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Aberdeenshire creative stars in new series of The Great Pottery Throw Down


By Kirsty Brown

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Aberdeenshire-based potter Susan Macinnes talks about her experience on the latest series of Channel 4’s Great Pottery Throw Down, which returns to our screens this weekend.

Susan Macinnes
Susan Macinnes

How was it to be filming this series?

The filming bubble was a liberating experience, being taken completely out of my day-to-day life and just being able to spend all my time thinking about clay or talking about clay with like-minded folk – a total gift.

It was difficult being away from loved ones while I was in the bubble, but the silver lining was getting to know and bond with the other potters.

When did you start pottery and who inspired you?

Plasticine as a child and a brief try at hand building at school had been all my experience of clay, until I went to an evening class in 2004 as an escape from full-time mum duties.

Five weeks in I was hooked, but unfortunately the class was stopped.

So, with a 'how hard can it be?', I got some clay and books and went from there, eventually getting an elderly kiln at home.

I am constantly amazed at the pottery created by our ancestors and different cultures through the ages.

It is incredible the difference pottery has made to human development and the variety of shapes, finishes and uses that people through the ages have made with the same basic ingredients: mud, fire and water.

What is your best piece of pottery?

I love when something I’ve made resonates with other people, and I make such a range of pieces it is difficult to compare them.

The Last Drop in the Ocean is definitely one of my favourites.

The tear drop shaped pot has a variety of sea creatures contained within it and a humpback whale curls around it with the fluke of its tail breaking out of the drop.

Everyone who has seen it has been touched by it and its message.

I love when people form an attachment to a piece whether it’s one of my curvy ladies – “oh, that’s just like me!” or “that’s my bum” – to my aunt, who knows that all is right with the world when she comes down in the morning to see Myrtle Bog smiling back at her, and who hides Myrtle Bog in the cupboard when she goes on holiday just in case she is burgled and Myrtle is stolen.

The Last Drop In The Ocean.
The Last Drop In The Ocean.

Where do you make your pottery?

I have a room in my house that I share with my daughter, who uses it to make her cosplay creations.

What is your favourite technique and why?

Hand building is definitely my favourite.

Clay is such a versatile medium – the only limit is your imagination.

Every day is a school day, there is so much to learn with pottery, and I love that I am always trying something new.

Pottery is usually a relaxing and lengthy process – what was it like to be working under quite strict time restraints?

Oh my goodness, working to the time restraints on The Great Pottery Throw Down without any way of knowing the time, except when Siobhan gives you a time shout out was so difficult!

Having always watched the show before, I now realise just how stressful doing a challenge is.

When I get engrossed in making something I lose all track of time, and I like to take my time to make things perfect, so this really went against the grain for me.

What is your favourite piece of pottery that you’ve made for family and friends?

Hares and seals are always firm favourites, with unicorns and incense burning dragons being great for smaller gifts.

How did you find filming walking in on the first day?

Wow, it was so surreal.

It was like an out-of-body experience, I had to keep pinching myself to believe that I was actually there, and the whole filming process is so complicated and interesting.

There was just too much to take in on the first day.

Which judge did you want to impress most and how did you find Siobhan?

It was a lovely surprise that Rich is now a judge and that Siobhan is the new presenter.

I probably wanted to impress Keith the most, and the ultimate would be to make him cry – for all the right reasons.

I have always loved watching him on The Great Pottery Throw Down; his passion, enthusiasm and how he cares about the potters.

Siobhan is an absolute delight to work with – so down to Earth and so funny, and not afraid to get her hands dirty to help.

Siobhan McSweeney, Keith Brymer Jones and Rich Miller..
Siobhan McSweeney, Keith Brymer Jones and Rich Miller..

What will you take away from your experience?

It’s an amazing, intense, surreal experience – and so much fun.

If anyone asks me about doing it, I would tell them to go for it.

I applied never dreaming that I would end up standing behind one of those benches.

I feel so lucky to have done this, to have met Keith, Rich and Siobhan, and to have met all the other potters – my new clay family!

Did you enjoy being in the midst of pottery country?

It was really inspiring being in Stoke-on-Trent, seeing all the pottery buildings, and everyone is so welcoming.

Gladstone Pottery Museum is amazing.

It’s such a remarkable and atmospheric place, I felt very privileged to be there.

Market Drayton, not far from Stoke, was one of my first schools when I was little.

Do you think your friends will be surprised to see you on TV?

Everyone is going to be so surprised!

How hard was it to keep the secret?

It has been agony to keep it a secret, it’s going to be such a relief when my family and friends know.

What is next for you after The Great Pottery Throw Down?

I would like to get more people interested in pottery.

If I can do it anyone can, and you are never too old or too young to start.

I hope that my being on the show encourages other people to play with clay – playing with clay, or “claying”, is so much fun!

I hope to get a studio area to myself and spend more time “claying”, I’ll have my dog and cat snoring gently in the background, probably all of us covered in clay!

Bliss.

The first episode of The Great Pottery Throw Down airs on Channel 4 on Sunday, January 10, at 7.45pm.


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