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

Last night in the studio I did some “follow-up” detailing on the class demo bowls that I made last Tuesday. They’ve been under plastic waiting for some decoration. So I did some stamping, texturing, dotting and more! Each one a little more special than they were before!

And this one, I peeled off the “impromptu” loop handles that we added during the class demo. Remember the cut-outs that I scooped out of the splash pan and stuck on?! Well, I peeled them off so that I can add some better ones back in their place later…. tomorrow???

Categories: bowls, classes, wheelthrowing

This week in class was my favorite demo of the entire session!!!
Making bowls on purpose instead of a cylinder gone bad… and then altering & decorating.

My bowl demo has a three-part approach.
First, to show them how to make nice, smoothly rounded bowls instead of settling for a cylinder gone bad. So we have a nice curve in the interior instead of a flat bottom and corners like a cylinder.

Second, to introduce them to colored slips as another “tool” for surface decoration to make their pots more special & fun.

Third, to get them to play with their clay more. To realize that is not as “precious” as they think it is. To get over it. Pinch, flute, flare, squish, whatever. Do something fun with your pot to make it your own!!! Any one can make a plain round both. Make it special. Make it yours!

So we did the throwing demo… and then my students went back to their wheels to start practicing. While they were away, I threw the rest of the bowls… a full bag of clay to make 16 bowls! When I finished throwing them all, we reconvened to do some altering. All of the bowls started out pretty much the same… but after some quick changes, each one was different from the others!!!

Bowl #1 – two simple twisted flutes

Bowl #2 – and if two twisted flutes are good, eight might be better?!

Bowl #3 – a simple flared flange of a rim.

Bowl #4 – a much deeper flared flange… kinda like that bowl you get a very fancy expensive restaurant where the give you the big bowl with a teeny-tiny nugget of food in the bottom for a very high price!

Bowl #5 – then we combined fluted twists on the flared flange.

Bowl #6 – a simple split rim… pinched back together in four places.

Bowl #7 – another split rim, dented in in four places, and then dented outwards too!

Bowl #8 – a fun little “surprise” flower in the bottom of the bowl made with a metal dragonscaling tool.

Bowl #9 – For this one, my students were excited to have me try a new style. My plan was to cut the rim off in with decorative curves. I started with four curved incisions… and I tossed the cut-off parts into the splash pan. But then someone suggested I use the cut-off parts somehow. So I pulled them out, rolled them a bit and decided to add them on as handles. Unfortunately, the clay cut-outs were a bit gooey, and I didn’t score & slip them on… so I will be peeling them off and adding better handles later.

And then I introduced colored slip as a decorative accent…

Bowl #10 – a simple coating of thick white slip on the interior of the bowl. My plan for later is to do some decorative carving through the slip to reveal the darker clay in the design.

Bowl #11 - a simple layer of thick white slip and a rounded tool dragged through while the wheel was spinning to get this mesmerizing spiral effect.

Bowl #12 – another layer of thick white slip and some “finger painting” squiggles while the wheel was still spinning.

Bowl #13 – thick white slip with a spiral and some simple banding.

Bowl #14 – thick white slip with some chattering through the slip. Steady rhythmic tapping of a plastic rib through the slip to show the darker clay. Tapping, spinning and moving up all at the same time to get this great design.

Bowl #15 – a flared flange covered with thick white slip… and then some simple finger drags through it to create a patterned rim.

Bowl #16 – a layer of white slip, and then a layer of blue mazzerine slip over part of it for a groovy ombre effect.

So for now they’re wrapped up under plastic… soon to be stamped, carved, detailed and more!

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Categories: bowls, family, food, stamped

So fun to see my pottery in use… this time it’s my cousin Kim gathering sour cherries! They look amazing together. I told her that the only way they would look better is as a PIE!!! And better still… she already has a handmade ceramic pie dish to bake them in. Bring it on Kim… you bring the pie, I’ll bring the ice cream!!!

