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

Today was our NCECA personal field trip. My friend Nancy Jana-Kent and I played hooky and went up for one day of the NCECA Conference. She’s the biking friend I’ve known for years, and suggested that we both take our first pottery class at Lillstreet many years ago. So it’s all her fault that I’m so addicted now… anyway…

We arrived in Milwaukee this morning after a rainy & gloomy drive. We registered in the lobby of the Wisconsin Center and then head off to see stuff. We didn’t really know where to go, what to see, what to do. We didn’t really do our homework beforehand. So Nancy & I were just winging it… ready to see a little bit of everything!

We started by dropping of my two cups for the Annual Cup Show. The actual sale event is not until Friday morning, but the tables were already filling up with mugs. I wish I could be there Friday morning to see how many mugs there end up being for the fundraising sale.

We then went into some of the smaller galleries. Each conference room had been transformed into a small gallery space. Our favorite was the gallery showcasing the work from the Archie Bray Foundation. Headlined by Steven Young Lee… who is one of the current “hot potters” in all ceramic world. He’s in all the magazines. He’s all the rage. He’s the hot ticket these days. He’s been making these beautiful, traditional Asian blue & white porcelain vessels… with one really big flaw! Okay, maybe it’s just me… but I don’t get it. I’m sure there is some very hoity-toity, symbolic artistic meaning behind them… but I would rather having the stunning vessel BEFORE the “accident” happened. Either way, even though I don’t “get it”, I can still admire the technical craftsmanship that goes into them.

A beautiful collection of wall pillows – with incredible dotted & drawn details by Giselle Hicks. Each individual pieces is pretty spectacular… but put them together into a “puffy quilt” and it’s even better!!!

Not a lot of purely practical & functional pottery in the gallery spaces. So I was really drawn to Paul Donnelly‘s beautiful set. Nicely thrown, beautifully assembled & glazed. But the coolest part was the unique wooden trivet-tray that all of the pieces rested on… and if you picked them up, the foot of each cup fit into a carved recess in the tray! Brilliant!!!

We also saw this great “set of ladles”… sorry, forgot the artist’s name?… but it brought up the conversation about how neither Nancy or I have ever made clay spoons?! And that we both think we should try it.

Okay, so by now you might know that I kind of have a “thing” for roadkill. So many bike rides have taken us so many over the years. So I loved this “ceramic roadkill” by Beth Cavener. Now I’m not really sure that that was her intention… but that’s what I read into it. And I loved it… all that was missing was the “smell of death.”

While in the “Grounded In Wisconsin” Gallery, I saw this really cool wall piece by Marta Matray. I loved the “pillow” volume, the texture and the beautiful flashing colors.

As we were leaving the small gallery spaces, we ran into another Lillstreet potter Marian Castro-Palanyk, who joined Nancy & I for the day. As we headed upstairs for the Resource Hall Expo, we turned a corner and practically ran into Aaron Nelson & Steven Lee. Two former teachers of mine from the old Lillstreet days. And now each of them have become “pretty big deals” in the ceramic world. I took wheelthrowing class & my first glaze chemistry class with Aaron. He is currently the artistic director at Medalta in Alberta, Canada. While Steve is the resident artistic director for the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana. Both “big wigs” in the clay world… always a bit surprised that they even remember me?!!!

As we entered the Resource Hall, I was kind of surprised to see a couple pottery galleries actually selling pottery. I kind of expected to see pottery in “galleries”… and not for sale?! Pleasant surprise, huh?… cha-ching $$$.

Always fun to see… Artstream Nomadic Gallery! A wonderful diversion & creative re-use of an old silver Airstream trailer. The entire unit has been converted & transformed onto a traveling ceramics gallery! Alleghany Meadows was the mastermind for this brilliant concept… and he makes pretty amazing work too!

So we continued through Resource Hall and saw a LOT of booths selling tools, glazes, books, clay, wheels, kilns… and did I mention tools?! We did a lot of shopping, bought lots of tools, and ran into a bunch of friends along the way. It was great to see so many familiar faces… Glynnis Lessing, Delores Fortuna, Amanda Syler, Dave Trost, Dustin Yager, Steve Lee again… and so many other familiar faces hovering around the Lillstreet Art Center booth.

We shopped and made it though about half of the Expo, when we broke for lunch. Incredible nachos across the street.. and then back for more shopping. More tools. More fun.

One little surprise along the way was when we stepped into the Coyote Glazes trade show booth. Lots of colors. Lots of glaze swatches. Still visually overwhelmed. But very pleased to see a mug there that I recognized!!!

Scott Reed from Symmetrical Pottery in Florida makes these awesome “sheet metal” mugs! And there one was glazed in Coyote “Root Beer” glaze. I’ve only “met” Scott online through blogs & Facebook. I’ve seen his work & techniques change & grow very quickly… and continue to see a LOT of pictures of his pots on Facebook. This was the first time I had the pleasure of seeing one of his mugs in person!!! Click here to see more work from Symmetrical Pottery on their Facebook page.

At one point in the Expo, I stopped off at the Medalta booth to say “hi” to Aaron again but he wasn’t there. Ironically though, they’re doing a Call For Entries for a “Spoon Show”… and didn’t we just say that Nancy, Marian & I were all going to tackle making spoons?! Coincidence?… I don’t think so!

We continued to work our way around the Expo. So many things to see. So many people to talk to. It gets very overwhelming very quickly. I’m sure it’s not so bad if you’re there for the full, multi-day conference. We were there for one day today, and determined to squeeze it all in. And I think we did a really good job!!!

As we were getting ready to leave the convention center, we were headed towards the escalator when I though I heard my name?!… Turns out it was my good friend & ceramic artist Cory McCrory! I was so glad to see her there… and a little sad that we were on our way home, and not staying to play longer!!! But we were exhausted… wallets spent… and ready to head home to re-live & admire our purchases!!!




March 20th, 2014

Good Day! Thanks for playing!

Lolly Chessie

March 20th, 2014

Sounds like an awesome day! I’m so jealous. I hope you’ll post pics of the tools you picked up!

Leave a Comment