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

I started this “beveled bowl” carving project as a demo for my class a couple weeks back. It has taken a “little longer” than expected… a little bit here, a little bit there… and I feel like I could keep “cleaning it up” forever. But tonight I finally called it “done.” Of course I had to keep telling myself “It’s just a demo, it’s just a demo…” I started by throwing a bowl with slightly thicker walls than usual. And let it stiffen up a soft leatherhard so I could trim a nice foot. Then I brought the bowl to class to start the demo. I used my Xacto knife to incise horizontal lines while the bowl was on the wheel. Then I moved it over to a banding wheel and incised vertical lines. Hopefully evenly spaced… I eye-balled it, so who knows… but it created sixteen sections. The incising is to establish “sections” that will be carved, as well as cut lines so the bevels “pop out” better later. Do NOT carve all the way through the bowl!!!

Then it’s time to start carving… I attack one square at a time. Beveling the section from top to bottom in one row, and then bottom to top in the adjacent rows. The effect is alternating bevel directions all the way around the bowl. Yes, this is going to take awhile… sixteen vertical sections and five horizontal bands. That makes 80 squares to carve!!!

One by one. All the way around. Trying to keep it clean and consistent. Of course you’ll need to go over each section a couple times. Some come out cleaner than others… some will be a struggle. I would also recommend not doing this trick with clay that has a loft of grog in it. The smoother the clay the cleaner the carving will be without revealing a lot of rough grog chunks.

Of course I could keep going.. keep carving… keep cleaning. The smoother the lines the better, but seriously, at some point I just had to call this one done. It’s JUST a class demo after all. A lot of work to show off a fun carving “trick.” Hopefully the glaze will cover up the parts that I “gave up” on!!! And maybe a little Dremel sanding before glazing if worse comes to worse… and my OCD kicks in before it gets glazed. I could work on this one forever…





Categories: bowls, process, production

After trimming the feet into the bowls, it was time to put in some drainage holes for my newest batch of berry bowls. For years I would use a small brass hole punch for the holes. But now I’ve upgraded to POWER TOOLS!!! Who doesn’t like working with a power drill in the studio?!

I like to use my MKM Decorating Disks to help mark out the holes evenly. The two-disk set gives you even-numbered spacing, or odd-numbered spacings. For more about the MKM Decorating Disk, click here.

So I place the transparent disk on top of the foot. Then put a small dot into the clay with my needle tool through the holes in the disk.Evenly spaced guides for where the drilled holes will go.

And then the power drill comes out!!!    Vrroooommmm!!!
The bowls are on the drier side of leatherhard, but definitely not bone dry.
Starting at the guide dots, I place the tip of the drill bit and spin right through!

After drilling, I let the clay dry up for a few minutes. Then I take a fairly stiff dry paintbrush and wipe off the burrs. They fall right off anf the drilled holes only need a little cleaning up. So much quicker, so much easier, so much cleaner than punching each hole by hand one at a time.

And for now they’re all drilled and drying. Still a little bit of clean-up around the edges…
and some coordinating drainage plates still to be thrown!!!

For more information & pictures, check out the October 2016 CERAMICS MONTHLY issue!
I have a one-page tutorial explaining how I use my power drill for my berry bowls.




Categories: bowls, production, stamped

Productive afternoon after subbing for Lisa. A fresh batch of bowls…
stamped and waiting to get drainage holes to fulfill their destiny as berry bowls!!!

Categories: bowls, classes, glaze

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble… here’s a quick peek at the bowl we “bubble glazed” last week as part of our class demo. I think it turned out pretty sweet. But I’m kind of wondering where the second layer of green bubbles went to? The bowl has a base glaze of white, then a layer of blue glaze bubbles, and then a second layer of bubbles using a green glaze. I swear. Sadly, the green seem to have disappear.ed… but the blue bubbles still look great! Scroll back about a week to see how we did this!

Click here to jump back about a week to see how we did our bubble glazing demo!
With great photos of Melissa blowing bubbles everywhere!!!

Categories: bowls, classes, textures

Finally finished up a bowl carving demo that I started for my class a week ago. I threw the bowl a little thicker than usual, and then set in to carving out a rhythmic pattern using the rounded end of my trimming ribbon tool.

And then a small groove in each cut-out with a small sgraffito loop tool.

Gotta love a good texture. Gotta love a good pattern.
Just a little carving trick I learned from Amy a few years back!!!


Categories: bowls, food

I love when customers share their pottery with me… and their pears! So much fun to see my pottery actually being used in people’s homes. Like this pinched split rim bowl filled with bosc pears! Thanks George for sharing your perfect pairing… or would that PEAR-ing?!

Categories: bowls, stamped

After a big class demo Tuesday night, I had a table full of bowls to finish up in my studio. Sure, my class learned how to make a bowl on purpose. Sure, we talked about some quick ways to alter the rims, change the shape or add some slip. But I still felt as though I had to add my own little touch to the bowl before I could call them done. So I did a little detailing & stamping… making the “basic bowls” even less BASIC!!!

This was the first “basic” bowl… now with a simple stamped rim.

This bowl had four sides. So of course my first instinct was to stamp the rim… but instead,
I added a little “button” at each flute and stamped two opposing sides instead of all four.

And the simple flared rim just “begs” for a row stamps… so I did…

For the squiggle-slipped bowl, I decided to add some simple rounded indentations around the rim. And I have a wooden tool designed for spouts that works perfect for this rim effect.

