Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: bowls, classes

This week my students really worked it in the Lillstreet Throwdown class. They came into class with their “two matching bowls now trimmed” from last week. Thinking we were going to start with those right away… Oh, but wait… I had another game plan!!!

First we did a quick challenge at the handbuilding tables. I had them each pull a 2-pound slab of clay to make a rectangular slab. The they were challenged to FREEHAND cut with an Xacto four basic shapes. No rulers. No stencils. To templates. Just the Xacto and their best guessimating skills! They were challenged to cut a 5-inch circle. a 4-inch square, a 3-inch equillateral triangle and a 2×10-inch rectangle. Closest ones win points!

Then we pulled out their bowls from last week. Ah ha... back to the expected challenge. They pulled out their “now matching more than before” bowls. We all looked at them, compared them and critiqued some of their strengths & weaknesses. We picked to winners… and then I surprised them with another twist!!! They were to choose one of their bowls to carve a pattern through creating a basket of sorts. They had about an hour and a half for the challenge… which sounded like a lot of time but it flew by fast!

And here’s the REAL challenge…
they had to carve away at least half of the bowl’s weight.
And yes, we actually weighted them before & after!

Grab your tools… grab your bowl… and GO!!!

And then they started carving… and carving… and carving…

And they just kept cutting… just kept carving… so quiet… so focused…

Some of them even pulled out their “fancy” carving tools from DiamondCore Tools. Jake & Dave first tried these in my class when I shared them… and they QUICKLY fell in love with them!!! So now they’ve really “stepped-up their carving games” and now are enjoying the sharp, clean line quality of Diamond Core Tools. Dave may have stepped-up his game… but he also sat-down for the challenge… ON THE FLOOR!!!

And then the carving continued… many of them checking their progress on the scale. Only to find out that they haven’t taken out nearly as much clay as they had thought!!! Realizing that they still have a LONG way to go!!!

Just a few moments before the buzzer went off….
just a few more cuts… just a few more holes…

And then we put the finished bowls down on the table for discussion, critique, judging and admiration! The carved bowls were AMAZING… but I was truly mesmerized by the shadows they created on the tables!

And then the comparison & show-off contest began… as everyone brought their bowls to the table and the class discussion began. Everyone loved the challenge even though it really pushed them out of their comfort zones!!!

A wonderful collection of freshly-carved bowls!!! So many great designs, so much effort & patience. So much for ME to watch all of them working their way through the challenge!

And the Top Two winners?…
Teresa with her elegant “octagonally-carved” bowl…
and Ryan with his bowls full of holes! Not much soup is going to stay in either one?!!!

So that’s it for another wonderful Throwdown class… and it’s only Week Two!!!







Categories: mugs, porcelain, process, production, stamped, stamps

Stamping… leaving an impression…
or two, or three, or more in the porcelain!


Categories: mugs, porcelain, process, production, stamps
Categories: mugs, porcelain, process, production

Playing with porcelain again… making more of my favorite…

Categories: classes, mugs

My pottery class ROCKED it tonight!!!
It was only the second night of our new session… and they’ve already tackled
making MUGS!!! Thrown, trimmed and handles attached…
and ready to move on to bigger & better things next week!


Categories: flowers

Beautiful flowers blooming on a gray Winter’s day.
Thank you Kimberley Sue for the holiday amaryllis!

Categories: flowers

With sunlight streaming into the studio on a snowy day…
some roses in a neighbor’s space made it feel extra cozy inside.

Categories: Taylor, tiles

After we finished installing the textured tile wall in the family room… Taylor was emboldened by her skills and decided to install a few tiles in her bedroom! As she’s still a teenager, we wanted to make it “somewhat removable” in case she changes her mind and decides to remodel her bedroom somewhere down the road. We had a partial box full of tiles, so she chose the ones she wanted to use and laid them out in her own design.

We started installing them with Seal & Peel adhesive… but that proved to be too slippery. The tiles kept sliding down the wall, and popping off “of their own free will” whenever they wanted to. We only got a dozen tiles on at the bottom… and they kept falling off. So we stopped to reconsider the options. Scott decided that they could use 3M Command Velcro Tabs to put them up. And so they did…


Categories: family, soda-fired, Taylor, textures, tiles

So I’ve been making tiles for quite awhile now…
a slightly larger size for a slightly larger installation!
Lots of slabs. Lots of textures. Lots of soda firing!!!

