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

Okay… I’m kind of embarrassed to say this…
to admit that I actually watched this show and kind of liked it…
sure it was pretty darn schmarmy, too schmaltzy and over-produced…
but you know I love a good Flash Mob. So tonight I watch Howie Mandel’s
“Mobbed” on TV. Some schmuck proposed to his overly-controlling girlfriend
while people danced all around them… and then married her on the spot.
I know I should be embarrassed… but it was a Flash Mob!!!

But there is one good thing I can share from my night in the studio…
One of my favorite “tricks” I learned from potter & friend Emily Murphy while she was
still one of my studio neighbors at Lillstreet.  And that would be the ever-popular and
very necessary plastic-wrapped TV remote control. Yep, just take a clean clay bag and some
clear box sealing tape. Wrap it as cleanly & thinly as possible… and voila’
your remote control won’t get all gunked up with clay! And then you too, can watch far too
much bad television while you work in your studio!!! Did I mention that also I watched
“American Idol” before “Mobbed”?… could it get any worse?

Categories: production

So I’m getting ready for my next bisque kiln.
And I suddenly realized that I’ve “done it” again…
I have this habit of making a lot of stuff in series, not thinking it through
and realizing too late that they may not stack so well in the bisque kiln.
Mental note to self… bowls of the same size don’t nest & stack so well inside each other.

So tonight I decided to make some quick bowls of different & smaller sizes to use as
last-minute kiln filler. You know how I hate an ineffectively loaded kiln!!! So tonight I threw,
tomorrow I’ll stamp… and hopefully trim so I can do a bisque in a few days!!!

Categories: artists, friends, My Talented Friends, studio

Over the years, I have frequently mentioned one of my “studio neighbors” at Lillstreet
Karen Patinkin. The two of us are frequently there – we used to play Jeopardy! over the walls
everyday at 3:30pm. Lately, we’ve been overlapping for about an hour… so as I’m coming in
she’s getting ready to leave. A metaphorical “high-five” and it’s the changing of the guard.
But tonight, she stayed a little bit later as she was working on a set of bowls for a commission.
For those that may not have seen her work, Karen makes these incredible porcelain pieces
that have a insane amount of elaborate  glaze decoration. Hours & hours of details.
Beautiful… even though these are still just a “work in progress.”
Imagine how pretty they are after the final glaze firing!

And the original “example” that she’s trying to replicate for her commission clients…

It’s good to know that I’m not the only insane one around the studio these days…

Categories: bike, sunrise

After a long recovery, it felt like it was time to get back on the bike.
I’ve been dealing with foot pain for nearly two months from a bout of
plantar fasciitis, and possibly a “self-diagnosed” stress fracture, in my left foot.
Over-use. Over-exertion. Over. Over. Over… and that’s me. So it’s no surprise, really!

So I’ve been very careful with, and stayed off it as much as possible, and now
I feel like I might be ready to let “Spring Training” begin! Especially with my annual
goal of riding every month year-round – I had to squeeze it in today, the last day of March!
And this morning’s sunrise was a great kick-of treat!

It’s been far too long. And it felt great to be back in the saddle again.
Still cold. And a little tougher than I remember… but that’s to be expected.
Everything felt good as I was pedaling so I’m cautiously encouraged.
And hoping that everything feels good even later this afternoon & evening?!

Categories: classes, lillstreet

So tonight was the first night of the new Spring Session at Lillstreet Art Center.
I’ve got another great group of wheelthrowing beginners… and some returning students!
Sadly, not a single pastry chef in the bunch. I think I got spoiled last session with so many
great treats every week. I threw out the “treats challenge” tonight…
we’ll see if they got the hint.

Oh, but wait… mid-way through class, Sido “ratted-out” her friend Cate by telling me that
Cate’s first job was making French pastries. Wait?… back it up. Okay, so maybe she’s not a
“working chef”… but who cares if she can make good treats? Sido told me all about some
incredibly decadent chocolate layer cake concoction that Cate has made before. Yummy…
Something about chocolate cake, chocolate cheesecake, chocolate mouse, caramel,
hazelnuts, cake, more layers, more chocolate, ganache, more mousse, more, more, more…
all wrapped in chocolate ganache and coated with some kind of yumminess crumble.

I’m in.
Maybe I need to be less subtle next week?…

Categories: artists, Chicago, photography

And here’s more about the photography exhibit we went to see at the
Chicago Cultural Center… in between the incredible stained glass dome windows…

Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) was an American amateur
street photographer who was born in New York but grew up in France, and after
returning to the U.S., worked for about forty years as a nanny in Chicago.
During those years she took about 100,000 photographs, primarily of people and
cityscapes most often in Chicago, although she traveled and photographed worldwide.
Her photographs remained unknown and mostly undeveloped until they were discovered
by a local historian, John Maloof, in 2007. Following Maier’s death her work began to
receive critical acclaim.Her photographs have appeared in newspapers in Italy, Argentina,
and England, and have been exhibited alongside other artists’ work in Denmark and Norway;
her first solo exhibition is running at the Chicago Cultural Center until April 3, 2011.

