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

My morning started early out at Harper College.
I pulled in to the parking lot and followed my directions in search of a Ceramics Department. And after kinda driving down a loading-dock-sidewalk-road-like-driveway-thing, I found the entrance… and Janice was right there waiting for me!!! Her directions were perfect.

After unloading my tools & pots from my car, she gave me a tour of their Ceramics Department. They’ve got a wonderful set-up out there. Lots of space for handbuilding, wheelthrowing, glazing and more. Plus several kilns, both inside & outside.

I wedged up some clay, trying to make mental plan of what I was going to throw, and “labeled” each ball of clay so I would remember my plan. A few mugs, a couple bowls, a vase, an oval (sides & bottom), a platter… and always open for whatever more they might request!!!

After throwing several pieces, we switched rooms for my PowerPoint presentation.
It was a quick slide show about my path to clay, visual influences, my studio, my step-by-step process and discussions about marketing, social networking and pricing strategies. It was a great chance for more questions & answers.

We then took a break for a wonderful potluck lunch.
And those Clay Guild folks sure know how to throw a really GREAT potluck!!!
Far too much food. Far too much fun… and great cookies!!!

After lunch we re-grouped and did one last throwing “demo-on-demand”…
Christmas ornaments off-the-hump.

We then switched to some stamp-making fun. I showed them some quick tips on stamp making. They made a few. I made a few. And we talked about some other fun texture & pattern making tools & tricks. Textured rollers made of PVC & hot glue. Lace patterns pressed into clay & coated with colored slip. Plastic trowels as great groove-makers!

Then it was onto my favorite part… STAMPING!!!
So we broke open my tool box filled with stamps and started stamping. The pieces that I had thrown earlier in the day had dried enough to stamp. They were still a little squishier than I would normally like… in some places. Since we had left the unwrapped for the most part, the top rims were drying faster, and the bottoms & sides were still wetter. Typically, I prefer to dry them a little slower under plastic so they stiffen up more evenly. But in a workshop situation… we forged ahead and made the best of it. So I stamped & pressed, as the students continued to ask questions. We worked our way through all of the pieces I had thrown, and were quickly nearing the end of our time.

At the end of the workshop, everyone was so helpful cleaning up. I was amazed how quickly my dirty wheel, bucket, tools, pots, tables, chairs and basically the entire workshop area was cleaned up & back in place. Everyone pitched in. Pretty amazing!!!

A HUGE Thank You to the Harper College Clay Guild.
I had a wonderful time. You were all wonderful “students” for the day.
I only hope that I offered up some information that was helpful. That I may have enlightened something along the way. Maybe showed you a trick or two… or at least made you smile?!

Remember, it’s just clay.
Make something. Make more. Do what you love. Follow your passion.
And if it’s not fun, don’t do it.


March 8th, 2015

Great workshop Gary. Many special tricks for throwing and stamping… Very personable and knowledgeable… Information about finger, hand, and body position… Clay movement, timing, amounts… every little detail shared will make a very big difference for me. I found tons of 3-D images from my metalsmithing to make stamps from. I am “fired up” and “ready”.

March 9th, 2015

JOHN – I’m so glad you had a good time on Saturday – I did too. But more importantly, I’m glad that I had something worthwhile to share! After a couple hours I feel like I’m rambling on & on… who knows if it even makes sense after awhile?! I hope your new stamps work well. I’d love to see some photos of your newly-“inspired” pieces when they come out of the kiln! And let’s just give props where props are due… nice wordsmithing Mr. Pun-meister!!!

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