From creating a ceramic Brig o’ Balgownie to crafting a trio of “creepy” gnomes, Aberdeen creative AJ Simpson has carved a path to the final of The Great Pottery Throw Down.
Along the way, the Gray’s School Of Art graduate has been named Potter Of The Week three times and won the Channel 4 show’s second challenge five times.
Now they face their biggest challenge yet – to create a garden totem in the final showdown with fellow potters Anna and Christine in the hope of being named winner of The Great Pottery Throw Down 2022 this Sunday.
Here’s a look at the journey AJ – the youngest potter in the show – has taken to get to the grand finale of the hugely popular series.
Week 1: Crockery Set
The 12 hopeful potters gathered for the first episode, with a challenge to create a children’s crockery set.
AJ chose a dinosaur theme, with bright, bold colours.
Judges Rich Miller and Keith Brymer Jones said they loved the fun approach AJ took – which saw them safely through to the next round.
— The Great Pottery Throw Down (@PotteryThrow) January 2, 2022
Week 2: Pendulum Wall Clock
AJ reflected their love of fantasy board gaming by creating a clock featuring a treasure chest, guarded by a dragon, and also took on the second challenge of throwing matching pet bowls, blindfolded.
Rich and Keith loved the idea and design of AJ’s clock. And on to the next round they went.
— The Great Pottery Throw Down (@PotteryThrow) January 9, 2022
Week 3: Inanimate object
This was the week when AJ stepped into the limelight with a stunning recreation of Aberdeen’s Brig o’ Balgownie.
Keith fought back tears as he called it “sublime” and Rich said it was “profound”.
It didn’t earn AJ Potter Of The Week, but they did win the second challenge of recreating one of the bottle kilns at the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke, where the series is filmed.
Week 4: Japanese Tea Set
It was an ordeal by fire for AJ, now growing in confidence, as they created a Japanese tea set using the Raku method.
Despite all the flames and smoke involved, AJ’s elegant Scottish Woodlands tea set again found favour from Rich and Keith.
They praised the bold colours and strong design demonstrated by the north-east potter, seeing them safely through to the next week.
Week 5: Character Gnomes
AJ was clearly having fun with the challenge – and letting their own style and personality shine through.
AJ joked: “I always found gnomes creepy, so I thought I would make mine creepy.”
Judges Keith and Rich loved the quirky and inventive approach and named a delighted AJ as Potter Of The Week for the first time.
They also won the second challenge, again, this time with a ceramic kale forcer.
Week 6: 1960s glazed vessel
The Aberdeen potter found this challenge groovy, creating two matching vases in a striking 1960s style with bold colours and shapes.
Rich said AJ had “hit the nail on the head” while Keith said the vases were outstanding.
AJ won the second challenge for a third time, transforming a kitchen utensil jar with a colourful 1960s pattern.
Top designer Orla Kiely called AJ’s work “super cute” and perfect.
— The Great Pottery Throw Down (@PotteryThrow) February 6, 2022
Week 7: Wildlife week
AJ had a chance to go wild when asked to create a table lamp with an animal theme.
They chose a sea otter. The almost circular design was called “genius” and “beautiful” by Keith and Rich.
It earned AJ their second Potter Of The Week accolade. AJ notched up a fourth second challenge win with their animal-themed sculptures.
Rich and Keith said they showed AJ’s distinct style and personality, marking them as one to watch in the series.
Week 8: Self-sculpture
In one of the most personal challenges, the potters were asked to create a sculpture of themselves.
AJ chose a theme of “Happy Place”, inspired by exploring in the north-east.
Keith and Richard again heaped praise on AJ for creating a work that so reflected their personality, by now shining through in the series.
And AJ triumphed again in the second challenge, making it four weeks in a row, with a set of candlesticks.
Week 9: Urinals
In one of the most unlikely challenges, the remaining four potters were asked to create a urinal.
AJ’s love of history saw them craft a knight’s helmet with a visor and bright red feather.
It caught the eye of Keith and Richard for being simple, but bold and “super-cool”.
AJ looked flush with success when their piece earned them a Potter Of The Week hat-trick – and a coveted place in the final.
Week 10: The final
It’s the big one, with a big challenge. AJ and fellow potters Anna and Christine have to build a garden totem sculpture – one that reflects all the aspects of their life.
So, now just one build and one firing stand between AJ and the dream of that prestigious place as winner of The Great Pottery Throw Down.
No doubt the whole of the north-east will be hoping AJ smashes it this Sunday.
You can watch The Great Pottery Throw Down on All4.