'I can't help but cry!' – how The Great Pottery Throw Down became a tear-jerking hit

Keith Brymer Jones is talking about pots and crying. “I get emotional,” says the master potter, “because it’s a craft I love. It is my life. When I see a potter communicating their creativity via something they’ve made, I can’t help but cry. You’re watching imagination come to life. It’s so special.”

Crying over pots has become something of a USP for Jones, ever since he took to our screens in 2015 as one of the two judges of The Great Pottery Throw Down, a craft-based competition in the vein of Bake Off and Sewing Bee, placing hopefuls behind the rotating wheel for their chance at artistic success. Jones has cried at everything from delicate arrangements of bowls, to vases, sculptural forms and a dainty tea set. Where Paul Hollywood has his handshake of yeast-based approval, so Jones has his tears of kiln-fired delight.

Yet this is no gimmick. Speaking to an overall-clad Jones by video link from his art studio in Whitstable, Kent, it is clear that pottery is his lifeblood and translating that passion to screen is what has made the show such a gently endearing success over its four series. Jones had an “epiphany” when he first discovered clay in art class as an 11-year-old. “The moment I touched the clay,” he says, “I realised this material was absolutely for me. It’s this living, moving thing you’re creating from and I couldn’t get enough of it. When I reached the sixth form, I used to bunk off school and go to the V&A museum, where I’d spend all day looking at pots and reading up on them. Almost 40 years later, I’m still learning.”

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 11/03/21]