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Categories: bowls, classes, process

Just some quick photos from one of tonight’s bowl demos for my Simply Soda class.
I coated the bowl with wax before carving the leaf pattern… and let it dry for a few minutes.
Then I painted the exterior and filled-in the grooves with colored slip…

After it set-up for a few minutes, I wiped the excess off the wax layer.
Thus filling in only the carved grooves for a colorful slip inlay.

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Categories: bowls, process, production

So it’s been a quick trimming session. After Tuesday’s class demo with a LOT of bowls, I had a good amount to tackle. But I love trimming… so it was a “labor of love.” Fun and messy with trimmings flying left & right. And done. And drying…

Categories: bowls, process, production, studio

I LOVE TRIMMING.
It’s so much fun to finish off a piece with a well-trimmed foot. I made a decision early on that I would trim everything! It just doesn’t look quite “done” to me if it isn’t trimmed?! But maybe that’s just me?
And luckily, I have a lot of bowls to trim from class this week. So here we go… trim, trim trim!!!

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Categories: bowls, process, production, stamped

After last Tuesday night’s bowl demo, I had a table full of bowls to continue working on.
Sure, I could have left them as they were…. but why would I do that?!
Instead, I did a bit of stamping, texturing and detailing. So now my “not-so-basic-bowls”
are even less basic than they were after the throwing demo in class.

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Categories: bowls, classes, production

This is my favorite demo of every session of classes. It’s so much fun to teach my students how to make a bowl on purpose, instead of it just being a cylinder gone bad! So the first part of the demo is making bowls on purpose. We talk about techniques and downfalls. They go back to make some bowls, while I sit at my wheel and quickly throw some more bowls… a whole bag’s worth!!! When I finished all eighteen bowls, we reconvene and start doing some alterations to the bowls.

My goal for this second part of the demo is to get them over-the-hump, and encourage them to try different things to make their bowls more individual. And that the clay is not precious. Have fun. Make something. And if it doesn’t work out… just squish it up and do it again!!! So here are my eighteen quick tricks that I showed my class. Remember, we started with 18  very similar plain round bowls. And then some quick flicks & tricks… and now we have 18 completely different bowls.

Bowl #1 – Simple fluted twists. One finger inside, one finger outside, side-by-side. A bit of a pinch and a twist. Four times… aligned with the corners of the square bat for even spacing.

Bowl #2 – And is four fluted points are good… maybe eight are even better?!

Bowl #3 – Then I gently bent the rim out on over to create a flattened flange around the edge. The outside finger stays pretty stationary while the inside fingers gently press the rim outwards over that outside finger. And I like to add in a little groove line just inside the flange… like a nice way to show the delineation between the interior & exterior.

Bowl #4 – And if a thin flange is good, maybe a wider flange is even better?! Kinda like that bowl they serve in fancy restaurants with one small dollop of food in the bottom and charge a ton of money!!!

Bowl #5 – Then we combined the two – the flattened flange and fluted rim.

Bowl #6 – Next up was splitting the rim with the point of my wooden knife. I use my left hand with thumb & forefinger gently “pressing” the rim for support, while my right hand has the knife gently pressing the point into the rim. Press down slowly while the wheel is spinning asnd watch the rim split open. And then I like to pinch it back in a few spaces for a bit of fun.

Bowl #7 – Another split rim pinched together in four spaces. But then the I pressed the other four spaces outwards which kind of squared off the bowl… so why not “force” it to be even square-er?!!!

Bowl #8Okay, so we’ll place this bowl in the category of not all demo’s work.
I started by splitting the rim a little deeper & wider then before. And then I took the wooden end of a big loop trimming tool to press indentations outward on the split rim. And on the very first one… the wooden handle literally STUCK to the clay!!! I mis-estimated the wetness of the rim… and the thinness of the split rim. The tool stuck and when I tried to force it away it ripped half of the split rim off with the tool. Not good. So we all had a bit of a laugh as I once again proclaimed my mantra… “It’s just clay.” So I pulled off the other half of the split rim and smoothed it out a bit. And then tried to come up with a new “plan” on the fly with an already dented bowl. Not so sure how this one will turn out… but it’s “just clay,” right?!!!

