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

Last night in my pottery class, it was my favorite demo of every session!
The night that I teach my students how to make a bowl on purpose, instead of a cylinder gone bad. Starting with a nice smooth curve on the inside… NOT a flat bottom, a corner or a “beginner’s ledge” where the curve should be. So I did a throwing demo to show them the basics… and then sent them back to their wheels to practice making some bowls.

While they were throwing,  continued to throw more bowls. Sixteen in total… one full bag of clay… in case you were counting. Once I had all sixteen of them thrown, we reconvened the group for Part Two of the class demo. This is the FUN part. Where I get to show them a bunch of fun little tricks to make them all different. To give them a bit of style & flair! Just some quick tricks to encourage my students to “play” more with their clay. To take some time to make each bowl special & individual to themselves. The wheel basically makes the smooth round bowls… so now they need to mix it up and make them special.

Bowl #1 – FLUTED RIM
Just four simple fluted accents evenly spaced around the rim.

Bowl #2 – FLUTED RIM #2
And if four fluted accents was nice, maybe eight would be even better?!

Just a gentle “fold-over” of the rim to flare it down a bit. Keeping a steady finger on the outside about a inch below the rim, and the the inside fingers help “fold” the clay out over that finger.

And if a narrow rim was nice, maybe a wider one is even better?
It’s like one of those fancy restaurant bowls where they give you one tiny little scoop of food and charge you a fancy arm & a leg!!!

So if we like fluted, and we like flared… why not do both.
Flare out the rim first, and then add the fluted accents.

With a small metal dragonscaling tool, just a few little indents makes a cute flower…
a fun little surprise at the bottom of a bowl of soup or ice cream!

With the pointed end of my wooden knife, I carefully split the rim and then pinched it back together in eight places. Creates a few good places for glaze to pool and make some great effects in the firing.

Another split rim, this time “dented” inwards at four places with the side of my wooden knife… creating a clover-like shape. Who says bowls need to be round???... NOT ME!!!

Another carefully split rim gently “dented” inwards and outwards.

I introduced my Beginners to the concept of colored slip. And tried to explain to them o=how much easier it is to make a two-color, inside-outside bowl with colored slip, than it is a glazing time. So much easier to get a clean dividing line using slip and a paint brush than trying to dip in a bucket of liquid glaze. The other benefit of a nice, solid covering of colored slip is that I can do some decorative carving through the slip to reveal a pattern in the base clay color.

After making a solid layer of French Green slip, I used the end of a wooden paintbrush through it while the bowl was spinning – easily creating this spiral pattern.

Everyone loves finger painting… so I filled this bowl with a layer of thick white slip. And then while the bowl was spinning, I stick in a finger and did a little squiggle. I love how the thick white slip creates some depth & waves which will play well in the glazing process.

After another later of thick white slip, I used a green rubber rib to create a chattered repetitive pattern. Spin the bowl nad tap the rib up & down from the center up tthe side. And breath… don’t panic. Once you’ve started, keep going. Don’t freak out!!!

Bowl #14 – OMBRE
Just a smooth gradation of color from French Green to White. At this point it’s smooth color… but there’s a good chance there may be some sgraffito carving though this later when it gets to be leatherhard.

Another gradation of French Green to White slip… and then a couple bands taken out with the wooden end of a paintbrush. And I’m kinda diggin’ the groovy spiral swirl at the bottom!!!

When we got down to the last bowl, I encouraged my teaching assistant Susan to do the last bowl. She did a bit of denting, pinching & curving to give the bowl a pretty cool shape.

So for now they’re all up in my studio under wraps.
There’s a “pretty good chance” that there may be some stamping & detailing
in their not so distant future. Just guessing….



Categories: bowls, tools

Carving up a couple more bowls.
A bit of colored slip on the insides carved through with my DiamondCore V-tip.
Such nice clean lines!

Categories: bowls, classes, glaze

Also fresh-out-of-the-kiln… the two bubble glazing demo pieces from last week’s class. My bowl had a layer of Shaner White glaze, followed by bubbles of Tom’s Purple, and then another layer of Josh Blue bubbles.

One of my students glazed her bowl with Shaner White followed by bubbles of a green stain, and a slightly dipped rim of Randy’s Green… which explains some of the blushy pink tones!


Categories: bowls, classes, stamped

Last night I did a bit of detailing & stamping on some of the bowl from Tuesday night’s class demo.  Sure, I could have left them as they were done in class, but why?! I’d rather make them look like something I would normally make.

Maybe with a tad of stamping along the way?!

And now they’re done for the night under plastic until I can get around to trimming them. And a few of them still need a bit more work… maybe a touch of sgraffito fun in the solid slip bowls.



Categories: bowls, classes

Tuesday night in my Beginning & Advanced Beginning Wheelthrowing pottery class, we finally tackled throwing bowls on purpose instead of a cylinder gone bad! With a nice smooth curved interior, and now stair-stepped, beginner’s ledge. No indentation that ruins that perfect curve. So we talked about how to throw the inside of the shape, knowing that you can trim the outside to match. And how to use a plastic rib on the inside to refine the curve and make it nice and smooth.  Okay “smooth”… my students know how much I love a good spiral… so we kind of laugh about the swirl that I add back into the bottom of the bowl after it was smoothed out by the rib.

After they learned on to make a “bowl on purpose”… they then went back to their wheels to throw some bowls! And I stayed at my demo wheel to throw a “few” more… a full bag of reclaim to make sixteen basic bowls. When I had thrown them all, I called them all back to Part Two of the demo. Because the second part was the decorating & altering all of the bowls to make them not-so-basic anymore!

Bowl #1 – Two simple flutes on opposite sides… easy & cute.

