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

Don’t you just hate coming into the studio and finding “that” bowl sitting on a shelf to set up a bit… while all the timing telling yourself this is a bad idea so far out of the way… and then totally forgetting to trim it or wrap it up before going home!!! Done. Dry.

And sure, it was already stamped & detailed. Of course.

Categories: bowls, classes, wheelthrowing

Last night in our LILLSTREET THOWDOWN class, we started with critiquing the bowls that they had finished after last week’s challenge. Remember, they had each thrown two matching bowls, but then passed one of them down the table to another student to mix it up a bit. The task was to trim & refine both bowls. Fun to see how they each approach the “matching” bowls… and how they’ll inevitably turn out different when finished by different hands.

Congrats to Dana & Tracy for placing & earning points as our Top Two!!!

And while surface decoration was NOT actually part of our challenge parameters…
you know how I LOVE the ones that went just a bit further…. like these four….
because MORE IS MORE!!!

We then started with our throwing challenge for Week Two.
The task was to use 1-1/4 pounds of clay to throw their “most perfect” cylinder… with even wall thickness, straight sides, flat bottom, nice corner inside around the base and a refined rim. They had 10 minutes for that one “perfect” cylinder… so they were all quite focused while throwing!

Once they had that one cylinder done, we regrouped at the table to look at them.
We looked at the technique & results… determining which ones best met the parameters.
I think they all assumed we would be “judging” this cylinder &  awarding points…
but I never quite said that.   Instead…

Part two of the challenge was to take the next hour and throw as many MATCHING cylinders to that first “most perfect one.” I mean… they had “set the standers” by throwing that one “perfect” cylinder, so they should be able to make more, right???

After a very quick hour of throwing… while I ate an entire bag of Garrett Popcorn
we pulled them all together to look at the matching sets of cylinders.
Some more matching than others.

After looking at all of the cylinders… a whopping total of 74 cylinders in one hour!!!…
we critiqued & counted how many “matching” ones they had. We didn’t count the ones that were taller… or the ones that were wider… or the ones that were just different all over the place!

Congratulations to Christine who came away with seven matching cylinders,
and Jacob who came away with six!

And oh, but wait there’s more!
They all got their next homework assignment… to take their favorite Top Four matching cylinders to turn into MATCHING MUGS! They need to trim, finish and add handles to make four matching mugs, And then decorate them too! Sure, they could decorate them however they wanted to… but what fun would that be for me??? Instead, I decided to make the decoration challenge a bit more challenging. So they need to us at least four of the following five design patterns… stripes, polka dots, plaid, paisley and spiral. So they need to incorporate multiple patterns to complete their set… but each mug can’t match and must be stand-alone beautiful on it’s own. A lot of challenges & parameters for this one. It might be a tough week for my homework-bound students. Can’t wait to see what they bring back to class next Thursday night!




Categories: bowls, classes, lillstreet

So excited to be starting off the THIRD “season” of my pottery challenges & contests class….

We started with introductions, explained a few overviews & expectations of the class. A couple of my students are returning to the Throwdown from previous “seasons”… so it couldn’t have been too tough if they’ve come back for more, right???

Then I broke out the first challenge… as they were tasked with throwing their “best” 3-pound serving bowl. They were told what parameters we would be looking for… even wall thickness, no heavy bottoms, nicely curved interior, no “beginner’s ledge” inside, and a purposeful rim. They had 30 minutes to work on their bowl… which is sometimes tough when you have “too much time” to overthink & overwork the piece. Throwing the 3-pound bowl was tough for some as we’ve all been on a long holiday break… and this was their very first thrown piece since we all left classes before Christmas!

When they had all finished their bowls, we gathered at the table to discuss & critique them. We looked at the interior curves, the bottom “foot” areas, and the ways some people took it a step further and started decorating their bowls already… even though this was a “throwing” challenge, and not a “decorating” challenge!

They thought we were choosing the winner… but I never told them that this was going to be in a “judged” challenge! So then I pulled out another envelope that told them there was a twist and another challenge. And that was that they now needed to throw another 3-pound bowl to MATCH their first one! They had shown me that they could make nice bowls… now they just needed to do it AGAIN!!!

There was a lot of measuring with calipers and visually comparing them as they were trying their best to match their second bowl to their first.

After 45 minutes, they brought their matching bowls to the table where we proceeded to discuss and critique. We talked about how they matched… how some of them didn’t in some places… and overall they all did AMAZING!!!

It was going to be pretty tough to pick the winner… so we got very nit-picky pretty quick to pick between the Top Three. When they’re all so good, it comes down to the finest of details. There were rulers, calipers and a LOT of squatting-down profile viewings!

Huge congrats to Jacob & Dana for coming in first & second in our very first Throwdown Challenge!!!

But we weren’t REALLY done yet… the final challenge was that they needed to choose their “favorite” of their own two bowls… and then pass it over three places to the right. They now had one of their own, and one of another student’s! Their week-long challenge is that they need to do their best trimming & refining of both bowls before the next class!



Categories: bowls, stamped

And sure, let’s not get crazy… there were a few stamped porcelain bowls in that kiln too!!! All ready for my HOLIDAY HOME SHOW this weekend!!! Just in the nick of time…

Categories: bowls, sgraffito

And it’s just not sgraffito platters… I made a few “companion” bowls to go with them too! Truth be told… “just” platters don’t fill a kiln very effectively, so a few smaller bowls helped fill in some of the spaces between the platters!

Categories: bowls, soda-fired, stamped

Sure, some of the bowls that came out last night were pretty darn sweet… if I do say so myself… the stamping, the glaze, the spiral. But sometimes it’s the back side of the bowl that is really STUNNING!!! Beautiful flashing marks on many of the bowls where you can practically see the flames blowing past & kissing the pots!

Categories: artists, bowls, classes

One of the project “challenges” for my wheelthrowing class this session was to make a placesetting with pieces that work well together design-wise. We had a lot of fun this session…. but only one of them succeeded in the challenge. Look at this beautiful set with a lot of underglazed ombre gradations & graphic design accents made with thin tape as a resist while the underglazes were being applied. Beautifully done Christine!

Categories: bowls, sgraffito, tools

While I’m “trapped” at the studio firing all day, I figure it’s a great chance to start some carving… with my favorite DiamondCore Tools!!! Making a last-minute batch of carved porcelain sgraffito bowls & platters. If my calendar is correct… they will make it out of the glaze kiln just in time for next week’s HOLIDAY HOME SHOW!!!

Categories: bowls, glaze

Some bowls with tenmoku glaze inlaid in the stamps from last night…
and then some of the same bowls now with liner glazes…
all loaded into the soda kiln last night.

Categories: bowls, stamped

While getting ready to load a bisque kiln, I inadvertently ran across the “suddenly stacked set” of now-called nesting bowls?! We’ll see if they still go together after my soda-firing???