Former KPU fine arts student spinning her pottery wheels on TV show

Mon, Feb 5, 2024

A former Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) student will be behind the wheel — the pottery wheel — on a new CBC reality show pitting potters against each other in a bid for ceramics glory.

Susan Johnston is a contestant on the new TV show, The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down, which premieres Feb. 8 on CBC and CBC Gem.

“I was so shocked when I got a call from the show, and was among the top 40 potters in Canada to fly out to Toronto for auditions. I was literally jumping for joy when I got that final invitation,” she says.

Completing her fine arts studies at KPU in 2022, Johnston furthered her studies in sculpture and advanced open studio classes, allowing her to create large ceramics installations and pursue conceptual work. 

Susan Johnston on the set of the CBC show The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down.
Susan Johnston on the set of the CBC show The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down. (Courtesy CBC)

“KPU afforded me opportunities to create large-scale projects, giving me a broad level of competency needed to go forward on the show,” says Johnston. “Beyond technical training, KPU provided an environment of challenge and opportunity to go next-level working in clay.”

Johnston, a retired Surrey high school art teacher and founding member of a pottery studio in South Surrey, says she’s incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to return to post-secondary studies to gain proficiency in a medium she has loved all her life. Much of her experience at KPU came during the Covid pandemic, which limited students’ ability to show their finished work outside the classroom studio.

“KPU provided the gift of hands-on expression in a time of real stress globally and personally. It was amazing to meet, to create, and to participate in each other’s lives at such a time,” she says.

Johnston took ceramics classes taught by KPU instructor Ying-Yueh Chuang, who created a unique partnership opportunity for her students. Merging art, science and conservation, the Sculpting Rockfish Habitat project saw KPU students create sculptures they would later sink in Howe Sound.

“The rockfish project was an intense collaboration with the Vancouver Aquarium and Ocean Wise creating rockfish habitat using large ceramic sculptures. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in perpetuity as the sculptures are in Porteau Cove as a permanent installation for the dive community to enjoy,” says Johnston.

Ten potters will compete in The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down. Hosted by Jennifer Robertson, with special appearances by guest judge Seth Rogen, contestants will face two challenges in each episode. Judges Brendan Tang and Natalie Waddell will eliminate one ceramicist each week.

KPU’s Fine Arts Department offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Visual Arts, along with a two-year diploma program, and a one-year certificate program.