Based on hit series such as The Great British Bake Off and The Great Pottery Throw Down, the series brings Brendan together with ceramic artist and educator Natalie Waddell to decide which of a dozen contestants will take home the title of Canada’s best potter.
“It’s a real pressure cooker,” Brendan says, noting contestants had only two-and-a-half studio days per episode. “They have so little time. I give my students three or four weeks to make a piece. But it was amazing. It just blew my mind what these potters accomplished. It was wild.”
Hosted by actor Jennifer Robertson, the eight-episode series will premiere on CBC in 2024. The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down was shot in Vancouver, in the pottery studios at the former Emily Carr University campus on Granville Island.
As a ceramicist and artist, Brendan brings traditional skills and techniques to the creation of extraordinary art objects. His lauded work has brought him numerous accolades including the Biennale Internationale de Vallauris Contemporary Ceramic Award and a spot on the prestigious Sobey Art Prize shortlist.
On top of his burgeoning television career, 2023 saw Brendan achieve another major career milestone: an exhibition in New York City’s famed Chelsea gallery district. Titled Cultured, the two-person show brings Brendan together with artist Coby Kennedy at c24 Gallery. The exhibition showcases works from Brendan’s Manga Ormolu series, comprising “ceramic forms that combine elements of Chinese Ming Dynasty era vases with modern, manga- and anime-inspired robotics and technology to explore the complex layers of his own mixed-Asian heritage.”
Brendan says his love of ceramics is partly due to this capacity to accommodate both contemporary, high-art concepts and ancient, functional disciplines. But the hands-on tactility of working with clay is at the very core of his affection for the art.
“I think there’s something wonderful about just how analog it is,” he says. “We live in a digital world, and ceramics is a return to making things with your hands in an immediate and intimate way.”
Brendan also believes this directness is responsible for the growing appeal of ceramics. He points to the numerous community studios that have opened up over the past decade — no small feat in a city as expensive and crowded as Vancouver, he adds.
“It’s having a moment,” he says of the art form. “I feel like this show will be putting gasoline on the raging fire that’s already burning.”
In particular, Brendan believes viewers will be inspired by the myriad creative ways contestants advance their craft.
“They were really pushing the limits of what ceramics can be as a medium,” he says. “At a lot of the community studios, people are learning how to make functional work or just getting their feet wet working with the material. I think the show will open up that conversation even more.”
Sending people home, he notes, was by far the hardest part of making the show.
“It was really tough,” he says. “You get to know everybody really well. And even though I play a significant role as a judge, it’s really the potters putting it all out there, pushing their abilities. When you send people home, you just feel like a monster.”
But of course, crowning a champion each week is also part of the job. And while Brendan is still workshopping a trademark endorsement to match the Hollywood Handshake, he says he would “absolutely” jump into a second season, if asked.
“Hands down,” he says. “It was a blast. Being on set, working as a team to produce this wonderful, healthy television show about witnessing people pushing themselves to the limit and doing the best they can do — and being celebrated by their peers for doing so — I would totally be there for that.”
Catch Brendan in The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down on CBC, premiering winter, 2024.
Catch Cultured at c24 Gallery in New York City through Dec. 23, 2023.