Bowl #2 – And if two flutes are good… maybe eight would be better?
Plus we talked about how important it was to really “commit” and be deliberate in the fluting.

Bowl #3 – A thin flange flared out… just bending the top over a finger held stable on the outside.

Bowl #4 – And if a bot of a flange is good… bigger might be better?!
You know this bowl… that fancy restaurant bowl where they charge a fortune for one scoop of fancy food in the bottom of a big bowl… kinda like this!

Bowl #5 – And then it was time to combine the flute and the flange. We’ve already done two flutes, and eight flutes… so this one we went for four!

Bowl #6 – I showed my students how to split the rim with the pointed tip of their wooden knife. Makes a nice place for some glaze to pool and do some cool effects. Sure, I could have left it open and even all the way around… but I think the little pinches are a bit cuter!

Bowl #7 – And then since we were all enamored with the split-rim trick… we did a bit of fluting and talking about how bowls don’t always need to stay perfectly round!

Bowl #8 – After doing four flutes inward on a split-rim bowl… we decided to go four in and four out. Creating a bit of a lotus curved pattern.

So after doing some altering of the bowls, I then introduced colored slip to the group. And we discussed how it is actually “colored clay” which kind of creates a new “colored skin” to the pot.

Bowl #9 – The first one was just a layer of mazzerine blue slip painted evenly across the interior. We discussed how much harder this effect would be if they tried to do it  with a glaze bucket. Getting that perfectly even edge, crisp & clean, creating a tow-tome bowl now easier than doing it in a glaze bucket!

Bowl #10 – The mazzerine blue slip was a bit too thin and wouldn’t hold its “shape”… so I switched to a thick white slip. I coated the interior of the bowl and then dragged the curved end of my wooden knife through the slip while it was spinning. It makes a great pattern & texture revealing the clay body color along the way. Unfortunately, the white slip wasn’t really showing up all that well… a darker color with a bit more contrast would show up better!

Bowl #11 – One of the students asked if you could mix or blend colors… so we did.
A bit of an ombre blend of the white & mazzerine blue slips.

Bowl #12 – So while we were doing the ombre blend, one of my teaching assistants grabbed a container of thicker green slip. So we were back in business… and re-did the spiral bowl with a lot more color contrast.

Bowl #13 – And since the thicker green slip was holding its place so much better, we carried on with it. This time with a full layer of green slip and then a wavy finger squiggle through it while it was rotating.

Bowl #14 – Again with a layer of thick green slip, and then some rhythmic chattering with a plastic rib. Tapping the moving up at the same time while it’s rotating.

Bowl #15 – This time we switched from the paintbrush.. and made a spiral with a squeeze bottle filled with colored slip. And you know I love a good spiral.

Bowl #16 – With just one bowl left, we ditched the slip and went with a bit of a de-constructed look. I literally cut through the side of the bowl in four places, then pulled them in and overlapped the edges. With a bit of scoring & slipping to hold them together… my “plan” is to add a decorated screw head on each overlap to “hold it together.”

So by the end of class, we had sixteen bowls. Each of them started pretty much the same and very basic. But after some quick tricks & techniques, we made each fo them look a lot different. With so much more style and charm. But the main goal of my demo is to encourage my students to just play more. To not look at every pot they make as being quite so precious. Make more pots… more practice.. more things to experiment with. More fun too!!!

So for now they’re wrapped up under plastic for the night…
for tomorrow night I’ll come back in and do a bit more “detailing”
o make them even more fun.



Categories: bowls, soda-fired, stamped

Drippin’ & drainin’ for berries.
Just in time for this weekend’s art fair… and some yummy Spring Berries coming soon!

Categories: bowls, tools

Layered with black slip, and then carved through with a v-tip carving tool
by DiamondCore Tools. Another quick sgraffito bowl in the studio.

Categories: bowls, lillstreet

Tonight is EMPTY BOWLS at Lillstreet Art Center.
We’re once again doing our best to help the local needy with this great charity fundraiser. Many of the Lillstreet studio members, teachers & students have made & donated HUNDREDS of bowls!!! Come tonight from 5:00-8:00pm and you can purchase a bowl and they’ll fill it with homemade soup and bread from First Slice Pie Cafe! Yummy food for a great cause and you get to keep the bowl… when it’s empty again!!!

Categories: bowls, classes, lillstreet, production

So last night in my LILLSTREET THROWDOWN challenge class, I surprised my students with another quick-fire throwing challenge. I had them wedge up a large, ten-pound ball of clay much to the griping & moaning of my students. A bigger ball of clay than many of them have ever wedged! I had them all set up a wheel with splash pan, water, tools, etc… all the basics they would need to throw some pots.

The I pulled a small, little mass-produced green bowl from IKEA. And I explained since that is very much a “mass-produced” bowl.. we’re going to mass produce replicas! So the challenge was to throw as many matching little bowls to that sample one off-the-hump as possible in thirty minutes. I did a very quick demo of how to throw off-the-hump for those who had never tackled it before. And then they were off!!! 30 minutes!!! GO!!!

Once they got into the rhythm, and accustomed to the depth, width & technique…
the little bowls just started piling up everywhere! So fun to watch them multiplying.

At the end of the thirty minutes, many of them had come close to finishing the full ten pounds of clay. We brought all of the bowls to the table for a little self-critique, judging and squishing. They were each given points for the number of bowls that were “deemed” matching, or at least close enough. The winner of the challenge was “Tay-Tay Clay-Wedger” with 29 mini bowls!!! Amazing.

Categories: bowls, color

Adding some colored flashing slips to help accent my berry bowls prior to bisque firing. If all goes as planned, these slip colors will become more vibrant and show some flashing effects after soda-firing.