The Great Pottery Throw Down and Me...
Five years ago, Bake-off was only just getting to the heady heights of prime time so who knew back then that this new pottery show was going to be as popular as it is- who doesn’t love a bit of mud mixed with the tears of a grown man, layered on top of some sexual innuendo- right? 😹
Here’s my experience of auditioning for the first series of The Great Pottery Throw Down.
It all started back in winter 2014 - I saw an advert for this pottery show.
‘Are you Britain’s Best Potter?’ it read.
‘No’, I thought, but what the hell- ‘what have I got to lose?’
If you read my first ever blog post you’ll already know about the ‘signs’ from the universe signaling me to spend my days as a potter. At least that’s what it felt like. Things at my day job really weren’t floating my boat at the time. I was commuting over two hours per day (sometimes three- if I was stuck behind a tractor, a common occurrence in my part of the world!) working in Visual Merchandising for a big corporation with a boss who was - let’s just say ‘only out for herself’. Getting home way after my husband, too exhausted to speak let alone make any pottery or do anything creative.
At that time, we had just buried one of our closest friends. Alex 32, had been diagnosed with a brain tumour two years prior. The tragedy was on a level I had never experienced before and profoundly brought home the reality that we only get one chance. ONE. Thinking ‘this could this be my only chance to do something meaningful’ I gathered all my strength and filled in the application, chose the best picture of me I could find (taken at a friend’s wedding that summer, fake tan and false eyelashes included;-) attached some pictures of my shoddy pots and clicked send.
Love Productions (the company who make The Great Pottery Throw Down and The Great British Bake Off) obviously didn’t know anything about pottery as to my total shock- the production company called me the next day!
I went through three rounds of auditions; one hour and a half telephone audition and two full day events in London.
‘Sugar lumps!’ (or words to that affect) I exclaimed to Mr T, my husband ‘I might just get on this thing!’
As excited as I was at the prospect of having an amazing life experience and spending time doing something I loved, I had a nagging voice at the back of my mind. Yes, I would learn a shed-load and it would be nice to be surrounded by other potters (we were rare beasts 5 years ago - before Instagram brought us all together 😉) but the fear of doing the one thing I absolutely loved on TV in front of thousands of people made me feel sick to the pit of my stomach. The closer I got to the final audition phase, the stronger this feeling became - ‘what if I actually get on the show?’ A prospect that was becoming less and less appealing.
The stress of the final audition was intense- a camera and boom mic in my face, throwing on the wheel, against the clock, watched by two of the best potters in the country, both asking questions about my childhood and glazing techniques- it all felt so unnatural. Very different to the calm oasis of my little shed at the bottom of my garden. I even cried on the train home because I was so overwhelmed by it all. Looking back now, there were probably other factors contributing to the feelings I was experiencing.
When the email arrived a few weeks later explaining that they hadn’t chosen me this time, I was...relieved.
Not getting on the show was the best thing that ever happened to me because just being chosen for the audition gave me a newfound confidence: I was chosen out of hundreds of potters! I got to the final audition. Chatting to the other applicants gave me such an insight into the life of a potter, I asked all the other people on my audition round what they did for a living and each one looked at me perplexed before answering ‘I’m a potter’ Everyone at the final stage were heavily involved in the clay world; there were students, part time potters, art teachers, folks who worked in paint your own pottery shops. All of them were determined to build a life around their passion for clay.
I wasn’t chosen for the show, but the journey took me to the life-changing question: if all of these people can follow their passion for pottery, then why can’t I?
If I am honest with myself, as a potter, I definitely wasn’t ready to be on the show - far from it- my pots were thick walled and I couldn’t throw bigger than 400grams of clay but what I was ready for was giving myself the chance to build a life I loved and earn my living doing something I truly cared about.
In the spring I handed in my notice. Six months later, here I am. Not quite earning a living (yet) but I am giving myself the opportunity to try and you never know, I might reapply for the show next year…!
Addendum: This blog post was written back in October 2015 - with a few additions made today.