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

So just let me just vent for a second…
while many art fairs work long & hard to invite quality artists to their events.
There are jury processes in place to choose who will participate each year.
The understanding is that everything displayed at the art fair was to have been
made by the artist. And for the most part I believe that to be true.

However… I do believe that there are some people who are riding on the fringe
of that rule. Some that are selling wholesale items under the guise of their own.
Photographers who buy stock photography instead of shooting their own.
Artists who do “some” of the work, but not all. Artists who are selling artwork
that just doesn’t “seem” right?!

Like the artist that was next to me this weekend… no, not Molly. The other side.
She was an Asian artist with embroidered “paintings” with thousands of perfect stitches.
Photo realism done with embroidery threads. So impressive, and somewhat
that she not only won “Best of Fiber” – but also “Best of Show.”

Now don’t get me wrong, the artwork was incredibly beautiful. But a little “too”
beautiful for the price. What I believe to be “too elaborate” and “too detailed”
for the quantity of pieces and the price points. Now keep in mind, I’m not sure.
But you know when you have “a feeling” that it’s too good to be true?… that there’s
no way she can be making all of this?… the fact that the work is too precise to be
handmade – although it’s all claimed to be? Prices a little off the mark… silk wine bags
with supposedly hand-embroidered patches sewn on to them… being sold at
five for $20. That’s only $4 each!!! Not possible. Not even to mention the perfectly
sized & sealed plastic bag that each wine bag came in?! Curious…

And then the rumors begin… other artists who claim to see this same “booth of artwork”
at other fairs with a different “artist.” That the work is being imported from China.
The the images are being created by computer. That any image can be scanned in
and the embroidery kicked-out by the computer. That the “artist” is just a sales rep.

So here’s my word of warning… be careful when shopping at art fairs.
Please be sure that the artist is indeed the artist. Don’t just assume it’s all on the up & up.
If you think it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Ask questions. Double-check. Listen.
Make sure that the artist can explain their process. Hear their story. Feel their passion.

Support individual artists for their talents.
And not some mass-merchant who is infiltrating the art fair scene!

Categories: art fair, artists, friends, My Talented Friends

So this past weekend was my last outdoor art fair of the season!
Art In The Barn in Barrington is always a fun show. Well organized. Festive. Fun.
The weather wasn’t all that great on Saturday, but it was much better on Sunday.
Coincidentally, customer attendance wasn’t all that great on Saturday either.
Luckily there were more people out shopping on Sunday. For those of you who
stopped by, it was great to see you as always!

This weekend is typically my “official” kick-off of Fall. I’m one of those who grasps
on to summer as long as possible… not willing to acknowledge that summer may
be ending! So even though Fall is actually my favorite season, I have trouble letting go
of summer. But once I do… I’m “all in” for Fall. And this weekend at Art In The Barn
generally does it for me. The cool, crisp weather. The bales of hay. The mums.
The pumpkins. The gourds. So now it’s fall… and I’m ready!!!

Back to the art fair…
As if selling pots wasn’t enough fun… it’s also seeing my customers love a pot.
I thoroughly enjoy seeing someone pick up a pot to see it better and then start feeling
the textures… which suddenly turns into caressing… and sometimes even purring!
I love seeing my customers find a new piece. Seeing a new texture.  Admiring a glaze.
Over the years I have benefited from some wonderful customers who have become
good friends over the years. It’s always good to see them just to have a laugh or two!

Another benefit is the group of friends I’ve made over the years on the art fair circuit.
It’s great to see them again from fair to fair… to share stories… to share work ideas.
And this year was no different… with just a few of My Talented Friends…

Molly Bitters
One of my favorite metalsmiths and a great booth neighbor! And congratulations
to Molly for winning the “Best of Jewelry” award this weekend. And even better…
we traded work and I got this beautiful intaglio pendant. And I love it!!!
Check out more of Molly’s work at


Cheryl Holz
Cheryl has this great ability to combine colors & textures on a canvas.
Suggestive of nature, maps, legends, scrapbooks and other recognizable
forms, her paintings are layers of brilliance in color. And I’m proud to have
one of her prints hanging in my bedroom… another great art fair trade!
Check out more of Cheryl’s work at


