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Cozy Up With The Great Canadian Pottery Throwdown

Host and self-proclaimed pottery fangirl Jennifer Robertson calls this British reboot a salve for the soul.

by Sierra Riley

Photo courtesy of CBC.

The Great Canadian Pottery Throwdown is the Canuck rendition of a British program—deemed by the Telegraph “TV’s coziest contest”—wherein 10 amateur potters are put to the test in a series of creative challenges. It’s my newest obsession, and I’m already mid-moult in making pottery my entire personality.

Host Jennifer Robertson (Schitt’s Creek, Ginny and Georgia, Single All the Way) brings a warmth to the pottery studio that will radiate through your screen and thaw your February-frosted heart. The contestants are equally charming and wholly supportive of one another. Panel members Brendan Tang, Natalie Waddell, and special guest/executive producer Seth Rogan, judge each creation with a kindness that lacks in rivalling reality bake-offs and the like. 

“This is not The Bachelor,” Robertson jokes on a phone call with RANGE earlier this winter. “This is a totally different energy […] It’s a feel-good show. There’s some tension for sure, but it is like a salve. It’s one of those shows. It’s just gonna be a nice thing to sit and watch when the world feels a little bit overwhelming.”

I have found that TGCPT is a delightful escape from the unrelenting brutality of winter in Toronto, where I have recently opted to hole myself up in my new, underfurnished apartment. I may not yet have rugs, but I do own a television and, consequently, a desire to decorate my home with innumerable ceramic vessels and hand-sculpted trinkets.

Coming to CBC Gem on February 8, 2024, the first episode asks contestants to create a hometown tribute. Some potters—each from different corners of the country—dig up family lore, others craft thoughtful iterations of landmarks and dishes local to their respective cities of origin. As an example, Rogan made a bong that, on its side, mirrors Vancouver’s mountain views, and upright “is a bong”. These pieces are ultimately graded on concept, creativity, and overall execution/technical skills applied. Each episode, one contestant is named Potter of the Week and another is eliminated from the show.

The process takes four days altogether, and that’s enough time for the potters to build a sense of kinship. Beloved contestant Nana Sue offers others homemade toilet paper putty to fill in cracks. Words of encouragement are tossed from wheel to wheel as regularly as clay is thrown. By the time elimination rolls around, everyone is misty eyed.

“It was so much more difficult than I thought it was gonna be,” Robertson reveals. “Thursdays were usually the elimination day, and I just felt horrible the whole day. And they were fine, the potters were fine, it was all about me! 

Photo courtesy of CBC.

“What I’ve learned about the pottery process in the shooting of the show is that pottery is unpredictable a lot of times. If your clay is too wet or thin or if it hasn’t dried in the right way, things can crack and things can explode. So, potters are also incredibly resilient.”

This volatility, of course, is a source of much suspense in the show. The vibes may be hygge, but when it comes time to fire the pieces, the atmosphere thickens substantially. Nana Sue aptly remarks in episode one that “you’re competing against yourself and also the kiln”. So much can go wrong at every step of the process, and yet the contestants march on. As a first-hand witness to the dedication that is required of potters, host Jennifer Robertson developed a deeper appreciation for the craft.

“That is not an easy life. There are not a lot of billionaire potters…there are none, actually. I’m pretty sure there’s none,” she explains with a chuckle. “I will never go to a craft show or on Etsy and see a mug that’s $50 and go ‘$50 for a mug?’ because now I know what that’s about.” 

Anyone who’s ever taken a pottery class has likely reached this humbling realization themselves: pottery is very, very difficult! It is a practice of radical acceptance. It’s a step into the unknown, a step that contestants are filmed taking on The Great Canadian Pottery Throwdown. Watching this feat may inspire you to enroll in a hand-building class. It may entice you to drop hundreds of dollars on makers’ market mugs. It may even remind you of the power of community. And evidently, if you’re a sentimental HSP like me, you’ll end up waxing philosophical about clay.