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

You know I loves me a good sunrise… and a beautiful sunset ain’t too shabby either.
So I was kind of excited when I saw these “manipulated” photographs online today.
Apparently, there’s some sort of time-lapse, exposure, layering & stacking going on?!

As seen on
Living on the shore of Lake Ontario, just east of Toronto, photographer Matt Molloy has daily encounters with brilliant sunsets and cloudscapes that he’s been photographing for over three years. One day he began experimenting with time-lapse sequences by taking hundreds of images as the sun set and the clouds moved through the sky. Molloy then digitally stacked the numerous photos to reveal shifts in color and shape reminiscent of painterly brush strokes that smeared the sky. You can learn more about his “timestack” technique over at Digital Photo Magazine.

As quoted from Matt Molloy himself: “Made from 500 photos, this is the first sunset time-lapse I tried the stacking method with. I was surprised with the outcome, but even more so with the feedback. It wasn’t long before it went viral. I was getting lots of emails, some asking questions about the technique and others hoping to share it on their website or blog. Milky Way Scientists shared it on their Facebook page, and it got 12,000 likes and 4,000 shares on the first day it was up. I was blown away!

Click here for more images by Matt Molloy.
Click here for a “tutorial” on the process from Digital Photo Magazine.

Categories: holiday, ornaments

Well, it’s April.
Which means it’s also the fourth month of our Holiday Ornament Challenge.
Metalsmith Sarah Chapman and I have been working to make a new ornament each month. She’s making her’s in metal, while I’m making mine in clay.

This month, Sarah made her ornaments by creating bell shapes with copper screen, brass hooks and a beautiful torch patina. While these are great holiday ornaments… I’m sure Sarah has some customers who would also consider wearing them as earrings!!!

My ornaments took a more contemporary approach. Sleek. Stylized. Porcelain.
I’m digging the stylized ornament shapes. The clean lines. The surprising lack of texture?!
I’m thinking they will stay clean & white with a simple metal hoop to hang them from.

Once again, my ornaments aren’t quite done yet. They’re drying and ready for bisque firing. Although I must admit that I am more than a little concerned about them. They’re pretty fragile. Too fragile maybe. In fact, I broke two of them while I was cleaning them up. So I may need to consider making another batch… slightly thicker, and slightly smaller… as these are pretty large. Too large?… I don;’t think so. Let’s just call them dramatic!

Categories: bowls, classes, process, production, stamps, textures

After Tuesday night’s bowl demo, I felt that some of the bowls needed a little “extra” lovin’. So last night I did some stamping & detailing to a few of the bowls. Unfortunately, my students aren’t around to see this part of the process. Hopefully this little “photo journey” will help clear up how the “magic” happens!

Bowl #1 – Originally fluted in four parts.
So I accentuated the four parts with some “sectional” stamping!
Playing along with the design & geometry of the bowl, now accented with stamps!

Bowl #2 – Originally a plain bowl with a bent-out, flanged rim.
Now with a little accent border of stamped texture!

Bowl #3 – Originally a flared out rim & fluted edges.
Now with a border of stamping just below the fluted fun.

Bowl #4 – Originally a large plain flange on a small bowl.
Which is really just a great “canvas” to do some stamping, right?

Bowl #5 – This one was originally just a bowl with a split rim.
Now it’s stamped and pinched back together in all the right places!

Bowl #6 – In class we left this one with the split rim and pinched together in 8 places.
I added a couple stamps, some little add-ons and a bit of curving.

Categories: bike, sunrise

This morning was wetter than I expected.

The normal morning routine is to get up early, step outside onto my back porch and check the weather. if it’s wet, raining, snowing or frozen, I generally skip the ride. But for some reason this morning when I checked, it looked pretty good. So I got up, got dressed and hopped on my bike. Only to find that it must have rained recently as the roads were all still wet. And you know I couldn’t turn around at that point!  I was just glad that I still had my rear fender on so I wouldn’t get that “squirrel tail” stripe up my back!

Turns out the cloud cover made for a nice sunrise though!
Until that one “last” cloud took over.

Categories: bowls, classes, lillstreet, process, production

Tonight was a big night for my class when they learned how to make bowls on purpose instead of a cylinder gone bad… whoops, here’s a bowl! So we started the night with a demonstration of how to make a proper bowl. Then, as my students went back to try their hand at the wheel, I continued to throw more bowls. Once I had finished the bag of clay, I had twelve basic bowls – all kind of the same size & shape. All of them basically round. All of them basically plain.

