Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: process, production, special events, studio, television

Well, today was my day in front of the camera. Who knew?…
that my little “addiction” to kiln filler & textures might get me on HGTV?!
That making little textured rattles might get me noticed?! Crazy, huh?!

Let me back up a bit…

A little over a week ago, I was contacted by the Producer of an HGTV show.
You know, one of those shows where they go in and transform an average couple’s
home with cool design. Showing the creative choices, installation, design choices…
all leading up to the “Big Reveal” where the couple sees their new room for the very
first time. Well, this is one of “those” design shows!!! And here’s the host…

Yep… that’s Meg Caswell. Winner of HGTV Design Star season six.
One of those Reality TV shows where they compete in design challenges weekly
and get voted off one by one. Until the last one is standing… and she gets a TV Show!!!

The initial contact came through the Producer who did a search and found my work
on the Internet. Good thing I’ve been keeping my blog up-to-date, huh?! She contacted
me and asked if I would be interested in creating some custom ceramic knobs & door pulls
for the kitchen they are renovating. So of course I was intrigued… and FULL of questions.
We did some e-mailing back & forth, including some samples & “mood boards” being
shared. She also stopped by my studio to check it out, meet with me… which I now realize
was probably also my “audition.” Once we had worked out the details, I was in…
and now facing a production deadline to get all of the knobs & pulls done in time
for the “Big Reveal” taping.

Luckily, we came upon a creative solution… where I would make the knobs in a very
similar style to the textured Relic Rattles I’ve been making for about a year. Handbuilt
stoneware, textured, stained and fired to cone 10… minus the rattles! The plan gave us
different shapes, different textures and different stain colors to play with. I gave the
Producer a few samples that she shared with Meg. Her choice was to go with two shapes,
each with their own texture, and one stain color for continuity.

So I’ve already made the knobs… “squares” for the cabinet knobs, and “horns” for the
drawer pulls. They’ve already been bisqued in my last kiln… look closely, they were the
“still too wet” pieces sprinkled around the kiln… masquerading as simple “kiln filler.”

Today was my day in front of the camera!
Complete with Meg, a full crew, professional lighting, wireless microphones, makeup,
craft services, the whole “shebang”! I guess I never quite expected the full production?!
But there I was, suddenly in front of the camera, with Meg… cameras rolling!

The plan was that we were going to do a little banter, discuss the project, look at a few
rattles I’ve made as samples, do some interactive demos where she plays with clay,
and so on. Everything went really well… despite the fact that it was SO hot in the studios!
No one expected 80-degree days in mid-March… so no one planned on air conditioning.
I’m sure we’re both going to be glistening with sweat. Even though the makeup guy did a
couple touch-ups along the way.

Hopefully they got some good shots of my work and my studio while they were there.
And the witty repartee and banter with Meg will come off well on-screen. Even though
I’m pretty confident that my hours & hours of “brilliant, Emmy-award worthy” footage
will be edited down to a mere 20 seconds or so!

We finished the initial filming – the interactive studio work with Meg… “the Talent.”
Then they left for a short time to do some prep-interviews that will be spliced into the show.
While they were gone, I set up two more demo areas so that they film some B-roll film
that they might intersperse – montage shots of me working on the actual knobs!
Complete with a change of wardrobe to make it “appear” as though time has passed
and the process is well on its way making the actual hardware the homeowners will see
in the “Big Reveal.”

So… that’s the story so far.
I’ve kept it to myself for the most part. It was kind of in the category of “too good to be true.”
I didn’t want to hype the project until I was sure it was going forward. I was afraid that the
plug might be pulled at any time… apparently, not to worry. It was a very professional
production. All of the people were great to work with. And I wouldn’t mind doing it again!

I just hope I don’t look too stupid on screen.
Or too sweaty…

When I find out the air date, I will definitely keep you posted.
I will also do a blog entry about the step-by-step process of the actual pieces I’m making.
Until then… you’ll need to wait for the “Big Reveal” also!!!


March 19th, 2012

Very cool Gary!


March 19th, 2012

Well, Norma,
I’ve always maintained that you have one of the best blogs
out there, and I have opined so before.

