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

Okay, so I would love to call this the POTTERY OLYMPICS…
but that only happens every four years! Ha!!!

So this week in class after we critiqued , judged & awarded the Nesting Bowls…
we moved onto the POTTERY OLYMPICS… okay, so maybe it’s not so bad…

We started by dividing the class into four teams of three. I had pre-chosen the Team Captains… by splitting up the couples… so it was Molly vs. Jacob vs. Patti vs. Jon. But then we found out that Jon was not coming to class for a medical issue… so his “Captain-manship” was handed off to Teresa who had just finished eating Jon’s dinner! So the four Team Captains chose their teams and we were almost ready to move on… except one team only had two people. So I drafted my friend Natalie who has recently returned to Chicago & Lillstreet to join us in the activities. She was great to agree on such short notice!!!

To kick it off… I had each team fill out a worksheet to assign who might be the “competitor” in some of the challenges… only using cryptic hints as to what the challenge would be.

Each team had one bag of clay, a wire tool and one competitor to cut it up into predetermined weights. No scale. No weighing of the pieces. Just their best judgement with a chance to compare each ball to each other. At the end of the challenge, we weighed the balls of clay… to add up the variances. Team that was the closest to the correct weights would win the challenge!

We then did a bit of housekeeping…
Each team had a chance to even out their weighting mistakes, making sure their balls of clay were the correct weight. They then wedged them up – while another member of their team set-up a wheel for future throwing challenges!

This time we had two competitors for each team… each using a two-pound ball of clay. They had a limited amount of time to hand roll the longest coils they could…. and limited table space! And here’s the twist… if your coil were to break during the challenge, you’re done! No squishing it back together. We would just measure the longest segment while the others continue to roll clay.

For the next challenge… it was the third member of each team who did NOT roll a coil that was up! Now they had to use the recently-rolled coils to build the tallest coil cylinder. Simple enough, right? They could not continue rolling the coils… and it had to be freestanding at the end.

We then switched to a wheelthrowing challenge. All three players on each team would get a 3-pound ball of clay. Using one wheel per team, they would take turns throwing matching bowls! The first person would throw a bowl, and then they switched places as the second person stepped up to match that first bowl. Now with two bowls in, the third person stepped in to match the first two! Harder than it sounds… since there was no going back to “fix up” or alter the previous bowls!

We stuck with wheelthrowing for the next challenge… this time with two pre-determined players. Again with a three pound ball of clay they had to throw one “perfect” bowl. And here’s the twist… One throwing. One driving. Yep, one person was doing all of the centering & throwing… while the other person had complete control over the speed on the foot pedal.

 Whoops!!!…  I missed the photos of this one! But trust me, it was fun to watch!

After two wheelthrowing challenges… we switched back to handbuilding for a slab throwing competition. With five pounds of clay, they had to throw the largest slab of clay… round-robin fashion with each team member taking a turn. And again, if their slab broke at any point… they were done with the challenge. No squishing it back together! Largest surface area wins!

It’s a “shame” no one had any fun!!!

For their final challenge.. and the funniest… for me… each team had to throw one final “perfect” bowl with a four pound ball of clay. They would each have two minutes… switch… two minutes… switch… two minutes… Two full rounds of working on the same bowl. Yes, each team would continue to work on their one bowl to make it as “perfect” as they could. Each person had two “two-minute” chances to help their team

And here’s the best part… for ME at least… all the while BLINDFOLDED!!!

And then the final challenge envelope… THEIR HOMEWORK!!!


They have no homework this week as they have all been working so hard over the past couple weeks.. the deserve a break – and some tie to make what ever they want for a change!

And again, I have the BEST STUDENTS EVER!!!
Each of them embraced my crazy challenges and played along with my silly reindeer games!





February 24th, 2019

You guys are having too much fun! I love it.

February 25th, 2019

Hey, if it’s not fun, don’t do it!!!

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