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

With the Rio Games coming to an end, it seemed only appropriate that we “celebrate” with our own Pottery Olympics. Tuesday night was the last class of the summer session. We typically have a potluck dinner, a pottery exchange and then we sit around without much to do. Typically there is no “wet work” during Week Nine. But in the name of “fun & games” I decided to introduce a little Olympic Throwdown into the mix!!!

So I had my class divide into two teams… choosing schoolyard style. Then I showed them what the seven challenges were going to be… kind of… with fairly cryptic messages. They needed to decide which of their team would be doing each challenge. We then went through them one by one. Seven challenges in all. Not quite a decathlon… but maybe a septathlon relay?!

ROUND ONE : Take a full bag of clay and divide it into even cubes that weigh 1-1/2 pounds each… without the assistance of a scale. They had to guess and even them out as much as possible. It was Catherine versus Taylore… with an initial lead taken by team Taylore!!!

ROUND TWO : Remember those 1-1/2 lb. blocks of clay… well now the race was to wedge them all. So it was Natalie versus Stephen. They were both a little overwhelmed, but impressed with themselves when they had accomplished the daunting task.

ROUND THREE : This bout was Rachel versus Erin to make the best bowl with a perfectly round bottom. At first glance Rachel was the clear winner… with bonus points “sucking up” to the judge (me) with a spiral in the bottom and a split rim pinched together. Two of my favorites. But… upon closer inspection, it was Erin who had a more rounded bottom. Rachel’s was actually a little flatter and wider, but still with a nice curve. Erin’s was more rounded as challenged.

ROUND FOUR : This round was the relay!!! A tag team bout of throwing ten cylinders the fastest. With each team member taking a turn, and then repeating until they had ten. I served as the judge to determine at what point it actually counted as a cylinder. They actually had to throw it, compress it, and make some thin walls before I would call it good.

ROUND FIVE : The challenge was to throw an enclosed form that is the closest to a perfect sphere. We’ve done enclosed forms in class… but never a sphere. Katie took a quick lead, while Sam never really got her’s together. She was close, and kept working at it… but it kind of self-imploded before she could finish the sphere!

ROUND SIX : Throw the tallest cylinder in five minutes.
They centered. They threw. We measured.

After measuring, they were pretty close… too close to call when we averaged out the two heights on Stacey’s angled rim. So I gave them each another minute to perfect it even more. And then we measured again! It was Melissa who won the point with the tallest cylinder she has EVER thrown!!! And now that I know she can do it… I’ll have “higher” expectations for her next session!

ROUND SEVEN : The final challenge… BLINDFOLDED!!!
It was Tony versus Natalie in the final round. They both looked as though they would be facing a firing squad. But instead, they challenge was to center & throw the best cylinder while blindfolded in ten minutes.

It was great to see the teamwork & support of their team members…

Such focus & determination… when I expected it to just be a fun & silly little exercise!!!

In the end it was Natalie who won the Blindfold Challenge. But each of them had a pretty amazing cylinder considering the lengths that I put them through.

It was a wonderful night of Pottery Olympics. And to tell you the truth, I;m not even sure which team won?! We all had so much fun, and everyone was so supportive and encouraging of each other. A great game. Several pots. A lot of clay… that has already been re-claimed & re-wedged. Thanks to everyone in my class for stepping up to the plate… err, podium… for a wonderful game. It was another great session of classes. Ending on a hug night of fun!!! You’re ALL gold medalists in my book!!!





August 27th, 2016

Have you seen the Great Pottery throw-down on BBC? Most of the episodes are on Youtube. I thought you might have when I saw this post. Looks like a lot of fun!

August 30th, 2016

DEE – I loved “The Great Pottery Throwdown.” Fun to watch all of the different challenges. And how each artist approached the project. I liked that they pushed them to try all different things. Not just round bowls!!! I would LOVE to be a contestant if they were to ever do a US version. Sign me up!!!

Dee Rath

December 7th, 2016

My pottery class usually has a party on the final “pot pick-up night”, and this time we added the Pottery Challenge! We modified your contest a little, drew slips to choose teams, and we all had a great time (even tho my team lost miserably).

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