Selkirk College Alumna Throws It Down on CBC Television
Alice Gibson nurtured her passion for creating beauty from clay in the bustling ceramics studio on Selkirk College’s Victoria Street Campus where she developed confidence at the pottery wheel that has propelled her onto the national stage.
Chosen as one of 10 amateur potters in a nationwide search, Gibson is a contestant on The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down that premieres on CBC Gem and CBC television on February 8.
Graduating from the 10-month Ceramics Program with the college’s Class of 2023, the Penticton native is a cast member on the eight-episode show that’s hosted by Canadian actress Jennifer Robertson and features Seth Rogen as a guest judge.
“It’s a feel-good show, I think everyone can find a little reason to watch,” says the 22-year-old.
“It could be for the ceramics or for the people, but it’s a special show. The care, the passion and the creativity that went into all this… it was magic.”
Based on the popular British television show The Great Pottery Throw Down created by Love Productions — who is also behind The Great British Baking Show — the CBC original series is produced by Frantic Films with participation of Point Grey Pictures. For the debut season of the Canadian show, Gibson and her fellow contestants spent two months in late-summer filming in a state-of-the-art studio on Vancouver’s Granville Island.
Each week, the group of talented potters will step up to the pottery wheel and take on creative challenges that will test their skill and technique. The show’s judges — Brendan Tang and Natalie Waddell — will then make the call on what contestant will be eliminated each episode.
“A huge part of this experience, that I am eternally grateful for, is getting to meet all these different potters from across the country,” says Gibson, who is the youngest contestant on the show.
“Being able to share this experience with this wonderful group of people is truly amazing. That I am able to call them friends and pick their brains when it comes to ceramics, they are all so talented and so open to sharing.”
Mentorship, Powder Days and Creative Spark
After graduating from high school, Gibson started her post-secondary pathway at Okanagan College and then transferred to the University of Victoria where she chose psychology as a major. Almost immediately upon arrival to Vancouver Island, Gibson felt miscast in her academic pursuit.
Gibson’s father is a high school art teacher in Penticton who always encouraged his daughter to embrace her creativity. With a knowledge of the excellent post-secondary options in Selkirk College’s School of the Arts programs, Gibson’s dad reminded her of the 10-month Ceramics Program based in Nelson.
Happily switching directions, Gibson left university and applied to Selkirk College.
“Ceramics is a unique art form because it’s something that people decide to bring into their homes and use every day,” says Gibson.
“It becomes part of their daily rituals, which is so special. I have gravitated towards ceramics because having a favourite mug that you use every day, it’s art and it’s also functional.”
Once she arrived to Nelson in September 2022, Gibson immediately embraced the program and the community vibe. With a heavy hands-on focus that meshes with conceptual skills learned in the classroom, Gibson found the perfect mentors at the Victoria Street Campus with Martin Tagseth and Robin DuPont. With the added bonus of heading up to Whitewater Ski Resort several days a week for a fresh air break, Gibson found her educational groove.
“I absolutely loved my experience at Selkirk College,” she says.
“It came during such a beautiful time of my life, I have taken away so many wonderful relationships and so many skills. I owe so much to my time at Kootenay Studio Arts and to my instructors.”
Taking A Chance on a Unique Experience
Hired as the ceramics consultant to ensure authenticity on The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down because of his vast knowledge and national reputation in the sector, DuPont was an integral part of the eventual production.
When Gibson found out about the search for contestants, she chatted with her mentor and was encouraged to apply. Intrigued by the concept, she sent in her initial application with zero expectations.
In the throes of a busy second semester on the Victoria Street Campus, Gibson heard back and was asked to be part of a Zoom call with producers. That call led to a request to fly out to Toronto for a formal audition. Gibson figured she didn’t do well enough to make the cut, but then a call came in June while she was busy setting up for the Ceramics Program’s year-end show.
“It was such a cool moment for me because there was so much going on around me,” Gibson recalls. “Not only was I wrapping up a wonderful year at Selkirk College with so many amazing people, but I was now going to embark on this insane journey.”
Though she was surprised to make a nation-wide search with relatively little experience, Gibson’s instructor says she is a great fit.
“All of the competitors were so courageous to put themselves out there and be tested in such a difficult pressure-filled environment,” says DuPont, who was the City of Nelson’s 2023 Cultural Ambassador because of his impact on the community and beyond.
“For a young person with only a few years of experience in the field, Alice jumped right in. It’s a very bold thing to be an artist in the first place, then to put it all on the line on television is a big deal. The cast is really high level, I’m so proud of Alice and all the competitors.”
Production for The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down took place over almost two months starting in early-August.
Besides having the chance to have a whole new world opened up and getting the opportunity to test her skills with a fun cast of competitors, a highlight for Gibson was getting to meet one of her favourite Canadian celebrities. A film industry titan and skilled potter himself, Seth Rogen spent two weeks on the shoot interacting with the contestants and providing his unique brand of humour.
“I was genuinely shocked when I first met him,” Gibson says.
“I am big fan of Seth and all of his creative outlets, he is a very talented individual and it’s amazing that he supports the Canadian ceramics community.”
Though careful to not give away any of the plotline or outcomes, Gibson says it was an unforgettable experience. As she prepares for her national television debut and the hype builds, Gibson has been working in her newly built small studio at her parent’s home in Penticton where she continues to develop her craft. On February 8 at 8 pm, she will be taking in the first episode with her parents, younger brother and grandparents.
“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking,” she says. “It’s so weird to even watch the trailer, I have never seen myself on television before… it’s such a foreign concept to me. I am very excited that I get to share this with the most lovely group of people.”
Faculty at the Victoria Street Campus will be holding a premiere viewing party.
All current Selkirk College students, program alumni and general community members are invited to come together to watch The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down on February 8 starting at 7 p.m.