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

CHALLENGE #1 – A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK
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!

CHALLENGE #2 – SQUISH
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!

CHALLENGE #4 – ONLY YOU
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!

CHALLENGE #6 – STANDING TALL
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.

CHALLENGE #7 – DIDN’T SEE THAT ONE COMING
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!

CHALLENGE #8 – MIX & MATCH
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!

CHALLENGE #9 – FLIP THE SWITCH
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.

CHALLENGE #10 – STICKS AND STONES
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!!!

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March 28th, 2018

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