Television

What makes a great potter? Judges of The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down weigh in

Top ceramicists Brendan Tang and Natalie Waddell dish about their love of pottery and the skills and personality traits that make a great potter.

Brendan Tang and Natalie Waddell dish about the skills and personality traits that make a great potter

Brendan and Natalie are in a discussion. He has his hands open and is talking and she is listening with her hands folded in front.
Brendan Tang and Natalie Waddell on the set of The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down. (Frantic Films)

Welcome to the The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down! CBC's newest competition reality series is debuting on CBC and CBC Gem on February 8th.

As the talented potters take on two creative challenges each week, their creations will be judged by two of Canada's foremost creators and educators in pottery: Natalie Waddell, a Canadian ceramic artist and educator based in Toronto and Brendan Tang, a visual artist and instructor at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. 

We asked them why they're passionate about pottery and what they're looking for in Canada's top potter.

For Tang, it was love at first throw down. "I loved working with the material and centring on the wheel and throwing things and all that sort of stuff," he says. "It wasn't a choice my brain made. It was definitely a choice my body made."

Waddell was working in a pottery studio when she realized she'd found her medium. "I spent a lot of time glazing work, teaching people how to decorate and loading and unloading kilns. And I realized that it made me insanely happy to do that sort of work."

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How will they judge?

However, when it comes to evaluating work, they will be looking for potters to express their personal style while showcasing their technical prowess.

Tang says he gets excited by the technical part. "I get drawn into the craft of things and how the person made it."
"I want them to have that personal story up front and centre," adds Waddell. 

When makers impart themselves into their work, "I am basically getting a private introduction to a little bit of their brain or an inner part of themselves that they've managed to manifest in that work."

What makes a good potter? 

Tang says that an excellent potter can weather disappointment and push through. "It's that determination, that drive, that push to find that perfect object or that perfect expression of yourself as a maker."

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Waddell seconds that message of persistence. "You have to really like doing a thing, doing the thing and doing it for a really long time. And then doing it again because sometimes your idea is great, but something just did not click that first time." 

And for serious potters, that means bringing yourself back to the studio and the wheel with the mantra, "I'm going to do this again and again and again until I get it right."

What advice do you give potters competing in the first season of The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down?

"I would advise them to be authentic in their work because that authenticity really can elevate the final results," says Waddell.

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"Rely on your skills, but also push your abilities if you want to excel in this sort of situation," adds Tang. "But more importantly, just have fun. If you're having fun with the work and the material, it can respond in kind."

Watch The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down free on CBC Gem on February 8.

CBC Gem is available for free as an App for iOS, tvOS, Fire TV, Android TV, Android phones and tablets, LG and Samsung Smart TVs, Roku, and Xbox One/S/X and online at gem.cbc.ca


 

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