Brad Pogatetz
I had the pleasure of meeting Brad last year as he was my booth neighbor.
This year his booth was in another building with much better lighting & wall space
to display his incredible photography. Brad’s images are spectacular as they focus
on the beauty of run down buildings, rust & deterioration… frequently juxtaposed
with natural elements or the simple geometry of it all. You know how I love rust!!!
Check out more of Brad’s work at


Amy Taylor
Amy is known for making beautiful hinged jewelry. She makes beautiful silver pieces
with beautiful stones and other things. I’ve been a fan of Amy’s work for a few years…
as well as her energy, enthusiasm and passion. This weekend I was admiring her work
when she showed me a new piece with this incredible “stone” inside it. It was beautiful.
Shades of orange & red, pearlescent, lots of depth, lots of chatoyancy. But then she
told me it wasn’t a stone… but instead, a piece of a bowling ball. Get out!!! Too cool.
So, by the end of the fair, we had worked out a deal and she’s making me a custom
bowling ball necklace! I can’t wait to see it…
Check out more of Amy’s work at


Anne Gilna
I first met Anne as my neighbor at the Hinsdale Art Fair. She does beautiful
watercolor paintings – a lot of birds, flowers and other scenes from nature.
Her images are colorful & clean, generally on a simple white background.
We liked them so much, that my parents have purchased a few of her pieces!
Check out more of Anne’s work at


Dorothy Hughes
One of the sweetest ladies you’ll ever meet, Dorothy is a great artist and supporter
of other artists. I’ve known Dorothy for many years since my early years at Lillstreet
Art Center.  Known in many of the Chicago “art circles,” Dorothy has always been
very positive & supportive of my work. She’s the nicest…
Check out more of Dorothy’s work at


Categories: art fair, artists, friends

So… “Art In The Barn” had a special category of artist this year: The Emerging Artist!
Okay, so there was only one artist in that category… and he was in the booth next
to mine – we’ll just call in Booth E-3.5. There he was cranking out the work…
competing for the same dollar I was. Oh the quandry… to but some more pottery?…
or but a piece of original art by this new, young, fresh Emerging Artist?


My long-time friend and able-bodied Art Fair Assistant, Nancy, brought her
five year old son Jimmy with on Saturday to help out at the fair. In his fluorescent green
soccer uniform, he was a beacon for all to see. While there, he started coloring and
was “discovered” by one of the other artists down the way! Right on the spot, the artist
“commissioned” Jimmy for an original crayon drawing! So he drew the picture
and made his first sale. The artist proudly posted Jimmy’s artwork in his booth for the
remainder of the art fair.

Meanwhile, not to let a good thing go, Jimmy decided that if he drew more,
he would sell more. And he did. Quite the entrepreneur, Jimmy posted his artwork,
made signage to promote his body of work, hawked his product like the best of
carnival barkers… and earned himself a whopping $3.75 !!! Quite a bonus for a young
artist such as Jimmy. I think he has quite the future… great… more competition!!!

Categories: artists, My Talented Friends

Once again, Art In The Barn is right around the corner…
I will be in the same booth space as usual. One of the perks of being in the same booth
space is I get to be next to my metalsmith friend Molly Bitters again! She makes these
incredible pieces that combine metal work, with etched copper and hand-dyed &
pressed leather. Part of what makes them so cool, is that she not only etches the
patterns, and presses the leather to create the leather, but then combines pieces
of both “processes” into one piece!!! Love it.


In addition to these great “intaglio” pieces, she also makes a line of silver work with
animals, trees, rain clouds and more – with colorful leather backgrounds. She also
makes a line of fire-polished copper combined with leather. I’m definitely looking
forward to spending the weekend in the booth next to her –
and adding more of her beautiful work to my collection!!!

I’m sure we’ll be sharing many laughs, cookies, customers and stories over the weekend.
Check out more of her work on her website -

Categories: bike, inspiration, nature, sunrise
Categories: Chicago, photography

Vote for your favorite photos today!!!… hopefully mine!

