Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
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Yesterday I did my first ZOOM Meeting with a group of high school art students! I was contacted by art teacher Jason Catellier from Brownsburg High School in Brownsburg, Indiana. Apparently he and his ceramics students have found my blog, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook online and have been following me for awhile. They’ve used my stamped & textured work as “inspiration” for some of their class projects as well. Here are a couple examples of the student’s work…

So when Jason asked if I would be interested & available for a ZOOM Meeting with his students, I said YES!!! I’m fully aware of how so many teachers are scrambling and trying to figure out “new ways” to teach their students online with e-learning during this pandemic. So I figured if I could help out in any way… I’m in. It’s not like I have a whole lot of other busy engagements and things to do these days, right?!!!

So Jason set-up the ZOOM Meeting and sent me a link… for 3:00pm on Wednesday. I marked my calendar… I put a reminder on my phone… I even put a Post-it Note on my bathroom mirror… 3:00pm Wednesday! Got it.

So yesterday I was home in the morning. The sky was too cloudy & gray early in the morning so there was no real sunrise to make the morning bike ride worthwhile. Instead, I went for a late morning run through the neighborhood, came home, showered, had lunch and got ready to go into the studio. I was planning on taking my laptop with so I could get the screen all set-up with a good ZOOM angle & vantage point. I wanted to set-up my studio a bit better for a stamping demo, a little studio tour, and more! I’ve not done a big group ZOOM like this before… just a couple small ZOOM’s with family & friends. So I wanted to be prepared.

As I was looking up Jason’s e-mail with the ZOOM Meeting info and password so I write it down to take with me to the studio… I sent Jason a very quick confirmation e-mail as I was getting ready to leave my place… basically “See you in an hour!”

And that’s when it hit me… 3:00pm EASTERN TIME!!!

Not CENTRAL TIME like Chicago is!!!
So it was already 3:00pm there in Brownsburg!!!


So I grabbed my stuff, dashed to my car and called into the ZOOM Meeting… so much for my planned preparation, set-up and calmness! Suddenly I was in my car driving… and trying to be cordially, chatty & engaging with these students I’ve never met! Yep, a great first impression, huh?

So there I am in the bottom left corner driving… with sunglasses… a terrible angle… and a weird “virtual background” which was still on my ZOOM from my last meeting with my sister & niece!

About ten minutes later, I arrived at Lillstreet Art Center to get into my studio. I decided to give them a quick tour of the first floor classrooms and kiln room. Nothing too exciting as there is basically nobody there working these days… just a lot of empty classrooms at this point! You can see the classroom I teach my Wheelthrowing Classes in towards the bottom right corner…

Kinda grainy when enlarged too much… sorry…

I finally made it up to my studio, took off my coat, did a couple deep-breaths… situated my iPhone for the meeting… instead of the laptop I had planned on using. Also, it took me a little while to figure out the volume situation… it was great in my car as it went through the car speakers. During the Lillstreet Tour I didn’t really notice the volume… as I’m sure I was babbling a bit and rambling with too much adrenaline from running late! It wasn’t until I got in my studio and settled in that I felt like we were back on track! Sorry Jason… my bad!!! Eastern time… who’da thunk?!

So we talked about my “journey” into pottery and how I’ve gotten to where I am now. I shared my story and answered a few questions along the way. We talked about following your passions, and listening to yourself, trusting your instincts and doing the things you love doing. We talked about art fairs, selling work and how much I LOVE art fairs with face-to-face interactions with customers. We talked about how to develop a personal style in your work, how to find your niche. I just kept talking… which many of you know is NOT too much of a stretch for me!

In my studio, we also did a little overview of the soda-firing process. So many schools don’t have that availability, so I tried to explain the process, the results and why soda-firing is so cool!!! You can kinda see me showing off a couple soda-fired vases in the bottom middle area…

And then I did a stamping demo for them. I had thrown a couple bowls the night before so they might be ready to stamp. They were a little wetter & squishier than I would have liked, but I set a few fans on them while we talked trying to set them up quickly. Once they were good to go… and we had a lull in the conversation… I re-set my camera angle… and started a quick bowl stamping demo for them to watch.

I totally diggin’ this little Brady Bunch moment as seen above… like they can really see me by looking down, or looking up?!

A little more stamping, a little more detailing…
a little more chatting about how I decorate my pieces, how I keep the round & not-warped, when I trim them, and how I dry them upside-down.

The meeting was originally scheduled for a 30-minute session for these kids. About an hour later, we started wrapping it up. Okay, so I like to talk about myself & my pottery! Sue me.

At the end of the meeting, there turned out to be a little friendly “competition” to see who would be the last one standing! They were down to four… me, Jason and two students!

But then Jason realized that quite possibly the girl in the top left corner just had a frozen screen image… as she wasn’t moving or talking! I know my chat was riveting, but I’m sure not enough to “stop someone in their tracks!”

Finally… we got there… and there was a big winner. CONGRATS!!!
If being the last one in a ZOOM meeting is even something to win!?

Jason and I chatted a little more after the students had left… his wife popped in for a second.. and then we were done!

We all hung up on our ZOOM meeting… and I was left with a stamped bowl, some tools to put away, and a great experience of doing my first ZOOM Meeting with an actual “classroom” of kids!

It was a little intimidating at first, and my “hour-start-time-mixup” didn’t help any!!! But once we got going… it was all good. I just hope that this group of high school ceramic students got something out of it. Maybe a little inspiration, a little insight into my technique that will encourage them to try… or just me sharing some basic life-lessons & thoughts. I know Jason mentioned how great it was hearing me echo some of the same comments he tells his kids all the time!

Thank You Jason and the ceramic kids from Brownsburg High School
for making my first ZOOM e-learning session a success! Keep up the good work… as best you can from your quarantined zones!

We will all get through this some how, some way, some time.
Stay safe. Stay creative!!!

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