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

Berry bowls here we come!!!
And who doesn’t want to play with power tools in the studio? The quicker & cleaner way to drill holes in bowls is with an actual power drill. Go figure!

So I start by marking where the holes will go with my MKM Decorating Disks. They help even space out the holes so you know where to drill. Then you just let it rip!!!

The clay will fly up and leave behind some burrs which are easy to brush off after they dry a bit. A couple minutes and a stiff paintbrush… and maybe a bit of smoothing.

With a little brushing & smoothing, your berry bowls will be done in no time! So much faster & easier than cutting them out by hand. So much so… that this power drill tip was actually featured in Ceramics Monthly!!! Click here to see the article!




Categories: Mom & Dad, pottery aprons

My Mom was busy this weekend apparently… and she cranked out three new pottery aprons!!! I’ve posted her handmade specialized potter’s aprons here on my blog. There are pictures of her current inventory and full instructions on how to claim yours!!! Limited to quantities on hand… so grab ‘em quick!

Click here to see the full inventory and instructions.
Or you can always click on the “Handmade Pottery Aprons” tab
in the right column at any time to see her current inventory.

In case you’re wondering… here are the three new ones!

Categories: artists, studio, tools

Swung by my friend Pam’s metalsmithing studio this afternoon.
She’s working on a bunch of pieces… but I’m not quite sure where?!
Quite a different set-up from a potter’s studio.
The one thing in common?… lots & lots of tools!!!

So what does YOUR studio look like?


Categories: food

It’s a dairy-product… for strong teeth & bones, right?!
Amazing flavors… Darkest Chocolate, Salted Peanut Butter & Chocolate Flecks… and my new favorite Bangkok Peanut with coconut & a touch of cayenne pepper!!! Great ice cream, crazy cool flavors and a wonderful staff that actually encourages you to taste-test as many flavors as you want to… at Jeni’s Ice Cream!!!

Categories: bowls, process, production, stamped

Time to do a bit of refinement on the bottoms of these bowls…
trimming a clean foortring setting the stage for some holes soon to come!

Categories: mugs, production

Making mugs… adding some color slip accents & details…
all posing for another Mugshot Monday!

Categories: artists, Chicago, color

Last night I went to the Opening Reception for PRISMATICA… the latest art installation at Navy Pier. Large colorful prisms that illuminate and make tinkling sounds as they rotate. The dichroic finish creates ever-changing colors that splash across the park. A bright spot on a long & dreary Winters day.



Categories: bowls, stamped, stamps, textures

Time to do a bit of detailing on the latest batch of bowls. They’ve set-up a bit and are now a “wet-leatherhard” stage. Not quite dry enough for trimming, but stiff enough to hold it’s shape during the stamping process. Gauging the right wetness is kind of mportant when you’re going in to for a full day of stamping!!!

Bowl #1 -


Bowl #2 -

Bowl #3 -

Bowl #4 -


Bowl #5 -

Bowl #6 -

Bowl #7 -

Bowl #8 -

Bowl #9 -

Bowl #10 -

Bowl #11 -

Bowl #12 -

And for now these bowls are stamped and back under plastic for the night.
But then coming soon… power tools to make them berry bowls!!!






Categories: classes, lillstreet, olympics

The Great Lillstreet Throwdown : LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!

With all of the fun going on in PyeongChang, South Korea…
it was only appropriate that we celebrate the Winter Olympics with our own version of competitive fun!

So I chose three team leaders… the forerunners in the weekly challenges!
They then in turn chose their teams in a schoolyard pick. Once the teams were chosen, I gave each Team Leader a sheet for them to fill out with their crew. It listed the ten challenges for the night with somewhat cryptic titles… and lines to fill in with the players who would be playing that game. Once the rosters were filled out… it was time to start the fun!!!

But first things first…. in addition to the Olympic OREOs…
possibly the best Carrot Cake Cupcakes ever… Thanks “Peggy Burnish-shine”!!!

And now that everyone’s all sugared up… on to the games…

Without the benefit of a scale… and only 10 minutes…
One player had to cut chunks off the bag of clay and guesstimate them be pre-determined weights. They could get advice & guidance from their team, but only the one person competing could actually touch the clay!
four @ 1-1/4 pounds  -  one @ 1-1/2 pounds  -  one @ 2-1/2 pounds
         one @ 3 pounds  -  two @ 4 pounds  -  one @ 5 pounds
When done, we actually weighed their guesses and compared to the list.
One point for each 1/4-pound off either way. Team with the LEAST points won the round!

