From the art teacher who changed his life to the nearly-famous band he fronted, potter, ceramics designer and the Great Pottery Throw Down judge Keith Brymer Jones pays tribute to the people, happy coincidences and memorable moments that have made his life what it is.
Ballet dancer. Front man in an almost famous band. Judge on The Great Pottery Throwdown. How did all that happen?
By accident mostly. But I always say we make our own luck. What if an art teacher hadn’t given me a lump of clay? What if the band had been really successful? What if I hadn’t taken a photograph of a bowl to the buyer at Heals in London? What if she’d hated it? Or hadn’t seen it… What if I hadn’t agreed to dress up as Adele to make a crazy YouTube video?
Every chapter of my book is based around an object (usually a pot) that’s been significant in my life. It’s just a trigger to let me go off in a lot of different directions and tell a few stories. A lot of stories. Dyslexia. The art teacher who changed my life. My Mother. My Father. A life-changing job interview with a man who lay under his car throughout. That video.
Sifting through half-forgotten memories, trying to pick out the golden nuggets from the stuff that is definitely dross has been a curious, and at times hilarious, sometimes sad, but definitely enlightening process. So here it is – my pottery life with some very loud music and some pretty good dancing. And a lot of throwing, fettling and firing. Oh …and a good dose of anxiety.
I have always read non-fiction and fiction books, I love them equally and always will and yet I rarely write reviews for the first! So I wanted to remedy that and put pen to paper about some of the wonderful non-fiction books I read in 2023.
I have been in love with The Great Pottery Throw Down since I went looking for a feel-good programme during the Covid lockdowns. Here is a TV series celebrating the talents of potters across Britain and with a group of wonderful presenters such as Keith Brymer Jones. He comes across as passionate about his craft and that attracted me to the book he has written about his life so far in Boy In A China Shop. I’m glad to say that the book confirms my opinion of him as being sensitive, committed and all round lovely person.
The one thing many autobiographies for me don’t do is convey the personality of the person properly, becoming just a series of events relayed in print, thankfully that is not the case here. The Keith Brymer Jones who prone to crying, has a slightly mischievous sense of humour, speaks from the page and it is a delight to read. We learn about his initial hopes to become a dancer, of how he struggled in school due to his dyslexia and how his art teacher introduced him to the greatest passion of his life, pottery! In doing so he set him on the path to TV and the programme loved by so many, The Great Pottery Throwdown.
What I love about this book is his honesty! It has not all been a bed of roses, this one-time dancer, then front man in a rock band, has faced a life long battle with anxiety. He talks about this and the toll starting his own pottery business took on his life with a practical sense of realism. We all imagine I think, that TV presenters are individuals blessed with trouble free lives, but the persona they project on screen, is not always an accurate reflection of their life experiences or the journey they took before appearing on our TV screens. Boy In A China reflects the truth of his life and how the man beloved by so many arrived at a point in his life where he was invited to be a judge on a wonderful feelgood programme, beloved by so many.
It really is a book that reflects his journey and takes us behind the scenes of his life.
You can purchase this book from Amazon and Waterstones.
About the author
Keith Brymer Jones is a British potter and ceramic designer, internationally known for his homeware ‘Word’ range and celebrated as the lead judge on The Great Pottery Throwdown, Love Productions television series for Channel Four and HBO. In February 2021, the Evening Standard described him as ‘Quite simply the best person on TV at this present moment in time’.
After an apprenticeship at Harefield Pottery, he started hand-making ceramics for retailers including the Conran Group, Habitat, Barneys New York, Monsoon, Laura Ashley and Heals. As Head of Design for MAKE International he collaborates with other designers including Jane Foster, Scion Living, Hokolo and Becky Baur.