If you want to see her work in person, be sure to stop by the Chicago Cultural Center
before April 3rd… when her solo retrospective show will come to a close.

You can also see a lot more of her work if you click on this blog link…
Vivian Maier – Her Discovered Work.

You can also check out for more information.
You’ll find more on Vivian Maier including her bio, 80+ images of her works, exclusive articles about Vivian Maier, as well as her up-to-date exhibitions – it’s a unique Maier resource. Click here for Vivian Maier on : Bringing the world’s art to everyone with an internet connection.

Categories: architecture, artists, Chicago

A perfect Spring day in Chicago. Crisp. Clear. Cold.
Pots are too wet to trim in the studio… so let’s go play downtown!!!

We headed down to the Art Institute of Chicago to check out the new Modern Wing.
Okay, new to me anyway… it’s been here awhile already. But you know how you can
take something for granted when it’s right in “your backyard”? Well, I finally got around
to checking out the new Modern Wing… finally. The structure itself was incredible.
Very clean, very sleek, very modern. Go figure.

The views are great from inside too… even through the blinds overlooking Millennium Park
and the Gehry Pavilion. Never mind the collection of Giacometti sculptures all around you!

Part of my plan for the day was also to “scout out” opportunities for my kids when I bring
them here for a Summer Camp Field Trip. How do I keep  a bunch of kids focused & engaged
in a museum where they have to be quiet?! Projects? Scavenger hunt? Quiz? Sketches?
Luckily, it’s several weeks away, so I still have time to come up with a plan.

So we bypassed a “lot” of the regular masterpieces in the “original” museum to get to the
Modern Wing. But when we got inside, there was a lot to see. Including some of the
all-time favorites like Rene Magritte, Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Robert Delaunay & more!

And let me just say… for some reason, this one was today’s favorite. I was taken by her
“strange” colorations, the impressionistic “squiggles” and the eerie mood it all sets.
Okay, that ONE tooth is pretty fetching too!

But let me just say for the record… I’m not a huge fan of the more recent American modern
artists. You know the ones… when they take a canvas, paint it all one color and call if done.
Or scribble all over it like a kid and call it “art.” The ones that look like bad paint-by-number.
The ones that look like bad PhotoShop. Or a video about nothing. Or black noise. Whatever.
I never bought into that theory that just because they call themselves “artists” does it mean
that whatever they make is “art. With that said, I do enjoy some of the cleverness & witticisms
of Modern Art… but do something. Make something. Have a reason to make art.
Not to throw it back in someone’s face just to call it “ART.”  So there…

Then we walked over to the Chicago Cultural Center. One of Chicago’s little-known
cultural gems. The building alone is a work of art. With incredible mosaics, Tiffany stained
glass dome windows, and art all around. Just wandering the four floors is spectacular.
Let alone the small galleries on every floor. Did I mention the stained glass domes?…

Our main purpose at the Chicago Cultural Center was to see the special photography
exhibit of the work by Vivian Maier. To see more of her wonderful images, click here.
You may have heard of her recently. I’s a great story… which I’ll save for the next blog post!

After the photography exhibit, we went upstairs to the Louis Sullivan exhibit.
Drawings, sketches, designs & actual pieces of the wonderful work Sullivan created
for many of the major buildings in Chicago… starting with the World’s Fair. The exhibit
was pretty incredible. I loved seeing the sketches right next to the actual piece. But I
still wish there were more pieces on display. With all of the hundreds of buildings that he
worked on, and the number of them that have been destroyed over the years, I would
hope that more of the remnants remain.

We then topped off the night with some wonderful Cuban food at Cafe 28.
Located on the corner of Irving Park Road & Ravenswood, just a few blocks south
of Lillstreet Art Center. Okay, so I was hungry after a long day of art & walking…
but let me just say that they may have had the best pork chops I’ve ever had!!!
Here goes… Honey Jalapeno Pork Chops marinated, grilled & then baked
to perfection with sweet potatoes! Yum…

Categories: process, stamps
Categories: pottery, process, production, stamps, studio

Same bowls, different angle… a view from above!
I’m kinda diggin’ the new stamped-inside look with the fluted rims! So far, so good…

Categories: pottery, process, production, stamps, studio

Perfect timing… I went back into the studio today hoping to stamp the bowls I threw yesterday.
Luckily for me, they were at just the right “stiffness” for some good stamping! So I did..

Bowl #1 : before, during & after…

Bowl #2 : before, during & after…

Bowl #3 : before, during & after…

Bowl #4 : before, during & after…

Bowl #5 : before, during & after…

Bowl #6 : before, during & after…

Bowl #7 : before, during & after…

And the tools of the trade… my banding wheel, a couple of my handmade stamps,
a needle tool, bamboo skewer, chopstick & and a dowel rod. That’s it… voila’.