It took me awhile to get them done, but I finally did. The original estimate was about 520 tiles… so I didn’t want to start until I had more than that. As we got closer, my brother-in-law did a bit more math and decided that 380 tiles should be enough for the installation. WHEW!!!… I had plenty!

We started with a template. Scott made a piece of foam core that fit into the space perfectly. The tiles were going to fit into the space within their built-in bookcase and surround the television. So he made a template – and then popped it out so we could layout all of the tiles on the dining room table to fit.

And then we started to fill in the template. Tile by tile. Square by square.

Placing them all onto the template to fill the foam core. Trying to place them all so that they “appear” to be random. So it’s a jigsaw puzzle of sorts putting them together so the textures are spread out, the colors are not too close to each other… and so on. I like to call it “forced random.”

And it looks like we have a good start… in the top right corner at least!!!

With the top corner “done”… we still have a lot of surface to cover!!!

And then once the template was “full”… it was time to start finalizing it. Trying to “force” the random look.

And let me just say… it’s kind of a slippery slope that could last forever!
Every time you move & switch-out one tile… then another tile looks out of place…
and then another.. and then another…

At some point you just need to call it DONE!… and apparently, we’re not there yet?!

Yep… still switching them out… like I said… SLIPPERY SLOPE!

Finally calling the template done… and ready to start installation.
So here’s the bookcase… and our work table all set-up and ready to go!

So we started at the bottom, using tile spacers from the hardware store!

We followed the picture on the bag, as well as our own gut-intuition, using the spacers flat against the wall. But soon realized that THAT wasn’t going to work. After two rows, it appeared that it was going to get tough to pick-out the spacers as the tiles dried to the wall. So we quickly switched to sticking them in between the tiles parallel to the countertop.

Squirt-by-squirt… gluing them directly onto the wall. We found that it helped if we let the adhesive stiffen up for a few minutes before we squished them to the wall. If we did it too soon they seemed to be a lot slippery-ER.

So then we continued… row after row… until we had three done. We decided to take a little “break” to let them set up a bit before the stacked more tiles on these bottom rows. Long ways still to go…

A few more rows and we were up to ten rows! Leaving a space in the middle… space that will be covered by the television when it’s put back onto the wall.

And then we made it to twelve rows! Glue, squish, stick, repeat…

Luckily, I had my niece Taylor there as my more-than-able-bodied-assistant!
She did a wonderful job all say with the installation!

After crossing the span above the “TV” space… with the help of a well-spaced strip of foam core… we finally made it to the top. Well, “close” to the top of the wall. However… not close enough to leave as is… not big enough to squeeze in another tile…

So we ended up cutting a few tiles… some with a Dremel, some with an actual tile cutter!
Let’s just say it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped it might be! We had to do a full row for the top edge, as well as two cut to fit around the granite countertop part way down.

Taylor did a great job putting the finishing touches on the top row,
while I fudged the two to go around the granite counters.

So finally the tiles were up… spacers keeping everything in place. Since all of the tiles aren’t quite “perfect”… we also employed a few toothpicks to help even out the horizontal lines. Look closely…

As well as a couple custom-made tiles with initials on them!

After the tile adhesive cured, it was finally time to pull out the tile spacers & toothpicks.

What a difference it makes when all of that “support material” comes out.
So here’s the finished look… the dark lines between the tiles is merely the painted wall color. There will be no grout… just the “floating” illusion from the paint.

After re-installing the television and speakers along the bottom, the whole project is finally completed. It’s been a long time coming… lots of tiles, lots of textures, lots of soda-firing… and lots of wadding as every tile needed to be wadded before going into the soda kiln!

Thanks to my sister Jen, brother-in-law Scott and niece Taylor for their patience in waiting for the tiles… as well as all of their assistance & patience while we were installing this masterpiece. I hope they will LOVE it for many years to come!!!




Categories: stamps

Starting the New Year with another batch of NEW stamps!!! Looking forward to getting back into the studio more now that we’ve “survived” the holiday season… and beginning to look forward to the Summer Art Fair season!!!