally-Jo at The Contemporary Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey this June, where you can enjoy a special ‘Pottery Showdown’.

Find all of CRs Throw Down blogs at ceramicreview.com/cr-blog

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