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Aberdeen AJ’s homage to Brig o’ Balgownie wows Great Pottery Throw Down judges

Image featuring AJ Simpson, their ceramic Brig o' Balgownie and the real Brig o' Balgownie for The Great Pottery Showdown
Aberdeen creative AJ Simpson created a replica of the Brig o' Balgownie for The Great Pottery Throw Down.

Robert Gordon University Design graduate AJ Simpson paid homage to their hometown of Aberdeen by creating a stunning ceramic Brig o’ Balgownie in The Great Pottery Throw Down.

And the detail of the intricate work moved judge Keith Brymer Jones to near tears as he heaped praise on the north-east creative in the third episode of the Channel 4 show which aired on Sunday night.

AJ Simpson, the youngest contestant on the show, was among 10 remaining potters facing the challenge of creating a piece based on an inanimate object from their hometown.

AJ Simpson with their version of Brig o' Balgownie for The Great Pottery Throw Down
AJ Simpson with their exquisite take on the Brig o’ Balgownie for The Great Pottery Throw Down.

Brig o’ Balgownie

AJ chose Brig o’ Balgownie, a 13th-century bridge spanning the River Don in Old Aberdeen, as it’s a spot they frequently visit with their partner.

“Walking over at home, I just thought it was really pretty,” said AJ, a graduate of Gray’s School Of Art.

Working with a specialised and tricky paper clay – described by other contestants as “evil” – AJ said the challenge had inspired them to find out more about the ancient structure.

Brig o’ Balgownie Aberdeen
AJ loves to walk over the Brig o’ Balgownie.

AJ loved finding out about hometown in The Great Pottery Throw Down

“I never really appreciated the historical significance of it,” said AJ, who told viewers it was the oldest bridge in Scotland, built in 1320.

“It was the main highway up into the Highlands for a long time and coming through Aberdeen. It’s been really nice to find out a bit about my hometown during this brief.”

The finished work, following the brief of being purely in black and white, featured intricate details of the brig, including the old-fashioned lamppost at one end.

It was this which caught the eye of judge Keith.

AJ Simpson's  Brig o' Balgownie for The Great Pottery Throw Down
The Great Pottery Throw Down judges loved the detail on AJ’s  Brig o’ Balgownie.

“This is sublime, absolutely brilliant,” he said. “You’ve got so much character and detail in that lantern on the bridge. That’s amazing, that bit there.”

Keith fought back tears as he praised AJ’s work – a trademark of the respected judge’s appearance on the show and considered a sign of high praise.

Fellow judge Rich Miller said there was something “profound” about AJ’s “bridge to nowhere” and praised it as a beautifully constructed piece and a great concept.

Image of the Brig o' Balgownie Aberdeen
The lampost on the Brig o’ Balgownie featured in AJ’s piece.

How did AJ get on? Spoilers ahead

AJ also won the second challenge of The Great Pottery Throw Down episode – recreating one of the iconic bottle kilns of the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke, where the series is filmed.

Working with a six kilo lump of clay, AJ again was lauded by the judges for getting the piece spot on. Rich said AJ had done a “fantastic job”.

The Great Pottery Throw Down judges Rich Miller and Keith Brymer Jones
The Great Pottery Throw Down judges Rich Miller and Keith Brymer Jones.

While AJ won accolades for the miniature Brig o’ Balgownie, they were not named as Potter Of The Week – but did win through to the next round of the hugely-popular series.

The remaining nine potters, including AJ, will now face the challenge of throwing a Japanese-inspired tea set in the show, which is hosted by Ellie Taylor.

You can catch up with AJ on The Great Pottery Throw Down at Channel 4.


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