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

On my way home from Easter dinner, I stopped off at the studio to check in on my kiln.
After all of the drama during my firing yesterday from the “electrical hiatus”…
it was great to open the peeps today to start the cooling process – and peek inside!
And from the little bit I could see through the peep with the flashlight, everything looks
pretty good so far. Although I did notice on tripod missing its ornament just behind
the bottom cone pack?! Not sure where it went…

Categories: bike, nature, special events, Taylor

Well, today was Easter. And a nice day to spend with the family… while my kiln cools.
So I went out to my Aunt’s house in St. Charles, Illinois for the day. Typically, we’re
well into Spring by this time of year… but this year has been so cold & rainy. The closest
we got to a touch of Spring were the flowers in her stunningly beautiful ikebana vase…
courtesy of Fire When Ready Pottery!!!

After dinner, I did get out for a quick bike ride to pedal off today’s extra calories.
Luckily, my six-year old niece Taylor had brought her bike too. And now that she’s
excited to not be riding with training wheels anymore, we were off to the park
and around the neighborhood. For a true beginner, she’s off to a strong start!

Categories: kiln firing

So I finally got to turn the kiln off… after a very long day.
After the “electrical hiatus,” the rest of the firing went pretty smoothly.
Nothing too exciting. I tried to bring it back up to temperature a bit slowly,
and then back into reduction. Then it was full-speed ahead… and it finally
came to temperature, I added the soda right around cone 9, soaked until cone 10
and turned it off at 10:30pm. On a good note… according to the pyrometer, the
temperature difference between top & bottom of the kiln was only six degrees!!!
Not bad after a crazy firing!!!

So now it will cool Sunday & Monday while my fingers are crossed
that everything turned out okay. I can finally open it & unload on Monday night.
Pictures to come…

Categories: glaze, process, production

So while I was “trapped” at the studio all day long… even longer than expected…
I needed something to keep me busy. So I kept glazing. Remember the “two-week”
quickly kiln that I’m sharing with Karen Patinkin? Well, we’re finally getting around
to firing – next Wednesday. So I used today to glaze a bunch of pieces for next week’s
cone 10 reduction kiln. It’s been a busy couple a days!!!

Categories: inspiration, lillstreet

So while I was frustrated & panicked about my kiln in shut-down mode…
I noticed a student’s pot sitting on the red “Reject Shelf.” Never a good place
to find your prized possession. Typically there’s a reason it’s there.
The staff kiln loaders have pulled it out before going into the kiln.
Some for a very obvious reason, others need a closer look. But today I saw
this pot sitting on the “Reject Shelf” and I found it oddly prophetic…
especially with my current kiln firing dilemma!

Categories: kiln firing

So today I got an early start firing my soda kiln.
I got up, headed back to the studio and got it all fired up. Things were going well.
I was a couple hours into it and it was time to put it into body reduction. So I did.
I was upstairs in my studio when all of a sudden… darkness!

Now for some reason, whenever one of our studio members turns on her microwave
it blows the fuse to my studio. So I just assumed that that’s what happened. Until I
stepped out into the hallway to head to the circuit breaker… and the hallway was dark.
It wasn’t just my studio. And the emergency lights were on… this can’t be good.

So I quickly went downstairs to find out that my soda kiln had gone off too.
Turns out that Lillstreet was without electricity… along with a lot of the neighborhood!
And there I am. With my kiln firing in reduction and suddenly OFF… and cooling quickly!

But there was nothing to do. We heard from ComEd that electricity should be back on
at 2:30pm. Which was over two hours away! I was concerned about my firing.
But there was still nothing to be done – but wait. Turns out that the elctric came on about
an hour earlier than expected. And my kiln had only lost about 600-degrees.
So much for my early start, huh?