Bowl #9 – A simple indentation made in the bottom of the bowl with a metal dragonscale tool.

Bowl #10 – One of my students “scoffed” a bit when I did the indentation flower and said how easy it was. And since she was sitting at the wheel right next to me… I handed her a fresh bowl, the dragonscale tool, and told her to do something with it!!! It’s just clay. She balked a little, got a bit embarrassed, but when everyone cheered her on, Lucy ended up making this pretty incredible pattern in the bottom of her bowl. See?… sometimes it’s fun to be pushed out of your comfort zone… and look what beauty can came out of it!!!

At this point it was time to introduce colored slip as a decorating option. A layer of colored clay painted onto the pot to give it some more color & texture. We talked about the difference between slip and glaze, and when it might be better to use one or the other.

Bowl #11 – A full coating of white slip on the inside of the bowl – and then a fun spiral dragged through the slip with the rounded end of my wooden knife. It’s fun to see the contrast between the lighter white slip and the darker clay body.

Bowl #12 – Same coating of white slip on the inside of the bowl but this time with horizontal banding instead of spiral.

Bowl #13 – Tools are great… but so is finger painting. So for this one I made the layer of white slip a bit thicker than the others. And then I squiggled a couple fingers through it while the wheel was spinning. I love the undulating curves, the revealed clay color and the texture that will show up even better when glazed.

Bowl #14 – A layer of white slip to cover the entire interior of the bowl. And then a steady, rhytmic tapping of my plastic rib… tapping up & down, up & out, while the wheel is spinning. It’s a combination of all three that creates the pattern.

Bowl #15 – Okay, so I apparently forgot a bowl here?! Mwah, mwah, mwah…
And it’s a NICE one… trust me!!! It was another white slip with a tighter, angled chattered effect,

Bowl #16 -Instead of coating the bowl with white slip, this time I drew a spiral of slip white a squeeze bottle. My original intention was to have a perfect slip-trailed spiral. But the slip sputtered out a couple times. Ugh. So instead of trying to “fix” the splotches, I decides to do some gentle chattering through it… a very happy accident!!!

Bowl #17 – The other bowls have all had slip on the interior of the bowl, but for this one I put slip on the outer rim. I then drew some bands through the slip in concentric circles to the bowl. And then did some finger dragging outwards to get the contrast.

Bowl #18 – For our final bowl, I did a simple ombre blend of white slip with a black slip

So for now, all of the bowls are safe up in my studio under wraps. Of course I wish I could have shared these bowls a lot sooner…. but those darn Income Taxes got in the way. But now they’re done… I’ve breathed a small sigh of relief… and I hope these bowls were worth the wait.

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Categories: bowls, classes

While tonight’s class demo was throwing bowls, altering & decorating them, and I would LOVE to show you more photos of them right now… “someone” still needs to finish his taxes!!! One hour until the deadline… bowl photos & descriptions will have to wait. Sorry… trust me, I’d MUCH rather be talking about bowls!!!

Categories: bowls, lillstreet

From Dave, the director of the ceramics department at Lillstreet…

Empty Bowls Update:
Thanks to your contributions, this year’s Empty Bowls event was yet again a success.  The event raised $8648, which equals roughly 2,882 Wednesday Night Welcome Meals at Epiphany UCC.  In spite of the fact that more than 300 bowls were sold at this event, there is a significant number of bowls remaining.   Because of this, our friends at First Slice will take the unsold bowls to use for additional Empty Bowls fundraisers at their other locations.  With these additional events, we will likely see the total money raised increase in the near future.

And here are just a few of the happy folks who went home with one of my donated empty bowls…

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