Once we said GO… they had 10 minutes… the two players re-measured the clay balls WITH the scale! And then they wedged them all and put them back under plastic. Here’s the twist… only one person could wedge at a time and they must alternate taking turns. First team to finish wedging all of the correctly measured balls of clay won!

And if you look closely… like Jon Cusack in “Serendipity”… you’ll see “Joe Bowl-a” holding up his iPhone while playing the Olympics theme song to help set the tone!!! So funny!!!

CHALLENGE #3 – STRETCH ARMSTRONGRevisiting a Classic Throwdown Challenge!!!
With four pounds of clay… the chosen player had to make a good slab with no more than five pulls! No slab roller. No rolling pins. No ribs. No tools. We were measuring the largest continuous “rectangle” in the slab. Largest “area” wins.

And if nothing else…. we gave “Susie Greenware” the prize for best dismount!
Look at her hands.. the style… the flourish!

Get the reference?…. “Only You”… “Can make my dreams come true.”
Who sang the classic song “Only You”???

With five pounds of clay… and just 15 minutes… the chosen competitor had to throw the largest diameter platter… THE PLATTERS, get it?! An actual, legitimate platter… it must have a “viable” bottom. And not flopping down. We wired them off… with the guideline that if we see the wire you’re DQ’d!!! Widest diameter WINS!!!

It was so much fun to watch the teams working together so closely. They were all so supportive of each other… yet again with the rule that only the actual competitor could “touch” the clay!

CHALLENGE #5 – ON A ROLLRevisiting a Classic Throwdown Challenge!!!
With 1-1/2 pounds of clay and just five minutes… each contestant had to roll the longest continuous coil by hand. But if it broke, they were done and we measured the longest section left. No re-attaching. Longest coil wins!

With three pounds of clay… and just 15 minutes… each competitor had to throw the tallest cylinder. We were just measuring height. It had to be a traditional, hollow, free-standing cylinder. But here’s the twist… It’s had to be thrown while standing at the standing wheel. Which NONE of my students have ever done before!!! Challenge on!!!

And it was fun to see “Clay Eagerman” getting some tips and encouragement for his turn at the standing wheel. A little consultation before throwing.

With four pounds of clay… and 15 minutes… the next contestant needed to throw the largest serving bowl. “Largest” was measured as height plus width. And here’s the twist… BLINDFOLDED !!!

And again… part of the challenge was that ONLY the contestant could touch the clay. But their teammates could work as “sou chef” giving them advice, suggestions and handing them tools.

After the timer went off… it was HANDS UP and NO MORE CLAY!
So much fun to see the joy & excitement when the contestants got to take off their blindfolds to see their latest creations!

With four balls of clay each 1-1/4 pounds of clay… and 10 minutes… the two contestants took alternating turns of throwing a cylinder. Each player had to throw two cylinders. They had to work together to throw four matching cylinders. Height. Width. Shape.

Here’s the twist…
While one team member was throwing at the wheel…
the other player was operating the foot pedal for them!

With 2-1/2 pounds of clay… and just 10 minutes to throw… the three team members took turns working on the same cylinder. Switching places every 30 seconds. Tallest, free-standing, straight-sided cylinder wins. Yes, I said switching positions and rotating the person throwing on that cylinder every 30 seconds!!! Turns out to be a lot tougher than they expected.

With about eight pounds of clay… and the final ten minutes of class… the team had to work together to make the tallest handbuilt “structure” using just clay, plastic straws and toothpicks!!! Must be free-standing. No tools. No supports. Tallest wins with bonus for creative sculptures!!!

And “Kelly Bisque” getting into it…
shrouding their structure from the peering eyes of the the opposing teams!

And the winners of STICKS & STONES… with the tallest free-standing structure…

It was quite a busy night!!! A lot of fun… a lot of laughter… a LOT of camaraderie & teamwork!!! So much fun for my Throwdown class. Exactly the sort of fun that I was hoping this special Throwdown class would bring out. And it did.

So to finish up our night… we had our own Olympic Closing Ceremony where the contestants actually got their medals! The tally scoreboard was updated with the winners getting GOLD and 30 points!!! Silver got 20 points and Bronze got 10 points. And the fun continues next week with more Throwdown Fun!!!








Categories: classes, lillstreet

A sneak peek of the fun my students are going to have tonight in my GREAT LILLSTREET THROWDOWN class! It may only happen every four years… but at least we have Team USA themed OREOs to set the mood for a night full of games, challenges & friendly competitions! And yes, medals will be awarded!!!

I’m sure there will be MANY photos & stories still to come…