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

While working at home for the day remodeling my bathroom (rather be at the studio)
I just noticed how great the afternoon sun looked streaming in my dining room window…
and even better, the dramatic shadows it created.




And all it took was some dramatic lighting, some oil lamps sitting on the radiator
with some dried curly willow “sprouting” up from behind… and passing at just
the right time with my camera!

Categories: art fair, production

As the summer art fair season is looming just around the proverbial corner…
I’m busy trying to replenish inventory levels and make a lot of new pieces!
And I’m looking for your suggestions.

Got the next great idea?

If you do, please let me know. I’m always looking for new ideas & new shapes
that I can add to the collection. Over the past few summers, many of my art fair
customers have made suggestions… soap dishes… spoon rests… ikebana vases, etc.
So once again, I’m looking for your suggestions of things that you would like to see
done in  “my style.” Let’s not get too crazy. Let’s keep it practical.
And keep in mind it will probably be stamped & textured… just a guess!

As an incentive, I’m even offering a “finder’s fee” for the first person who suggests
the new form. Deal being that if I do indeed make it and add it into the “art fair inventory”
the first person that had sent in that suggestion will get a free one! Yep… I said FREE.
Keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that I’ll make every suggestion. There are
a lot of “feasibility” issues that help determine what will be “part of the line.”

So send me your ideas, as an e-mail or blog comment. I’d love to hear your ideas.
And Sheila Z. … I got your suggestions and I’m going to try making the prototypes soon…
we’ll see what happens! Thanks.

Categories: classes, lillstreet, photography, process

Tonight’s demonstration in class was how to make bowls on purpose.
Not just a cylinder gone bad… and whoops, look at that, it’s a bowl?!
So my beginners were very excited… and very attentive.


So I made several bowls and demonstrated how to make them each different.
By turning “the same 2-pound” bowl into different shapes & styles.


We also introduced slip as a decorative tool. Nothing too elaborate.
Just a basic primer of what slip is, how to use it, and how it can quickly change a pot.
We painted a solid inside, then dragged a spiral, squiggled through it and chattered!!!
Voila’ – a decorative bowl. Easy. Simple. Any beginner can do it.

Categories: artists, friends

Tonight I had dinner with “long-lost-potter” Emily Murphy!
Over the past year, she purchased a home in Minneapolis, made tons of renovations,
packed up “her Chicago life,” cleaned out her studio at Lillstreet, moved north…
and seemingly disappeared from the pottery world?!

No new pots… no new blog posts… gone missing…

Well… it’s good to know that she’s back in action… almost.
She’s all moved into her renovated home – and is now focusing on building her
studio space. Based on a lot of dreams & lessons learned from previous studio spaces!
If you’re interested, there’s a lot of great information & pictures of her progress
& decisions on her blog – which she has finally updated and gotten back in action!!!
Check out her progress at

So soon enough, she’ll be back in production and I can’t wait to see her new work.
She said that she’s still without a kiln, hoping to build a new soda kiln at some point.
But there’s a good chance she’ll be doing new work in her electric kiln in the meantime.

It was great to see Emily again… after far too long of an absence!
Both here in Chicago… as well as on her blog!

Categories: inspiration





How cool is this?…  Artist assistants stand next to cups of coffee which have been made
into a giant “Mona Lisa” in Sydney, Australia. The 3,604 cups of coffee were each filled
with different amounts of milk to create the different shades.
Good thing I don’t drink coffee… because it looks like they needed every cup possible!
Now that’s a real coffee break!!! Incredible.

Categories: movie

Okay, so I finally succumbed to the hype… “all the cool kids are doing it”…
and I went to see the “cultural phenomenon” known as “Avatar” in 3D.


Let’s just preface this by saying that I really don’t like movies that rely completely on
computer graphics for their impact & appeal. So I was quite hesitant when “Avatar”
started making the rounds. I’m sure it’s beautiful. I’m sure it’s breathtaking.
I’m sure it’s cool and all… but c’mon, do I really need to see a creepy, glamorized,
blue-skinned version of “Clutch Cargo”? Flying creatures? Glowing landscapes? Nope.

But once the movie began raking in the money hand-over-fist, and everyone was talking
about Pandora and how wonderful it all was… I started to question if I was missing anything.
So I decided to check it out… in 3D.


Let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised, but not completely won over. I’m glad I saw it.
The 3D effects were great. The colors were vibrant. The “cinematography?” was well done.
I think they did a fine job at creating a visual masterpiece… albeit a bit contrived.
Love story for the teenage girls. Chaos & destruction for the teenage boys.
Revering your elders for “the elders” out there. Family values. Spiritualism. Peace. Harmony.
Eco-friendly message for all those “green” people out there. Be yourself. Help Others.
Cheer for the good guys. Hate the bad guys. Let’s all love the Earth. Blah, blah, blah…
I felt a little manipulated during the movie – a little too preachy. But still enjoyable.



The colors were incredible. The 3D effects we breathtaking. The creativity never-ending.
I would recommend going to see it just because it’s a beautiful piece of film. And if you do…
I think you need to see it in 3D… otherwise, you’re missing some of the best parts!
Should it win the Oscar for Best Picture?… I sure hope not. But if it does…
it will be for the technological advances they made in the making of this film.

Categories: classes, lillstreet, nature, pottery, process, production

Tonight’s class ended with one of my favorite projects… STAMPS!
A lot of my students have taken an interest in textures & stamping… go figure.
So tonight we made stamps that will be bisqued fired and then they can start using them!


Categories: artists, lillstreet, My Talented Friends

So as I was running out to grab some dinner tonight, I ran into my friend
& fellow studio mate Katie Biderbost. She mentioned that she reads my blog frequently –
and was surprised that I update it so frequently. I told her that there’s nothing that bugs
me more than a blog that hasn’t been updated for months… or years!!! And then I realized…
I’ve never featured Katie as one of My Talented Friends… so here goes…


I’ve known Katie for many years… practically my entire pottery career!!!
Katie has been involved at Lillstreet Art Center for many years, both as a teacher
and studio member. She has come & gone, but her focus has always remained strong.
Her grad-school-hiatus took her down to Indiana… but she luckily returned to Lillstreet.
Katie now works in Lake Forest, Illinois running a clay program up there. Yet she returns
to Lillstreet for some quiet studio time away from her workplace!

Katie’s work has evolved over the years, and she has several mugs in my “mug collection.”
During the Lillstreet Holiday Opening, I treated myself to a set of Katie’s plates…
I’ve been coveting them for awhile and finally decided that they had to be mine.
Her current body of work is painstakingly decorated with slip to create an intricate
“woven” pattern that almost looks as though it were knit. The glaze is a beautiful teal
blue that is accentuated in the soda kiln to create and incredible depth & range of color.



Not only did I get the plates… I also got another mug for “the collection”!!!
Merry Christmas to me!!!

Categories: art fair, nature, photography, pottery, process, production, stamps

Back in the saddle… and back to some good-ol’-fashioned stamping fun!
The mugs I started the other day are now all stamped…
now they need to “dry” to a stiffer leather-hard so I can trim them and add the handles!


Categories: television

Only sixteen more days… and still counting…