And there seemed to be a few questions… Why does a gas kiln need electric to fire?
Well, the kiln is fueled by the gas, but a lot of the mechanics are electric. The thermocoupler
that keeps the flame lit with a heat sensor. The blowers that push the air and the flames into
the kiln. The safety triggers that shut everything down if anything happens. Stuff like that.

But when the electric came back on, I was able to turn the kiln back on and get my firing
back on track. Knowing that the electrical hiatus just added a few hours onto my day.
And I just hope that everything inside the kiln is still okay?!

So there wasn’t much I could do.
Except I felt as though I “deserved” a treat… so I did…

Categories: kiln firing, process, production, textures

I’ve been planning in doing this forever… good intentions… but something else
always seems to come up. Until tonight. I finally got to it.

One of the best ways to get some good color in the soda kiln is with special slips
designed to “flash” in the soda kiln atmosphere. And it seems like I always fall back
onto my “favorites” that I use all the time. But when you look in my studio, I have
quite an assortment of slips. Many of them thanks to Emily Murphy who bequeathed
her “stash o’slips” to me when she packed up her studio and moved to Minneapolis.

So my plans has been to make test tiles for all of the slips… using one of my own
textures and firing them in one of my kilns. So I finally loaded them in tonight up on
the top shelf. I’m hoping to get some dramatic flashing results that demonstrate how the
slip reacts. My fingers are crossed… and I’m glad that my plan finally came together!

Categories: kiln firing, process, production

Tonight I loaded my soda kiln… after a LOT of glazing & wadding. It’s been days…
Seems like I’ve been glazing quite a bit over the past couple days. Trying to maneuver
through my studio glazing pots, and working my way around stacks of bisque.
It’s always a guessing game of how many pots will actually fit into the soda kiln.
So I try my best to gauge it as I go… and trying to wad each piece along the way so I
don’t get slammed in the end with just a ton of wadding! So it finally all came together…
and after four straight hours of loading “fun”… my soda kiln is all bricked up for the
night and waiting for the big firing day tomorrow!

The soda kiln is three shelves deep. So I always stack the back shelf by itself,
all the way to the top. Trying to squeeze in as many pieces as I can, while still allowing
enough air space for the soda to travel through during the firing. Each time…
I get concerned that I’m packing it too tight!? But I really need to get my money’s
worth out of the kiln firing! So here’s the back stack…

And then I finally packed the stack in the front – two shelves in each layer. Piece by piece…
ornament by ornament… mini by mini… again, squeezing in as any pieces as I can.
Did I do too much?!… We’ll see when I open & unload the kiln Monday night.

Categories: process, production, stamps

So when got back into the studio today, I unwrapped the not-so-basic bowls
from last night’s class bowl demo. And there were a few of them that still needed
a little help… they needed more details.

So I stamped… and stamped… and stamped… and added a few more details.
Much better.

Categories: artists, friends, lillstreet

Each year, Lillstreet Art Center brings in a couple people for their Artist In Residence Program.
Tonight I stopped into the metalsmithing room on my way out since I heard people talking
and I heard Sarah Chapman’s voice. While there, the current metalsmithing Resident Artist
was chatting… and Sarah suggested that she show me her latest piece. WHICH IS CRAZY!!!

Apparently, Michelle has a lot time on her hands… which “puzzles” me. But in a good way.
I love crazy, eccentric artists. So she etched the brass and handcut each of the puzzle pieces.
Twenty pieces down one side, by 17 pieces the other way… that’s 340 puzzle pieces to make
her handmade, etched map of the Chicago Transit system. Keep in mind that this entire
puzzle is made out of a single sheet of metal and measures only 6-1/2″ x 8″.

So glad I decided to stop into the Metals Room… otherwise I would have missed out on
seeing Michelle’s latest puzzle masterpiece. Such patience. Such precision.
To see more of Michelle’s work, click on –

Yikes… and pay no attention to my overly dried out finger tips from a long night
of throwing bowls. Looks like a little lotion is needed… but still, that’s a small puzzle piece!