There is another potter that also keeps her blog very up to date and full of her current work, (Tracey Broome) and as a result, her work has been picked up at a couple of galleries and she is now getting the recognition and prices she deserves.

So let this be a lesson to all the potters that slack on their blogs, or abandon them entirely in favor of Facebook. Nothing is going to get you more and better quality attention than an up-to-date, well done blog, like Gary’s (or Traceys, or a few others).

Congratulations, and may it lead to more success!

Sam Brown

March 19th, 2012

wonderful Gary! I watch hgtv often as it encourages me to keep my home updated and fresh. Can’t wait to see your episode!

March 19th, 2012

I’ve been wondering for awhile if I should keep my blog going or not. So many of my friends & fellow artists have switched to Facebook. And every time I feel like I’m double-posting the same thing, I wonder why. But I love my blog. I love telling stories with the pictures in place concurrently… not just a random “photo album” on Facebook with a sentence or two for captions! I was reluctant when my blog was started. And even more reluctant about Facebook. But as a former advertising & marketing guy, I understand the need for self-promotion and keeping your name out there. If I don’t do it, no one else will. My blog allows me to share my stories, post more photos and keep it as a visual journal of my life as an artist. Not just the things I make, but what I enjoy and see in the world around me. Thank you for noticing. Thank you for enjoying. Thank you for the encouragement that keeps me blogging! I too enjoy Tracey’s blog. She seems to have a very similar perspective in terms of photography, style, textures, rusty metal and more. Her blog is more than just her clay pieces. And I for one appreciate that. And I appreciate that you do too. So thanks again for the encouragement. And you’re totally right… without my blog, they would never have found me. Who knows where this HGTV exposure will take me?! Somewhere good I hope… Thanks again!

March 19th, 2012

And thanks for getting the “Sunset Boulevard” reference…


March 20th, 2012

As always, a great synopsis of your exciting day/week.
And would you really be friends with anyone who doesn’t know who Norma Desmond was? (cue crazy eyes)

March 20th, 2012

C A N N O T WAIT to see the finished product!

Witty repartee? Huh? YOU? This is foreign to me. not. 🙂

You’re an INCREDIBLE talent and I’m so delighted you have taken this journey. Most of all, I’m so happy others will now see your amazing work!

I’m so proud to be hob-knobbing with a knob-hobber!

Hair and makeup must’ve taken hours. Cannot imagine. 🙂 XO!

March 20th, 2012

AMY – The hair was easy…
it was the make-up that took FOREVER!!!

I can’t wait to see the end result too. I’m sure a LOT of it will end up on the cutting room floor. Hours of footage edited down to my 20 seconds of fame. I guess I should find out if there’s a way to suck-up to the editors?!

And Amy… you can hob-knob any time you want.

March 21st, 2012

Hi Gary. It will be interesting to see how many knob orders you get after the show airs. Maybe someone will want to pick them up wholesale.

March 21st, 2012

Yeah, I’m a little afraid of that.
I don’t want to be known as “the clay knob guy.”
I want to make pots. I like making what I want, when I want.
I am not a big fan of commissions or special orders.

But at the same time, I am definitely not above cashing in on some sudden exposure and trying to make a go of it. Maybe making a “side business” of knobs wouldn’t be so bad. They’re just more “kiln filler” after all?!

This HGTV opportunity somehow “found me” and presented a great opportunity. Much like many of the other “path-changing” choices I’ve been given along the way that have gotten me to this point. When I was in college, I went for Graphic Design because I thought that was the “logical” choice if I ever wanted to get a job after college with an Art degree. Never did I think I would make a turn, drop out of Corporate America and become a self-supporting potter?! It’s amazing the path you might take if you’re open to possibilities and follow your bliss.

So we’ll see where this takes me… AFTER the episode airs. I’m sure it depends upon how much air-time they give me?! How much detail they go into? And if they provide any of my contact information?! And if I don’t come off looking too foolish?!

It’s all new to me?! And kind of exciting.
I will definitely keep everyone posted as my “HGTV Journey” continues!

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