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Things heat up for Aberdeen’s AJ in The Great Pottery Throw Down

A montage of images of AJ in the Great Pottery Throw Down
Things heat up for Aberdeen;s AJ in The Great Pottery Throw Down.

Aberdeen creative AJ Simpson faced an ordeal by fire as they battled in the latest round of The Great Pottery Throw Down.

The 21-year-old Robert Gordon University design graduate was among the nine remaining potters challenged to create a Japanese-inspired tea-set using the Raku method of pottery making.

It is a technique that saw the contestants firing their own work in kilns reaching 1,000C, before plunging them into a container of combustible material to create a unique crackled glaze.

During the episode, which aired on Sunday, the technique was described as one of the most dangerous processes in ceramics with its mix of white-hot temperatures, fire and smoke.

AJ, the youngest contestant in the show, chose a “Scottish Woodlands” theme for their tea-set, with the pot boasting a heather pattern and a curved stick handle.

Aberdeen’s AJ hoped for more tears from judge Keith

The heather motif was repeated on the tea bowls which also included a dimple which AJ created by pressing the wet clay with fingers.

AJ told The Great Pottery Throw Down viewers: “If you look back at ancient pottery, you can still see the fingerprints of the potters who made them. There is something about the human element fired into a pot that I really like.”

The young creative hoped their work would impress judges Rich Miller and Keith Brymer Jones, especially following the previous week when their ceramic Brig o’Balgownie moved Keith to tears – a sign of high praise.

AJ with their ceramic version of the Brig o' Balgownie
AJ with their ceramic version of the Brig o’ Balgownie.

“If I was Keith, this would be the thing I would cry over,” AJ said.

The Scottish Woodland tea-set made it safely through the hazardous – and risky – firing process without mishap, although other contestants suffered cracked lids and broken handle lugs.

AJ chose heather as the combustible to help create the crackle effect – another nod to Scottish roots.

What did the judges say about AJ’s tea set?

The end result did, indeed, find favour with Rich and Keith.

Rich praised the “bold choice” of turquoise as the principal colour, bringing the whole set together.

Judge Keith Brymer Jones, presenter Ellie Taylor, and judge Rich Miller.
Judge Keith Brymer Jones, presenter Ellie Taylor, and judge Rich Miller.

Keith praised the green and copper glazed pot and tea bowls.

“As an overall set, it works really well. It’s a very, very strong design,” he said, adding he particularly liked the idea of the dimple.

“It is so nice to hold in your hand”, he said, but no tears were forthcoming as he added he found the heather motif a “bit stiff for Raku.”

 AJ works on a Japanese tea-set for Raku week in The Great Pottery Throw Down.
Delicate touch as AJ works on a Japanese tea-set for Raku week in The Great Pottery Throw Down.

How did AJ get on? Spoilers ahead

It wasn’t enough to earn AJ Potter Of The Week status, but the Scottish Woodland Japanese tea-set saw them safely through to the fifth round, the half-way point in the 10-part series of The Great Pottery Throw Down.

Next Sunday is Garden Week and the eight remaining potters, including AJ who until recently was creating pottery in their garden shed, will be challenged to create a trio of character gnomes.

You can follow AJ and The Great Pottery Throw Down at All 4.

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