Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: handbuilding, lillstreet, summer camp

We started camp this week with the usual introductions and discussion of our class projects. For FIRE, FORGE & FEAST, we have a LOT to get done in a short amount of time. So I need all of my campers to stay focused & engaged in the process. We do a lot of handbuilding in this camp… so there’s a LOT of scoring & slipping to be done.

And to make it one step tougher for them… I threw them a curve-ball by telling them that they needed to design their entire dinnerware set based on a Famous Artist. Somehow incorporating their style, imagery, color palette or characters into their pieces! So we started the class off with some Flash Cards of famous artworks by Famous Artists. Enough for them to get some ideas of who they might want to focus on for their project. Little did they know that the Flash Cards “Game” would continue all week long until they had them ALL memorized!!!

We started glazing everything on Wednesday. For the kids’ terra cotta projects, we use a once-fired color glaze so we can get their pieces back on Friday. The colors are limited, but easy to use… and they will be darker, shiny & more colorful after firing.

As the glazing continued, I set up a fun splatter glazing station for Graham in the hallway. We set out his pieces on a large piece of paper and let him go! Of course he had a full understanding of Gary’s Summer Camp Rule #3… whatever mess you make, you WILL be cleaning up! So he did a great job of keeping his splatters as contained as possible!

And one of the best parts… as he made painter’s palette platters…
he now had JACKSON POLLOCK PAINTER’S PALETTE SPLATTER PLATTERS!!! Say that three times fast!

And while the splattering was going on… Eve had a little more time to make a few more side plates. Such attention-to-detail… as I would expect… as this was her THIRD TIME taking my Fire, Forge & Feast Camp!!!

As the first kiln was unloaded, we got their ceramic handles for the cutlery. They figured out which ones fit best, and then I epoxied them together. Not quite as much fun as previous years when we actually made them in the Metalsmithing Department of Lillstreet… but these desperate times called for desperate measures!

So their dinnerware sets started coming out of the kiln… still warm, bit now more colorful. We started setting them out as a set to see how everything goes together. Unfortuantely, not everything made it out of the kiln… as some of it was put into a “second kiln” that wasn’t quite done by the end of camp on Friday. So the kids had to come back later to pick-up their stuff… and I didn’t quite get photos of everything!

So here are some of the FIRE, FORGE & FEAST dinnerware sets…
based on the work & style of some Famous Artists!!!


Including a “plate-elevating-stand” based on the Calder sculpture downtown called “The Flamingo.”

Every kids favorite when they realize the get to splatter everything!!!

JIM DAVIS – cartoonist of the “Garfield” series
Complete with chopsticks as whiskers!!!





HAYAO MIYAZAKI – Artist & director of the anime’ classic “Spirited Away.”

And then potluck on Friday… the FEAST portion of Fire, Forge & Feast.
It was questionable as to whether or not we could pull-off a potluck feast during Covid Pandemic times. No such things as bringing homemade treats in any more. No more sharing. No more finger-licking!!!

Luckily, we did it… all with pre-packaged, individual serving foods that the kids brought in. We separated them onto plates so everyone had one of each. They then went back to their “assigned” safe work space to feast! I did have to tell them there would be no sharing, exchanging or passing around of their treats. Once on their plate – it was theirs!!! And it was one of the weirdest conglomerations of potluck food that Lillstreet has EVER seen!!!

At the end of camp, we did a little Pop Quiz on the famous artists that they had been memorizing all week long. They had over fifty artists on the list… so I had them write them all down as I showed the flash cards. And here’s the kicker… they needed first AND last names!!! I told them that spelling didn’t matter unless there was a tie.

After fifty-some flash cards, Jo was the big winner!!!
Just missed one… just one FIRST NAME!!!
Had the last name… but forgot Anish.

So the BIG PRIZE was the demo plate I had made earlier in the week!
Looks like Jo was pretty pleased with the prize!!!
And I was more than pleased with another successful week of Summer Camp!!!

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