Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: artists, creativity, inspiration, pottery, process, workshop

This weekend was a two-day workshop with Julia Galloway.
Let me just say, this was my third two-day workshop with Julia Galloway!

Each time I’ve seen her working, I’ve been at a different stage in my own ceramic career. She was also my first workshop ever – just a few sessions into my wheelthrowing classes. My second workshop with Julia was a few years later when I was addicted to clay, but not really sure where to take it from there. This weekend was another experience – now as a working potter with a whole new perspective. And quite possibly, ready to actually “hear” all of the tips she’s so good at putting out there.

First off, her three word artist statement du jour : domesticity, conversation, beauty. And that’s what she makes. Pots that can be used for nourishment, that create a conversation and are inherently beautiful. Sounds like a good plan to me!

We started with Julia doing some quick throwing. In Julia’s studio, she throws for two days on the weekend & then spends rest of the week decorating those pots. In a condensed workshop like this, she had to make pots quickly to have something to work on later.

As the pieces began to set up, she then started to alter the forms by pressing, billowing & squaring the forms. In her mind, she had a plan for each piece. And she explained to us that many of her “plans” are created by a “predicament.” A conflict that needs to be resolved. A hurdle that needs to jumped. A limitation that needs to be pushed. It wasn’t always clear to us where she was going with the demos… but the exploration & discovery was part of the fun. Many “ah-ha” moments as they came together.

Not only are Julia’s pots very gestural & animated, but so is she. Her ability to be informative & approachable at the same time is refreshing. She has so much information to dispense that it could easily be overwhelming. But instead, she instills so much humor & passion into her presentation. She’s one of those people that I find so endearing & engaging… so much so,
that this is my third workshop with her. Sure, her work is incredible. But I could just listen to her talk. Seriously. Give her a topic and let her go. She’s thoughtful, insightful and giving. Always willing to share. But I digress. Enough gushing. Back to the workshop…

An added bonus… she also showed us a few new, groovy handle making techniques. Handles with textures?!… I loved ’em… and watch for me to be “appropriating” them soon!

Day Two… back for a second day of too much information flying our way…
and she’s still making beautiful things. Even more beautiful as things come together!

As her pieces are now leatherhard, she started attaching, stacking, cutting & combining pieces. Creating some of her signature pieces… also making pieces that will accentuate her surface decorations! And all the while, she’s talking. And talking. Sharing stores. Sharing insights. Sharing her path. Again… I could just listen to Julia talk. And I did. I’m impressed by people who can express themselves verbally & eloquently. And yet never condescending or demeaning. Always willing to answer a question. Always willing to share concepts, tips, secrets & opinions. Everything you want in an educator. Everything I want to be as a teacher.

In between the demonstrations, giving the clay some time to stiffen up, Julia took time to share some art history with us. She brought her PowerPoint collection of pottery through history. To give us a basis of understanding, to offer up historical reference on how pottery had evolved and changed along with the world. How surface decoration is as old as pottery itself. It was somewhat amazing to how pottery has remained the same, and yet so
completely different over the centuries. When I was in college, art history was all about painting & sculpture. We never talked pottery. Who knew how much it was all connected?!

Then, as she started decorating her pots, she also explained how ALL surface decoration can be summarized into four categories. And since we had just seen centuries of surface decoration, it was fairly obvious… yet great to have it pointed out clearly. Here they are…
1. dots.     2. lines.     3. floral representation.     4. pictorial imagery

So, starting her own surface decoration, she wanted to show how “easy” it can be… and that sometimes you just need to dive in and do it. No hesitation. Don’t overthink it. So her pitcher slip demo is just that… dots, then lines, then floral, then object imagery.

And then it was on to some of her signature styles in surface decoration.
With a lot of slip painting, slip trailing, incising, wax resist, slip inlay, shaving, layering and more! All the time talking. Talking about styles. Talking about techniques. Talking about how you need to make a lot of pots. How you need to try a lot of different things. Try, try, try again.
How you need to commit to the techniques when you start. Don’t be timid. Don’t be hesitant. All suggestions I give my own class of beginners… don’t be wishy-washy… commit… it’s just clay!

As the workshop began to draw to a close, we had a much larger vocabulary of techniques, as well as a lot of historical reference to draw from. We looked at some of her pots from the gallery – now understanding exactly how they were made, as she explained some of the steps of how she made them.

As we all found out, so much of Julia’s work is about making beautiful things. Beautiful forms & shapes. Beautiful lines & details. Beautiful layers of patterns & shapes. Her quest for beauty is admirable. Her willingness to share is impressive.

With the workshop encapsulated above, I still feel as though I haven’t covered it all. It’s her dynamic personality, her passion for clay, her willingness to share everything, and her eloquent turn-of-phrase that does it for me. It’s impossible to grasp that in a blog.
And I do think that the third time was the charm. I feel at this point in my ceramic career, I was ready to “hear” what Julia had to say. And now confident enough in my own skills to now stat trying more of her techniques. The trick will be making it happen. I can’t wait to
see what happens, and how I can incorporate her tricks into my own styles. I don’t want to make “Julia Galloway Pots.” But I am looking forward to seeing how she influences my work.

Thank you Julia Galloway for another wonderful workshop.
I know that everyone in the room was as enchanted as I was, and learned a lot along the way. Everyone in there has their own path that they’re on, and I’m sure we all got something different and yet equally important out of the two days we spent with you.

For more information on Julia Galloway, check out her website in my “Links” section. As well as the “Link” to Montana Clay which highlights her surrounding ceramic community.


February 20th, 2012

Wow! Thanks for such a great review of the workshop! Wish I could attend, but this was the next best thing!!!

Kathy Furda

February 20th, 2012

So Gary….got any more pictures of the Pitchers?? Those are some neat pots!

February 21st, 2012

KATHY – Sadly, I don’t have any more pictures of the Julia Galloway pitchers. And yes, they are fantastic!!! If you want to see more, you can always go to her website.

September 12th, 2012

Thanks for sharing. How on earth did she make that handle in the middle – the one that looks like a ladder of sorts?

September 13th, 2012

KATHY – It’s actually one really long pulled handle. Then she lays it flat on the table to let it set-up a bit. Meanwhile, she rolled small coils with pointed ends. Each one the same size and slightly curved. She wet one half of the strap handle a bit, then laid out the coils and folded the strap in half. Laying one layer of the strap on top of the coils. She then kind of picked it up carefully and dropped it back down onto the table. It kind of all squished together… thus creating this “ladder of sorts” textured handle effect! I hope that makes sense…


November 6th, 2021

Thank you for giving us this information. I’m new to pottery and I’m inspired by Ms. Galloway’s ideas. I have a question about using vegetables in handles. What happens during the firing process? Do those pieces have to dry for a very long time? Long warm up? I plan to pick green beans out of my garden today to give this a try. I would appreciate any help. Thank you again for sharing the creativity!

November 6th, 2021

Don’t go picking green beans out of the garden too quickly… the “peas” I was referring to were actually little balls of clay rolled to be the SIZE of peas!!! NOT ACTUAL PEAS!!! The actual peas would burn away during the firing. The clay “peas” stay in place and create the bumped texture. Sorry for the confusion… but enjoy EATING your green beans!!!

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