Last summer Love Productions contacted me to ask if I would lend them a couple of my animal sculptures for use in the Great Pottery Throwdown for E4 television. Anyone who visited me at Bird Fair last year will have seen those pieces on display.
This particular episode (No 3) was all about Raku fired animal sculpture, which of course is my speciality. The 12 contestants were challenged to create an animal sculpture with baby capturing the animal’s character. To kick things off, they featured a number of different Raku fired animal sculptures, including my baby white rhino and wild dog sculptures.
I made these animal sculptures specifically for the show because they illustrate the range of effects Raku firing offers, from the smoky skin-like finish I use on my rhino sculptures to the matt black and glazed finish I use on my wild dog sculptures.
Due to TV regulations, the producers were unfortunately not allowed to credit me on the programme. However, I was pleased to hear the presenters comment about my use of texture and proportions to bring my subjects to life. This is such an important aspect of my work. It’s not enough for me to capture a realistic likeness of an animal; I want to show what it’s thinking and feeling through it’s behaviour and body language. It’s really the only way to create that all important connection with the subject.
This episode of the Great Potter Showdown provides a great opportunity to see the Raku firing process in action. It also captures some the risks. I’ve been Raku firing for nearly 30 years and rarely make mistakes these days. But it’s not for the faint hearted, owing mainly to the heat, smoke and use of natural combustible materials. I always wear protective clothing and a respirator, but it’s all too easy to set fire to your clothing, hair or even – on one memorable occasion – the garden hedge!
Just as my episode of the Great Pottery Throwdown was airing, there was a big reaction to my baby rhino sculpture on social media, including one very happy client who proudly shared a photo of his ‘world famous’ rhino sculpture.