An Aberdeen design graduate is hoping to smash it as a competitor in The Great Pottery Throw Down.
Not only is AJ Simpson flying the flag for the north-east and Scotland, they are also the youngest of the 12 potters taking part in the Channel 4 show, which starts a 10-week run on Sunday January 2.
“It was a totally out-of-this-world experience to be working creatively with so many amazing like-minded potters in a totally new and exciting environment,” said the 21-year-old, who was born and bred in Aberdeen.
For the popular series, AJ joined fellow contestants at the wheel in the midst of pottery country in Stoke, filming at the Gladstone Pottery Museum.
It’s a far cry from where AJ, who fell in love with ceramics after starting a 3D design course at Gray’s School Of Art, has been used to practising the craft.
Great Pottery Throw Down was exciting and scary
“Until recently I made my pottery in my garden shed, or rather I made pottery outside and stored my wheel and kiln in the shed which made making things in the winter quite… snowy,” said AJ.
“Now I make my pottery from a local artist studio where I have a room that I share with my jeweller friend from uni, it is a brilliant community there, and much warmer.”
AJ, who counts cosplay at comic conventions, fantasy board gaming with friends and skateboarding as hobbies, loved the thrill of taking part in The Great Pottery Throw Down, which is hosted by Ellie Taylor.
Walking in on the first day was like stepping into another world. We all had no idea what to expect.”
“Walking in on the first day was like stepping into another world. We all had no idea what to expect, it was all so exciting and scary, there was a buzz in the air,” said AJ.
Each week, judges Keith Brymer Jones and Rich Miller set the potters challenges, starting in the first episode with throwing a children’s crockery set and ceramic milk bottles, before deciding who goes home.
Working under pressure was shock to the system
AJ wanted to impress Keith the most in the high-pressure environment of the show.
“He had done an online guest lecture at my university last year and I was so excited to meet him in person. Getting feedback from both Keith and Rich on my work was such a privilege,” said AJ.
However, the strict time constraints of the contest posed a challenge for the normally relaxing craft of ceramics.
It was like a super-fast university project, only instead of six weeks we had just a few hours, and the submission date is tomorrow!”
“Working under that intense time pressure in week one was definitely a shock to the system. It was like a super-fast university project, only instead of six weeks we had just a few hours, and the submission date is tomorrow!” said AJ.
As a potter, AJ’s skills are often in demand, especially around Christmas with requests for gifts from family and friends.
“My favourite things to make at the moment are little creatures that I call blobs,” said AJ.
“At first they were just a way to de-stress and make something fun with clay but every now and then I get requests from friends and family to make some as gifts, usually holding certain things or posing in a certain way. They are still always fun to make.”
However, AJ thinks the best piece of pottery they have produced was a vase while working in Caithness with a potter, learning how to throw and fire a wood kiln.
When is The Great Pottery Throw Down on TV?
“It was inspired by the cliffs just down the road from her pottery and I remember being so driven to make this piece from start to finish, it was a magical moment when it finally came out of the kiln and it will remind me of that amazing landscape forever,” said AJ.
Filming the series is complete, however, the results are strictly under wraps. But win or lose, AJ loved every minute.
“The best thing I will take away from this experience is all the brilliant people I have met at the pottery,” said AJ.
The first episode of The Great Pottery Throw Down is on Channel 4 on Sunday January 2 at 7.45pm