With a wide, flared out flange rim, it was the perfect “canvas” for a lot of stamping!

This bowl had a split rim and six points pinched back together. I questioned how to accentuate the “long side” versus  the “short sides.” So only stamped the inner part of the two long sides and then squished the bowl to elongate it into an oval.

The slip swirl bowl got a simple rim indented with the fatter end of round spout tool.

This split rim bowl was pinched together in four places, so I added little “buttons” at the pinches and stamped just below then to help accentuate the pinched parts.

The chattered bowl got a simple rim with indentation on an angle to go along with the “movement” of the chattered slip design.

And again, a flared our rim just “screams”… PLEASE STAMP HERE!!!

The lotus-shaped, split rim bowl now has a stamped rim too. I added little nuggets at each pinch point… and stamped the interior of the split rim on two sides, and the outside of the split rim on the other two sides.

With the clean indented concentric rings at the bottom of this bowl, I wanted another clean, indented geometric feel for the rim.


Flutes in class… then I added little clay nuggets and stamps…

This is the owl where we tried the roll-over hollow rim. So I did a little bit of a wider stamping to “flatten out” the rim to make it a bit more dramatic. Don’t get me wrong, the rim is still hollow… just wider… and more decorative!

Clean indentation in the bottom. Clean indentations around the rim.

And with that wonderful “happy accident” little spiral in the bottom of the ombre slip, I decided to go with a spiral stamp for the rim for a bit of decorative continuity.

Stamped and detailed… now for trimming…

And oh, but wait there’s more…
A really sweet comment from one of my Facebook Fans…

Sharon : “They were beautiful, then you made them explode into gorgeous!”


Categories: bowls, classes

Last night we made a LOT of bowls. A full bag of clay for that matter!!!
It’s always one of my favorite demos for my pottery students. We discuss how to make a bowl on purpose… instead of a cylinder gone bad! How bowls have a nice, smooth round bottom. Not a flat bottom and slightly curved sides. How to through an intentional bowl shape right from the beginning. So we all do a basic bowl demo… and then they get back to work on their wheels. Meanwhile, I sit down and quickly throw the rest of the bowls. In this case, seventeen in total.

We then all reconvene and discuss some ways to make their bowls a little more personal. A little more flair. A little more style. And that they should “play” with their clay more, and not look at each piece as being so precious. My demo shows them some quick tricks and techniques to turn the basic round bowl into something special in just a few minutes.

Bowl One – So here’s the first “basic” bowl. NO special tricks other than a fun spiral pressed into the bottom. Everyone loves a good spiral, right? This was the basic round shape of all seventeen before I got started with the alterations.

Bowl Two – Indented concentric circles. A little “surprise” when someone gets down to the bottom of their soup!

Bowl Three – Fluted In Fours… a couple quick twists to give the rim some shape.

Bowl Four - Fluted In Eights… and if four is good, wight is sometimes better.

Bowl Five – Flanged… a thin rim of clay folded outward making the bowl visually wider.

Bowl Six – And if a little flange is good, wider might be better, right?

Bowl Seven – And then we combined a flared rim with a fluted edge.

Bowl Eight – Typically I do all of my stamping a day or so after throwing the pieces… not right away. But for tis demo, I used a metal dragonscale to to press a stylized flower into the bottom of the bowl. Another surprise at the bottom for when your guest finished the hot fudge sundae.

Bowl Nine – Split rim pinched back together in four places.

Bowl Ten – Split rim pinched back together in six places…
a little irregular, but I have a plan in mind…

Bowl Eleven - Another split rim, but this time shaped inwards in four places, and outward in the corners creating a stylized lotus flower.

Bowl Twelve – For this one I attempted a rolled-over hollow rim. It “kinda” worked… the bowl was a little to dry from sitting out during the demo, and I think I flared too much out & over. I had a little trouble getting it to reattach on the underside smoothly.

After the first dozen, I figured it was time to add some colored slip for decorative accents. We discussed the benefit of slip versus glaze. How they each have different properties. Why slip is better for some things. And how it makes a two-tone bowl “easier” to do with slip than trying it by dipping into two colors of glaze.

Bowl Thirteen – Slip Swirled. I coated the entire interior with white slip, and then dragged the curved end of my wooden knife through the slip to reveal the clay as the bowl was rotating… hence, the perfect spiral.

Bowl Fourteen - Another coating of white slip on the interior of the bowl, a little thicker than the last bowl. I then did some finger squiggling through the slip creating this groovy, wavy pattern.

Bowl Fifteen – Another bowl with a flared out flange, this time using that space as a nice “canvas” for some slip decoration. I coated it with white slip, and then dragged my finger through it all the way around.

Bowl Sixteen – Chattered pattern through thick white slip. It’s a bit tricky the first couple times… but it’s just rhythmic tapping of a rubber rib through the slip while rotating and moving the tapping up and out.

Bowl Seventeen – A quick ombre blended effect using white and black slips. While I was blending the gradation, I got these fun black spiral lines at the bottom… so we decided I should keep it like this! So I did.

So now all of the bowls are upstairs in my studio under wraps. I’ll let them set-up a bit… and then I’ll do some stamping, texturing and detailing. Go figure, right? More to come…


Categories: bowls, stamped, textures

Stamped bowl rim with fluted shadows.

Categories: bowls, food, friends

My very first Noodle Kugel homemade by my friend Pam. Quite yummy…
and even yummier in a handmade Bob Briscoe bowl.