Part Two of the class demo is to convince my students to “play with their clay” and get it to do something fun. I try to instill in them that the wheel is only a tool and it’s up to them to be creative and turn it into a “work of art.”  To make it their own! So my goal was to show them a few quick tricks to turn each one into something different. Nothing too tough, just some fun options for them to play with! All of  sudden, we had twelve different bowls… no longer the basic round bowls we started with!

Here’s a quick look at them one at a time…

Bowl #1 – The simple round bowl with four fluted accents.

Bowl #2 – The simple round bowl with the top edge flanged outwards. This one will probably get stamped tomorrow night… a few stamps never hurt anyone, right?!

Bowl #3 – A combination of #1 & #2… with the flanged edge and fluted accents combined. Odds are some stamps might hit this one too?!

Bowl #4 – The simple round bowl now with an even wider flange flattened out. That wide flange is screaming for some fun surface decoration, right?!

Bowl #5 – The simple round bowl with a split rim… done with the point of my wooden knife.
Kinda plain now… but this one will be stamped and fluted back together soon.

Bowl #6 – The same split rim technique, but this time pinched back together in places. The little pinch marks kind of bug me right now. For some reason they don’t look quite finished. So I’ll come up with something…

Bowl #7 – The simple round bowl with a small floral design made with a dragonscale tool pressed in a couple times into the freshly thrown bottom. Twelve impressions in case anyone’s counting?!

And then I introduced decorating with colored slip… or in my case, white slip…
Bowl #8 – I coated the interior and then dragged the round end of my wooden knife through it as the bowl was still rotating on the wheel. I especially love how the layer of slip creates some textures inside when dragged through it. The glaze should pool nicely in there somewhere…

Bowl #9 – Then we talked about what would happen if you goofed up halfway… so we stopped the spiral halfway up and finished with banded rings around the top.

Bowl #10 – With the addition of slip, I showed them a way to make Bowl #4 with a decorated flange. I coated it with white slip, and then dragged through it with the rounded end of my wooden knife.

Bowl #11 – After a layer of white slip, I used my curved rib to chatter through it. The challenging part is that it’s a steady combination of chattering speed, wheel rotation speed and upwards movement all at the same time!

Bowl #12 – For the last bowl, I cut out the number five from the newspaper. I stuck it on with water, carefully painted over it with white slip, and then coated the interior of the bowl. I then very carefully peeled out the newspaper 5 to reveal the design.

So now all of the bowls are safely up in my studio – wrapped up for the night. I hope to make it back to the studio tomorrow night to do some more stamping & detailing. And then when they’re ready, I’ll trim them up and send them off to the bisque. And in the meantime, I hope that my students are somehow inspired and ready to play a little more with their clay!

Categories: glaze, process, studio

Well, I’ve run out of bisqued test tiles. Yeah, the ones I made back in January, but who’s counting? Since I went through that first batch so “quickly”, I figured I needed to make another batch so I can get them bisqued and move forward!

So I started by throwing two bottomless cylinders, one in stoneware and another in soda clay. I added a bit of texture & stamping to help simulate how the glaze test might react on one of my “real” pots if I ever get that far.

Once the cylinders were leatherhard, it was time to cut them up to create some standing test tiles. I threw them with some intentional “glaze traps” at the bottoms. That way if the glaze test runs a lot it will get caught on the tile, and not run onto the kiln shelf.

As I smoothed out the edges, I also added some numbers to the fronts of them. I figure it’ll be part of my coding system, to keep track of which test tile matches up with which batch of glaze after it’s been fired.

So now they’re all lined up and drying overnight…

Categories: glaze, studio

So I’ve mixed up a few more batches. Hoping for something new.
And dipped a few more test tiles. Now I can’t wait to get them fired.
Hoping for some good results! Some new colors to play with!

Categories: bike, sunrise

The morning started out with some great clouds popping along the skyline. But as the morning progressed, and the sun was getting ready to emerge, the groovy clouds had moved on. I had high expectations for a really cool sunrise. That didn’t happen. But what we were left with was pretty darn sweet nonetheless.

Categories: bike, Chicago, sculpture

As I made it further south, pedaling through the Museum Campus, I found these wonderful horse head sculptures. Not, they’re not a nod to “The Godfather.” But a great installation piece of two horse heads constructed of little rectangles of metal all soldered together. Great animation as the sun glistens off each small piece.


Categories: Chicago, sculpture

With all of the flooding in the Chicago area earlier this week, you would have thought that maybe this wonderful sculpture would have been disassembled and deployed to the flooded areas?! Kidding. Luckily, it is still fully intact and gracing the gardens in front of Chicago’s Navy Pier.