Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: artists, holiday, mugs, process, production

When you’ve got twenty cylinders stamped, trimmed and at the perfect leather-hard state,
you’ve got to start attaching handles quick before the cylinders dry out. So I start by
wedging my clay, making sure it is the same clay as the cylinders themselves. Then I cut
the wedged clay up into smaller pieces and pound them against the table to create these
little “carrot” shapes.

Then I pick one up from the fat end at pull handles the traditional way. Basically by dragging
a wet hand down the “carrot” tube from top to bottom. The slippery friction makes the clay
stretch. By switching around your hand positions, you can create handles of different shapes
and widths. When I get mine to the right size & shape, I quickly give ’em a flip and loop ’em
over. They sit this way for a few minutes so that the clay can stiffen up a bit. If you try to attach
them when they are too wet, the handles don’t hold their shape… they get all mushy looking.

When they are ready, I cut off the portion for the handle that I need to attach to the mug
cylinder. Each one is then scored & slipped, and carefully attached to the cylinders.
Paying close attention to the placement & size of each handle and how they “fit” to the
cylinder itself. As I finish each handle, I put the mugs back on my plastic ware boards,
give them a quick spray of water and then wrap them up again overnight. I like to keep
them wrapped in the hopes that the moisture levels between the cylinder and the handle
might even out a bit so they can dry & shrink more evenly later.

Today, while I was attaching my handles, I was also watching this informative DVD of
Tara Wilson as she was demonstrating at the 2009 NCECA Conference. She makes these
wonderful forms, very clean, very smooth, very voluptuous. She does a lot of darting &
altering of her thrown forms, and then fires them in a wood fired kiln to create wonderful
flashing surfaces & finishes. Always fun to watch someone else show how they do
their work… as I continue to add my handles… again… and again… and again…

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