Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: pottery, process, production, studio

So I spent the afternoon in the studio today after spending the morning visiting
friends who were in the Bucktown Arts Festival. So after chatting, shopping, laughing…
I locked myself away in the studio to finally put handles on those darn mugs!!!
They’ve been “haunting” me for weeks now. You can only spray them
with water so many times… so today it was now or never…

So when I got there, I pulled enough handles for all of the cylinders.
I like to pull them in the traditional way, then bend them over on themselves
so they are curved like a handle as they set up. Once a bit less sticky, I then
attach the handles to the cylinders.


So after a long afternoon of “scratching & attaching”…
the cylinders are now officially mugs!!!


Categories: totem pole

So people have asked… “Why totem poles?”
I don’t really know why. But I do know I like making them! I like the idea
of sharing my art on a larger scale – outside in the world for everyone to enjoy.

My first set of totem poles were made as a triptych installation piece
for the garden in front of my condo. I was working on turning the entire
parkway into a perennial garden… and what better way to spruce it up
than some artwork?! So I made three soda-fired totem poles and installed
them in the garden… such as it was with such small, fledgling plants.


The totem poles survived for several years – which was of course one of my
major concerns. How long would they last? Would they survive the “elements”
who walk the city streets? And they did… for awhile. About five years.
Then for some reason, a rash of vandalism began… with the totems being
bent over occasionally. Never smashed or stolen… just bent over?!  Luckily,
the steel pole that runs up the center of the stack kept them together & intact…
and I could just bend them back up. However, after a few times, the ceramic base
segments began to pinch, crack & shatter, as did a few of the lower side pieces.
So I glued… I taped… I became embarrassed by the state they were in.
I decided to move the remaining pieces to “safer” ground.

So one of them went into our condo courtyard-backyard!
Not quite the same with a totem pole in a pot?! But enough plants surrounding…
and no one can even see the pot!!!


Another one of the totem poles went to my friend Rosene & Gerry in Peoria.
They are in fact my very first art fair friends. They were the ones across the aisle
at my very first art fair where I had NO IDEA of what I was doing. They were
very supportive, helpful & encouraging… and we’ve been friends ever since.
They have since”retired” from the art fair circuit… and have taken up “full-time”
gardening in their incredible tiered garden down by Peoria. They now do plant
sales every year… and have been very generous with their plants. Giving me
a LOT of the plants that have filled out my gardening efforts!!! So I get plants…
and they get a totem pole!


The next project was a new totem pole for a group gallery show I was doing.
It was my first glazed totem pole… and my first show using cone 6 glazes!
The look turned out great… but after the show, it needed a home?!
So it ended up with a great home in my parent’s garden!!!


Next, I did a collaborative gallery show at Lillstreet Art Center. It was called
“Collective Conversations in Clay” where we had to collaborate and “trade”
pieces with your partner to finish in our own styles. So I had to finish Emily’s
dinnerware set… and she had to finish one of my totem poles! This green totem
found it’s home in my front yard garden… it’s a little thicker… a little sturdier…
and a little less “out in the open” for the passing ne’er-do-wells. The shorter,
“soda-fired-Emily Murphy-finished” totem pole has traveled up to her new place
in Minnesota… waiting to find it’s “home” up there as she sets up her new studio.


The latest “totem” in the series?… you guessed it, my kid’s Summer Camp project.
They loved making it… they loved installing it… they loved showing it off to their
parents & friends. They loved leaving an artistic “legacy” of their time at Lillstreet.
It was great fun for all of us – and quite an endeavor for myself and my assistant
Brian to tackle with the kids during my last week at Summer Camp!

So where will the next totem pole show up?… who knows?
But I think I can promise that there will indeed be one… somewhere… sometime…

Categories: lillstreet, summer camp, textures, totem pole

Again, I’m referring to the afternoon class of this week as “Part Two…”
and as my final camp for the summer – we had to go out with a bang!!

So Brian, my favorite camp assistant, and I decided to take on a rather large project…
no small projects here… we’re stepping it up and the kids are excited too!
We gave them the choice of normal clay projects… or one large collaborative piece
that would be on display at Lillstreet Art Center for years to come! They quickly chose
the collaborative piece. So we started production… of a terra cotta, textured totem pole!

So on Monday, all of the kids made their own cylinder segment for the totem.
Each of them threw their slabs (in impresssive 28″ long for the circumference of each
segment) and then pressed in their textures & patterns. Each slab was then turned
into a cylinder and attached to another slab base. Brian made a base and I made
the topper – to fulfill & finish off our class’ collaborative effort.


On Tuesday, our campers painted their sections with underglaze and clear glaze!
One step closer to our final “collaboration”…



I loaded our pieces into the kiln on Tuesday night… a little sooner than ideal.
As some of the pieces were still a little “damp”… we had a few kiln “issues.”
Especially Brian’s base that totally self-imploded!!! So who needs a base any way?!


Since the other pieces “survived” the firing, we still had plenty to work with.
But before then, we filled our week with other projects such as abstract painting
and some “tramp art” mosaics with bottle caps & glass beads!

When Friday rolled around, it was time to assemble the totem pole.
Our original plan was to assemble it outside in the garden corner of Lillstreet.
But with some of our “structural” flaws, the rainy day, the muddy ground…
and our desire to keep the totem pole intact longer than the first group of
ne’er-do-wells who decide to ruin it. So we anchored a central post in a large
flower pot filled with gravel and cement. Each cylinder was them placed over
the post and filled with gravel to “secure” it and keep it from shifting on the pole.
Piece by piece… segment by segment… the totem got taller & taller & taller.


