Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.
If you’ve already watched every single episode of The Great British Bake Off three times in the last week to soothe your frazzled nerves, I’m with you. Who but Chetna to assure me it’s all going to be okay, because her flavor combinations exist? How would I get through the days without the distraction of Kim-Joy’s fanciful creations?
I also have some good news: There's a lesser-known but equally addictive reality show, The Great Pottery Throw Down, out in the world. In the BBC Two series, ten amateur ceramists from around the UK compete in showstopper challenges as well as short skills tests to become top potter (sound familiar?). [Editors' note: We originally watched the show in full on YouTube, but have gotten word that the videos may no longer be viewable in all geographic regions.]
Truth be told, I relish the Throw Down even more (gasp!) than the Bake Off because I’m even more of a decorative arts junkie than a foodie. If you’re a fellow design lover that also loves the Bake Off and are stuck at home, here are four reasons you should tune in.
I thought Paul Hollywood was a tough judge, then I met the Throw Down’s Keith Brymer Jones, one of Great Britain’s most successful potters. He clearly enjoys surgically slicing the contestants’ soft wares to reveal their inner flaws, and he ruthlessly smashes any pot with a wonky rim or thin bottom. And yet, about once an episode, he chokes up and dabs his eyes because he’s so moved by a maker’s talent or pure tenacity. When Jones takes out his handkerchief, it’s even more satisfying than a Hollywood handshake.
2. Learning is fundamental
I’m a geek for process, and Throw Down serves plenty of it. After seeing all the steps of transforming mud into a permanent ceramic piece—throwing, drying, trimming, glazing, multiple firings—I’ll never look at my mixing bowls the same way. And thanks to the show’s interviews with experts from museums and design schools, I have fresh small talk for my next Zoom meeting. Did you know that the earliest known ceramics are 27,000 years old?
3. Oh, the drama
Some of my regular programming induces too much anxiety these days (I’m looking at you, Homeland), but I do crave a little drama. Pottery, it turns out, is an unusually risky craft. On the wheel, a seemingly perfect vase can collapse in a moment. In the kiln, a dainty teapot can explode, taking out innocent cups, thanks to an invisible air pocket in the clay. These are cruelties I can deal with right now.
4. Clay time is zen time
Since the pandemic hit my city, I consume bad news all day, and I worry most of the time. I need an escape. Watching an artisan slowly massage a lump of clay into a stunning vessel is like a spa treatment for my eyes. The muddy potter’s wheel spins, and my racing mind spins out a little less, lets in some bliss. I never thought I’d say this about a reality show, but The Great Pottery Throw Down is the best salve I’ve found for despair.