I prefer getting my hands dirty says Ipswich's Great Pottery Throw Down heartthrob Ryan Barrett
Ipswich born artist cum model Ryan Barrett is certainly getting viewers of TV's The Great Pottery Throw Down fired up.
Ryan has many women keen to get their hands dirty and throw down on the spinning wheel, except one. His grandma Josie.
“She’s still in Ipswich and lucky for me she has a few sheds, one that I managed to take over and turn into a creative space for my ceramics,” says the 31-year-old.
“It’s a win win. She loves to feed me with her amazing cooking and I keep her company so we’re all happy. I do ask her if she’d like to have a go throwing on the wheel, but she replies ‘it’s too messy for me’.
Josie is one of the former Chantry High School student’s main inspirations. She’s had a huge influence on all her grand children growing up, teaching them how to knit and sew from a young age. Dad Steve was another.
“He’s very handy,” he said.
“I guess it has hugely rubbed off on myself and my sister growing up. A lot of my art projects seemed strange or crazy to my parents and grandma growing up, but they all helped in some way.
“Me and my dad use to disagree on a lot of things on how to construct them, but we always got the job done. I used to thrive on the thought of someone saying ‘you can’t do that’ and it drove me so much more to prove them wrong.”
Growing up in Chantry, Ryan went to Gusford Primary then Chantry High School before attending Chantry/Stoke Sixth Form to do a foundation degree at Suffolk College. He says if it was not for his Chantry High art teacher Louise Craige, nee Barrell, he would never have attended college or university, therefore he never would have began modelling.
“I wasn’t the best at high school, being dyslexic I found it hard to concentrate, finding art was one thing I loved. Louise was an amazing teacher with a lot of drive to push her students,” says Ryan, who is now based in Shoreditch, east London, but tries to get back to Ipswich to see his family and friends as often as he can.
“They say a teacher can make or break a subject or lesson. Louise really made me inspired by art and I spent every day between lessons in that department – I even used to be in there when I wasn’t meant to be. I remember finishing a painting in sixth form and another teacher asked me if she could buy it. I replied ‘sure, how much’.”
He was scouted and signed to Models1 during the first year of his fine arts textiles BA degree at London’s Goldsmith’s College.
“I got sent to Paris and Milan fashion weeks, which was actually an inspiration for my art projects at uni. It’s been a long career and it’s still going. I definitely prefer getting my hands dirty and being creative - nothing beats it,” says Ryan, who fell in love with clay when he went on a date to a pottery throwing class.
He added: “I’ve always wanted to touch clay and never got the chance. As soon as I touched it... The organic tangible material was incredible to get dirty and creative with, it was an instant obsession. The next day I went on eBay and bought a kiln and wheel, moved into my grandma’s shed and began to throw.”
Viewers of the show – which sees 10 people from around the country head to Stoke-on-Trent, the home of pottery, to compete – feel the same about Ryan. He was surprised to find himself trending on Twitter alongside President Donald Trump.
“I was in utter shock, how social media can blow up that fast. I think my words were ‘OMG,I’m trending... What does that mean,” he laughs.
“I found the moment to be very surreal and watching myself on TV even more so. You know when you hear your phone voice played back and you’re like ‘do I really sound like that?’.”
His appearance has resulted in an army of female followers suddenly becoming interested in pottery.
“I think there has been a mix of men and women. Pottery is amazing and I feel everyone should try it. There were some very funny comments that made me laugh out loud, some people don’t hold back,” he smiles.
Ryan’s friends and family are cheering him on. Grandma Josie was certainly excited as she makes an appearance on the show.
“I loved the experience. It was such an adventure and has really improved me as a potter,” he added.
“The idea of taking a craft and turning it into a competition excited me a lot as I knew it would push the boundaries and I love a challenge.”
• The Great Pottery Throw Down airs at 8pm, Thursdays, on BBC2.