By the end of the day, we had a complete totem pole – as well as a groovy cool
“billboard” banner that helped hype the event!!! And the kids were thrilled…



And I was thrilled that it all came together. Glad the the kids were please.
Glad that they were all excited to be leaving a little bit of their legacy behind at Lillstreet.
It was great to hear their giggles… and to see the look of awe as they totem grew taller!
And I was exicited that it all came together… and that the totem pole is still standing!!!


Categories: lillstreet, summer camp

So this was my final week of Summer Camp with Lillstreet Art Center.
The kids are getting ready for school and summer has just flown by!!!
This week I was teaching Clay & Multimedia for both mornings & afternoons.
So for the sake of clarity… we’ll call the morning class Part One!

So this week, we started on Monday with textured slab plates & platters.
Each camper had to make their own slabs and then textures them before
draping them into a slump mold… also known as a readily-accessible Chinet plate!




On Tuesday, they all got the chance to put on colored underglazes and a coat
of clear glaze to make them shiny! The more they worked on them, the cooler they
became – with the details coming alive and popping off the plate’s surface!



Along the way, we also tackled book binding, friendship bracelets, painted murals
and a challenging two-sided wooden block puzzle. The puzzles took awhile
as they had to design both sides of the puzzle so the designs would work on both sides
as you flipped the planks! We also did one of my favorite projects… Tie-Dye Thursday!!!



Categories: pottery, process, production

Okay… so I threw all of those “soon-to-be-mug” cylinders over a week ago.
They’re stamped & trimmed… but I haven’t had time to put the handles on!
So I’m spraying them with water everyday and wrapping them back up
in plastic to keep them moist… and considering the option of leaving them
“handleless”… we all need more tumblers?… cups?… cylinders?…. right?!!!

They’re starting to dry too fast – and I’m too busy playing… uh oh.

Categories: bike, process, sunrise

Another morning ride. Another sunrise.
And a great chance to loosen up my still tight & tired legs from yesterday’s ride!
A little “hair of the dog that bit ya” so to speak…
which would be a little funnier if it weren’t so true!!!   almost…



Categories: bike, special events


ps… keep in mind there’s a decimal and a zero at the end. 2,000 miles, not 20,000!!!
not yet anyway…

Categories: bike

So today’s bike ride originally started out as a Century ride… one hundred miles!
Or at least that’s what I expected when I got up and drove down to Coal City.
When I got there and registered for the ride, I found out that there was a longer
double-Metric Century option!!! That’s 200 hundred kilometers… or 124 miles!
So I had to do it… right???

The weather was perfect. The scenery was incredible. And I felt strong all day.
Unfortunately, my other riding buddies all bailed on me – so I was flying solo!
No fun. No chatting. No hanging out. Just the joy of pedaling!!! So I did. And it may
have been the fastest Century I’ve ever done… and definitely my fastest double-Metric!
By the end of the day, I had ridden 124 miles… with an average speed of 18.9 mph.
Cruising through rural Illinois… with “big” cities like Coal City, Morris,
Waupecan Valley, Seneca, Marseilles, Ottawa and Utica. Exciting, huh?

One of the high points of the day was the Rest Stop at Mathiessen State Park.
It’s very close to Starved Rock, just not quite as well known. But after recovering with
a couple bananas, a PBJ sandwich and some trail mix… I was off for a hike.
Although I must admit… it is a little difficult to hike in biking shoes!!!


After a little time communing with nature, it was time to get back on the bike.
And time for another high-point… a mileage milestone!!! 2,000 miles this summer!
Yep, while pedaling along today, my odometer clicked over the 2,000 mile mark.
That’s 2,000 miles logged this summer alone… mornings, Centuries, weekends, etc.

So while today’s ride was incredible – and filled with several high points…
and one memorable low point. When I stopped to take a picture of my odometer
as it clicked on 1,999 miles… I pulled off to the side of the road by a nice old farm.
As I pulled out my camera, I was startled by the barking of two loud dogs…
who were now in full-on gallop towards me as if I were dinner!!! Yep, a little scary.
So there I am, now in the middle of the road, trying to keep my bike in between me
and the two mongrels who were licking their lips in between barks!!! Needless to say,
I managed to get on my bike and pedal off as fast as I could before they took a bite
out of my calf… just a little down the road so I could take the 2,000 mile photo!…
hence the reason there’s no 1,999 photo! At least I still have both calves intact!!!

Categories: Chicago, cirque du soleil, special events

Another night under the Big Top here in Chicago!
Not quite Cirque du Soleil… but VERY close! And that ain’t no horsin’ around…


So tonight I was “treated” to a wonderful night of equestrian fantasy.
A group of us were given some great tickets for this incredible show. Thanks!!!


A combination of incredible horses, beautiful scenic effects, mesmerizing music
and the magic of Cirque du Soleil. In fact, “Cavalia” was created in part by one
of the former folks from Cirque du Soleil. And you can tell…



It’s not quite as fantastic, energetic & exciting… rather more inspiring, relaxing & beautiful.
The things that the horses do – incredible! They way they perform… the way they interact…
all different horses… an evening of magical equestrian beauty I would highly recommend!


Categories: bike, sunrise