Thoughts on throwing from Kevin Millward, The Great Pottery Throw Down’s Pottery Consultant

The long-awaited television programme The Great Pottery Throw Down is now back on British screens for its second series. Each week, Ceramic Review explores issues and topics related to the pottery show.  

Photo: Love Productions / Mark Bourdillon / BBC

Photo: Love Productions / Mark Bourdillon / BBC

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The BBC’s Great Pottery Throw Down is now back on our screens for series two. Each week, the amateur potters are challenged to demonstrate their skills on the wheel – with occasionally mixed results.

In Episode 1, handbuilder Carole floundered in the face of the Main Make — throwing a 16-piece dinner set — while others such as Cait struggled with time management.

Some participants, such as Ryan and James, flourished during the challenge to create four dinner plates, four side plates, four bowls and four beakers in 4 hours and 30 minutes – with Ryan’s set being awarded Pot of the Week and a place in the Winner’s Gallery.

 

So, what were judges Keith Brymer Jones and Kate Malone looking for?

Keith: ‘It’s the consistency in their throwing’; ‘This is a very practical challenge – the weight of the pieces is important.’
Kate: ‘We’re expecting the pieces to be fit for purpose. We don’t want any peas rolling off the plate. A beaker must fit your lips beautifully. They’ve got to be aware of the functionality, while it also looks beautiful.’
Both: ‘We don’t want much!’

Though the 16-piece dinner set challenge may appear to be a hard one for Episode 1, the timeframe the potters were given was reasonable – by the tough standards of production throwing, that is.

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Charlotte Storrs, photo: Cristian Barnett

Image: Charlotte Storrs, photo: Cristian Barnett

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In his role as Pottery Consultant on the Throw Down, Kevin Millward helps shape the programme behind the scenes. Here, we revisit Kevin’s expert knowledge on production throwing from issue 265 of Ceramic Review:

 

On the pace of Kevin’s own production throwing:

‘Taking advantage of my accumulated knowledge I can make about forty to fifty mugs an hour, depending on the shape. I throw for only a few hours per week; the rest of the time is processing. Preparation takes the same time as making.’

On past masters of production pottery:

‘The Doulton brothers could throw 200 two-gallon beer jars per day. I saw intact versions of these pots in local museums and admired the freshness and vibrancy of their quality of form, which comes with only years of making.’

‘As naïve as some of these older pots are, they are well made, the potters were highly trained, some serving apprenticeships of up to seven years. The rate of production was phenomenal, with some potters throwing over 1500 pieces a day. You probably don’t want to throw that many pots in a lifetime, never mind a day.’

On the results of great training:

‘One potter who came to a workshop of mine later said to me that after practising, they were able to make twice as many pots in half the time, and they were 10 times better – and after all, this is what we all want: to make great pots.’

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Watch Series 2 of The Great Pottery Throw Down on BBC2 from 8pm on Thursdays, or catch up on BBC iPlayer. Can’t watch it? Follow us on Twitter @ceramicreview, where we’ll be live-tweeting the action as it happens.

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Previously on the CR blog: