Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: bike
well, today was a big day.
not only did I ride another Century enjoying today’s perfect weather…
with a respectable average speed of 18.4 miles per hour!
but… I also turned over a nice mileage milestone on my new bike!
it’s been a great summer… with a lot of miles…
(don’t freak out… there is a decimal point before the last digit)

yes… it’s true… I’ve logged an impressive 2,000 miles on my new bike
since I purchased it this spring!… and we still have a few good biking months to go!!!

and where was I riding when this momentous event took place you may ask?
well, I think this sums it up…


Categories: pottery

They’re cute. They’re adorable. They’re precious.
Those tiny little pots. The miniatures that look like their full-sized counterparts.
One or two are cute… and the more the merrier. But what to do with your collection of mini’s?

Well, you know that top of your stove where there’s really not enough room for much of anything – except grease & dust? I decided to use that space to build a shelf display for my collection of miniatures – complete with kiln posts for the risers between shelves! It’s a great way to use that narrow space to display your very own collection of mini pots.

Categories: inspiration

Okay… so I admit it, I like the Renaissance Faire. The atmosphere. The costumes. The whimsy. The altered sense of reality. The fact that this wonderful fantasy world comes to life for just eight weekends a year. And if you know me… the endless parade of costumed revelers to watch & mock!

But my favorite thing at the Faire this weekend was this wonderful woman we spotted weaving her web. Yes, an incredible spider web – attached to posts & benches, clinging to twigs & trees and littered with found objects. It was a wonderful piece of installation art right there in the middle of the Faire. The web was large enough you could walk under, around, between and through. Yet, as always, it amazed me how many people walked right past it and never even saw it?!

She was mesmerizing, intriguing and an incredible artist. Complete with costume and animated in motion & gestures – while all the time silent. Yet she had this wonderful ability to communicate & engage with the children who were brave enough to approach her. One little girl asked a few questions, got a little frustrated when she didn’t talk, but then made amends with it and brought her an acorn. The woman then proceeded to wrap the acorn in string, and encouraged the girl to add it to the web. Which she did – and then tired to fix a section of the web that was broken. She even explained to other kids that she couldn’t speak, but could tell you what to do.

When we were leaving at the end of the day, we found her away from her web standing in a tree silentl spinning her yarn… err, web. As a child approached, she would pull off a wisp of wool, blow it away and let it drift towards the kid like a dandelion seed. Somehow the kids knew what to do as they giggled & grabbed the floating wisp. Which brought a great smile to our favorite Web Woman… and to me.

Categories: summer camp

When I’m not out biking…
I spend a lot of my summer teaching kid’s Summer Camp at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago.

We have weekly camps through the summer for kids of all ages. I have chosen to work with the older kids – ranging in age from 8 to 12. I enjoy that age group as they all have ideas & opinions, enthusiasm and unbridled creativity when they tackle each project. Each week is a different group of kids with a different set of projects. I like to ask the children for their project suggestions and try to build the week’s projects based on their input. Typically we do a clay project on Mondays, and then other craft projects throughout the rest of the week. We’ve done painting, drawing, collage, mosaics and still lifes. As well as some flashback favorites like macrame, decoupage and my personal favorite tie-dye!!! We also did some great projects based on famous artists and how the kids can convey the artist’s famous styles through their own work. It’s an important & fun lesson, plus the first time many of them are exposed to art history

Paper & fabric sewing projects are often a hit, like today’s bandanna bears – as well as the woven fabric pillows by Annika & Olivia.

Some weeks have a theme, others don’t. This week was “Wild Things” where all of our projects were animal-themed. We made clay masks & tie-dyed t-shirts on Monday, took a field trip to Lincoln Park Zoo on Tuesday, and then worked on plaster sculptures for the rest of the week. The kids looked great in their animal-print, tie-dyed t-shirts when we went to the zoo. While Blake enjoyed a splash at the zoo… Anna preferred to make a splash with her dolphin sculpture!

I also teach “Chess Camp” where the kids make an entire themed chess set out of clay. They each come up with their own concept… which two groups are battling it out on their chess board. We’ve had chess sets based on “Harry Potter,” “Lord Of The Rings,” Disney characters… as well as historic themes such as The Battle of Gettysburg, Greek mythology and one of my all-time favorites… The Beatles versus The Rolling Stones.

