Ceramics have been around since at least 24,000 BC, the term 'thirst trap' since 2011. In 2016, Copenhagen-based Eric Nathan Landon became one of the first ceramicists to find fame online for his pottery videos, in which his natural attractiveness is enhanced by some deeply suggestive clay turning. The years since have seen the introduction of TikTok, which has taken thirst trap pottery to a new high. For You pages are now filled with beautiful people sat at the turning wheel, some simply working in golden hour light to trending songs while others capture slow-mo shots of their fingers making innuendos with the clay.
"I think a lot of pottery content in the past has been very vanilla, which is totally fine but also just very old school. I’ve tried to bring a new-school flair to it and just make it a bit more interesting, fun and cheeky, and something that’s really easy to engage with even if you don’t like pottery," says 25-year-old Melbourne studio owner and TikToker Pottery Boy, who has over 1 million followers and chooses not to share his name online. He began pottery classes four years ago before starting his account.
Using a tripod, Pottery Boy films his entire process at the wheel, edits down to the best clips and posts the ensuing video online (intense eye contact with the camera included). He often goes shirtless thanks to the heat while working – a fan-favourite feature according to those in the comments section, who often say they wish they could swap places with the clay.
If you've found yourself sending sexy pottery videos to the group chat, you wouldn’t be the first and you won't be the last. Toby Brundin, director of the Craft Potters Association, says the allure of wheel throwing all comes down to *that* scene in the 1990 movie Ghost. "It's quite a sexy medium, it's wet and slippery, and it's very tactile, and I think that's been on record," he says.
Watching pottery is also incredibly satisfying. In the 1950s the BBC would air the Potter’s Wheel interlude to fill time in the schedule, the clip showing only the hands of a potter at work. Lately, however, popular pottery content has become more post-watershed, with one recent article recommending the best pottery TikTokers for readers to "satisfy [themselves] to" on Singles' Day.
Pottery Boy says that some comments do "get weird sexually" but that it’s not a "big deal" to him. "I've lent into it a little bit. So I'm not expecting people to be like, 'Oh, what a beautiful pot' and not make any comments about anything else," he says. "I think all of it's hilarious and I love anyone who's interacting, whatever their opinion is."
With over 8 billion views for #pottery and 71 million for #potterygirl, it’s clear that TikTok users have a love for the ceramic. However, while some users enjoy the recognition from 'thirsty' viewers, not all the attention has such an attractive glaze, with some creators reporting unwanted objectification and predatory comments.
Twenty-two-year-old Silk Cartwright began filming herself at the wheel to a soundtrack of trending songs in 2021, a month after beginning to learn the art, and is now one of the biggest ceramicist creators on the app with over 1.2 million followers.
Like Pottery Boy, Cartwright doesn’t really mind the term 'thirst trap' to describe her videos. She also doesn't mind that some followers may be focusing on how she looks instead of her work. Unlike Pottery Boy, however, Cartwright isn’t so welcoming of the sexual responses she often receives. She’s stopped including the coning up and coning down process (the essential first step when a potter guides the clay into a tall volcano shape before flattening it down) in her videos as often, after being inundated with sexual comments.
"I think the whole concept of a thirst trap is a bit funny, because if you see someone who you think is attractive doing anything, it could be considered a thirst trap, like, 'Well, I was attracted to that, they must be doing it to turn me on,' which obviously isn't always the case," says Cartwright. She describes the fact that her clothing makes a difference as "disheartening", noting: "Sometimes when people think, 'Oh, that's just a thirst trap', I am just wearing a singlet and doing pottery."
Cartwright’s videos made headlines earlier this year, with tabloids describing her as "sexy pottery girl" and her videos as "wet ceramic sessions". This should cause us all to question: when does a reaction go from thirsting to objectification?
"I stopped including [coning up and down] from there. Which does suck because I feel like in any pottery videos I've watched, males, they include that part and it's not a problem, but when I'm doing it, I get horrible comments from people saying… Well, I won't say them but yeah," she explains.
Some TikTokers have leaned fully into pottery's thirsty fandom however, capitalising on it to create content that tiptoes from PG thirst traps into the world of fetish and kink. A search on TikTok returns hundreds of videos of people using their feet to have a go on the wheel. Unconventional, but with 500,000 likes on one video, it’s a hit.
Sex educator Dr. Liz says it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when online content goes from being a simple thirst trap to becoming a kink video "because there's not necessarily a hard line between those things in the real world".
"Even just where the line is between what is kinky and what's not is really hard to draw. The reality is, any time you're watching a video and you're like, 'This is bizarre and I don't get it,' most likely it has to do with someone's kink," they add. Some videos incorporates obvious and common kinks like feet but almost any online content could be a kink for someone out there. Dr. Liz explains that when it comes to pottery, aspects like "dirt and dirtiness" and the relation to mud lend a hand. Activities like mud wrestling make for popular content, while mess and mud each hold their own as well-established kinks. All three just so happen to be guaranteed at the wheel.
What’s important, says Dr. Liz, is that although viewers shouldn’t feel shame or guilt about their sexual attraction to a ceramicist, they should be respectful of creators, some of whom, like Cartwright, may be made to feel uncomfortable by the attention. "It's cool, whatever, do your thing. Who is anyone to judge?" says Dr. Liz. "It's when you're creating interactions with others that make them uncomfortable or creating harm to others in a way that is more of a problem."
Cartwright and Pottery Boy have the same main aim: to share their love of pottery and maintain the post-lockdown boom in ceramics. Brundin admits that pottery purists might find a problem with any new-age niche but this one means only good things for him. "Ultimately we want more people to be doing it. We want it to be more popular. We want it to be mainstream, we're very happy about it," he says.
"Ceramics is not easy, that kind of wheel throwing that you're looking at is hard and they're throwing well, they're not crap makers. They just happen to be attractive, good makers."
Whether you come for the finger-poking mess or to enjoy the satisfying process with a beautiful person, either is okay. Just be sure to comment responsibly. They might not be coning up for your pleasure.