Yep. CBS2 Chicago is sponsoring a photo contest to collect the best photos
that capture the spirit & beauty of Chicago. They are planning on publishing
a quality coffee table book & DVD of the best photos. I have submitted several
of my photos for consideration… and now I need your votes!
And we only have two weeks longer for voting!

Please log onto
Do a “search” by name – looking for me, Gary Jackson. It will direct you
to my collection of photos. If you like what you see, please give me a vote.
And in true Chicago style… vote early and vote often!!! It is my assumption that
whichever photos receive the most photos will be the ones published in the book.
And I would LOVE to be a published photographer!!!

Here’s a few samples of my photography…






Categories: art fair, inspiration, kiln firing, photography, pottery, process, production, studio

Tonight I opened up my soda kiln to finally see the treasures inside.
After a night of unbricking, unloading, grinding shelves, kiln washing shelves,
sweeping, mopping, packing, boxing, shlepping, and moving all of the work home…
it is now time to admire and start prepping everything for this weekend’s art fair!


Categories: art fair, friends

Here’s your chance to save money again!
Just print out this coupon, stop by next weekend and redeem it at the
Art In The Barn
Saturday, September 26th & Sunday, September 27th.
10:00am-5:00pm in the Lower Barn.


The two-day art fair is located on the original grounds of Quaker Oats.
Now the campus for Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital… but we’re still in the barns!
I will be setting up shop in the Lower Barn… same booth location as usual.

Art In The Barn
Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital
450 West Highway 22, Barrington, Illinois

And while you’re there… redeem the coupon and save some cash!
Then step into the booth right next to mine to see my “Talented Friend” Molly Bitters
who will be showing off some of her incredible jewelry!!!


Categories: My Talented Friends

So while I was cleaning today… and while I was literally under my work table
on my hands & knees scrubbing…
I hear Roberta’s voice. In my studio. I had no idea
she was coming to Lillstreet for a visit today, but it was great to see her.

I met Roberta several years ago and instantly fell in love with her ceramic work.
The gracefully organic shapes, the attention to detail and the fine glaze qualities.
Over the years, I see her frequently on the art fair circuit. It’s always nice to see a friendly face
at the art fair, to have a chance to “compare notes” and share business ideas with each other.
We also had a brief chance to work together when I was teaching summer camp at
Terra Incognito in Oak Park. Roberta’s studio space is there and she works part-time
and does their graphic design.


Drawing inspiration from natural forms and textures, her pieces are tiny treasures.
I love the organic feel, the miniature charm and fine details. Roberta makes great stuff!!!

Plus, one of my other “Talented Friends” Sarah Chapman is a Roberta Fan too…
Sarah actually saves money in a “Roberta Fund” so that she can add a piece to her collection
every summer during the Bucktown Arts Festival. And this summer was no exception…

For more, check out Roberta’s website –

Categories: studio

So today I’m firing the soda kiln… all day!

Yep, seriously, it’s an all day process. You turn it on early in the morning and wait.
Wait for it to warm up. Wait to put it into reduction. Wait for it to get REALLY hot.
Wait to put in the soda mixture at the end of the process… oh, but wait some more
for it to reach the final temperature and for cone 10 to go down!!!

So what to do while waiting & checking on the kiln every 30 minutes?!
Well, it’s the perfect chance to clean my studio. And let me just say, it REALLY needed it.
Somehow summer got away from me… as did all studio cleaning! There were piles
of summer camp projects & supplies everywhere. There were buckets of slip & glazes
that I received from Emily’s studio when she moved to Minneapolis. As well as more
studio supplies from Lorin’s studio when she moved to California. Piles everywhere.
And since I had to make work for the art fair, I’ve just been working “around” the piles
for far too long. So today’s cleaning was much needed… and what better chance
than when you’re “trapped” inside at the studio?!

So I dusted… I mopped… I scrubbed… I reconstituted slips & glazes… I threw away a LOT
of garbage… I cleaned out old tool boxes (and bequeathed the box to my friend Rochelle)…
I mopped again… I scrubbed under my tables… I packed away my summer camp stuff
for another year… I scrubbed some more… I tried to reclaim my studio space!!!…
and then I labeled everything!

So the firing went well. Pretty smooth all day long.
And the cleaning project went well too. I can now see the floor again. And it’s clean!