After several weeks of fun with the kids, today was my last day of kid’s camp for this summer. It was a lot of weeks, a lot of kids, a lot of projects… and a lot of Mod Podge! I had a wonderful time, worked with some really great budding artists and I’m already looking forward to another “tour of duty” next summer!

Categories: bike

What better way to start your day
than a sunrise bike ride along Lake Michigan?

Well, that’s how I start many of my mornings during the summer & fall. Riding along the lakeshore to see the sun rise & enjoy the quiet beauty of a Chicago morning. It’s a great workout – and oddly relaxing at the same time. A great chance to gather my thoughts and prepare for the day ahead before I head off to work. The morning rides range from 18 to 35 miles depending on the morning weather, what time it is… and how tired I’m feeling that early in the morning.

And since most people aren’t even awake at that time of day, I enjoy sharing a sunrise photo now and again… if nothing else to gloat just a little & show them what they are missing!

Categories: inspiration

I love the Olympics. The human drama. The thrill of competition. The lifelong pursuit of perfection. But besides all of that… I really love the Opening Ceremony. Especially this time in Beijing. It was truly awe-inspiring. The grandeur. The pageantry. The overwhelming creativity it must have taken to put it all together. Incredible.

I’ve always thought that a few people doing the same thing in perfect unison was pretty incredible… but two-thousand and eight people doing the same thing? Impressive. From the 2008 drummers who opened the show with a driving beat & pulsating lights… to the 2008 Tai Chi masters who moved so gracefully yet kept their lines & circles in perfect alignment. And let’s not forget the “undulating” grid of 2008 boxes… that turned out to be human-powered?! C’mon now…

I was also impressed by the “textures” the performers made in their sheer quantity & perfect alignment. Maybe that’s why I was so impressed by this Opening Ceremony?

Categories: pottery

It’s been fun having images of my work published in books. And then to see the books for sale in the bookstore and online… pretty cool. But for those of you who may have missed them…

Lark Books creates a great line of books full of artistic creativity. Each book focuses on a certain form or project. They then solicit artists from around the world to submit images to be chosen for the five hundred cherished spots in each book. I have had the honor of being chosen for three of their publications. This series of books is a great visual reference on how diverse the same “shape” can be when interpreted by different artists around the world.

“500 Cups” – page 265
“500 Pitchers” – page 357
“500 Tiles” – pages 219 & 240

Categories: pottery, process, stamps

Over the years, I have made hundreds of stamps.
Each of them making a different impression.

I make my stamps out of a little piece of clay, rolled into a coil, then carved with a design on both ends. The stamps are then bisque fired before using. With hundreds of stamps in my studio, it always surprises me how a handful of them have become the favorites that I always reach for.

To make the textured surface of my pots, I typically take one of the stamps and press it into the leather-hard clay to make the impression one… by one… by one. Sometimes well over a hundred impressions on a single vase! Each one pressed in by hand. It is this repetition, and the textural pattern it creates, that intrigues me.

Categories: blogs

Okay, I must admit that I have been dragging my feet on the whole website thing.

I’ve owned my domain name now for several years. Tried starting it a couple times… then stopped. I even had a friend who volunteered to build it for me while she was pregnant and then home with her newborn… because she was “going to have so much extra time on her hands.” Well, Jimmy is now four and a half… and still no website. I keep telling people that I am spending too much time making pots – and not enough time making websites. They seemed to understand… while I was obviously rationalizing.

So truth be told… as blogs have become more popular, I’ve been intrigued by the ongoing dialog that it allows – instead of a website that pretty much just sits there. I like the idea of being able to share my ideas, my artwork, my inspirations, and parts of my life. So I had been preparing to start my blog… yep, “preparing” for quite a while with no results. It wasn’t until my friend & fellow potter Emily Murphy started a little friendly nudging to get me started. She’s been blogging now for over four years and has a very substantial blog following. So when she offered to help get me started, and ponied-up the help of her partner Ian’s tech skills… I decided to bite the bullet and get started. Surprisingly… it was a lot easier than I expected. Who knew?

So now I have a blog… which is also doing double-duty as my website. There are pages you can open with the standard website stuff. But the ongoing dialog & photos will be in the blog. I hope that you find my ramblings somewhat interesting, and that you return frequently to see what’s going on in my world. Whether it’s my ongoing musings & inspirations, pottery production, art fair schedule or random things that strike me as interesting.

Besides, all the cool kids are doing it…

Categories: pottery

In the beginning there was clay…

and it made a great “impression” on me!