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

Finger painting with thick slip on the inside of a bowl!!!




Categories: bowls, classes, production, wheelthrowing

My class Tuesday night was great fun… and always my favorite demo of the session. My new beginners have nbeen working on their centering & throwing skills on cylinders. And of course they’ve “found” a few bowls along the way. Well this week we focused on throwing a good bowl on purpose instead of a cylinder gone bad.

So the way the demo goes is I first sit down to tshow them out to make the basic bowl with a nice rounded interior. No beginner bulges here! After the demo & questions, I set them free to go make their own bowls…. while I continue to throw a full bag of clay into bowls! Once all sixteen bowls were thrown, we re-grouped at my wheel to do some quick tricks & techniques for altering the bowls. I’m a big fan of putting your own twist or design on a bowl… instead of just leaving it round. Anyone can do that. So here are the sixteen tricks I showed the,….

Bowl 1 – a simple bowl with four fluted points and a nice spiral in the bottom.

Bowl 2 – And if four fluted spots are good, maybe eight would be better?

Bowl 3 – Then we flared out the rim to create a nice flanged rim. A perfect sot to do some decorating later. Carving, stamping, slip, glazing, whatever… you now have a nice “canvas” there on the rim.

Bowl 4 – And if “some” flange is good… “more” flange might be better???

Bowl 5 – And then we combined the fluted rim with the flared flange rim.

Bowl 6 – A simple texture pressed into the bottom with a metal dragonscaling tool.

Bowl 7 – And who says bowls need to stay round?… not me…
as we dented in four points to make a clover-ish shape.

Bowl 8 – Next we decided to split the rim with the point of a wooden knife. I then pinched it into four even spaces… and then two more on opposite sides. They all loved that… but the gasps were audible when I stretched it out of shape to an oval. I don’t think they like this one too much…. but I’m sure they’ll come around when they see it with a strap handle to turn it more into a basket later.

Bowl 9 – Again with the split rim, this time four flares out and four flares in…
denting it with the curved side of my wooden knife.

Bowl 10 – Next I introduced them to colored slip. And showed them how easily they can create a two-tone pot faster & cleaner with slip than they would be able to with two buckets of glaze. This is a simple black slip… which I believe I’ll be carving into for a little sgrafitto demo next week.

Bowl 11 – For this one I coated the interior with a thick white slip, and then dragged the rounded end of my wooden knife through to reveal the clay color while the bowl was turning on the wheel.

Bowl 12 – The same coating of thick white slip inside the bowl… but this time some squiggly finger-painting & dragging through the bowl while it was spinning.

Bowl 13 – Again with the thick white slip interior, this time chattered with a rhythmic tapping of my green rubber rib… up & down through the slip, and out towards the rim as the bowl is sinning. This design is slightly different every time based on the speed of your tapping and the speed of the wheel rotating.

Bowl 14 – A simple spiral of black slip as squirted from a small bottle… and a small fluted edge using the side of a medium Sharpie marker!!!

Bowl 15 – A simple lesson on how easy it is to make bands of color… just hold the paint brush still and spin the wheel. My guess is that these bands of green slip will be carved through at some point.

Bowl 16 – An ombre blend of white to green slip… and I’m loving the tight spiral of thick slip in the bottom of the bowl.

So for now… all sixteen bowls are up in my studio under plastic. I’m “pretty sure” that there will be some stamping, decorating & refining of these before I get around to trimming. Just a hunch.


Categories: bowls, classes

So last night was the second night of The Great Lillstreet Throwdown!!!
My new class on Thursday nights “loosely” based… err, inspired by The Great Pottery Throwdown on BBC.

Last week their first challenge was to throw a 3-pound bowl in 20 minutes.
They could make it any size, any shape. Knowing that it was going to be judged & scored at the end. So they all put their best foot forward… err, on the pottery wheel foot pedal.

And then SURPRISE!!!
After they were all ranked & scored, the next surprise was laid down…
By each of them passing their freshly thrown bowl to the third person to their right.
The challenge was now to trim, finish and decorate their “new” bowl by the next class.

And that class just happened to be last night.
So they all brought in their greenware “finished” bowls for judging.
Here is a quick overview of the “finished” bowls… one week after the first throwing challenge!

And one last bowl entry… apparently straight from the reclaim bucket!!!
The student missed last week’s class but was in the process of discarding this bowl when one of the other students stopped her and pulled it out of the bucket so she would have in the challenge!!!

It was pretty obvious that a few of them were “playing the game” and quite possibly looking for a little advantage with their choices of design content. Did you notice the bike themed bowl???… or this little lovely…

Little did they know that I would NOT be the one judging their bowls.
So their “sucking up” wouldn’t work! Instead, I had my friend & fellow teacher Mike Skiersch stop by as our Guest Judge for the evening. He analyzed, lifted, touched and critiqued as he tried his best to rank them from best to worst.

And then it was on to the next challenge…




Categories: bowls, glaze, stamped

A simple bowl, spiral bottom, repetitive stamping… and a pine cone for the fun of it!

Categories: bowls, stamped, textures

Stamped, trimmed, accented with colored flashing slips and now drying. Not bad for bowls that were thrown less then 24 hours ago! This is what happens when racing for a soda-kiln loading in just a few days!!!

Categories: bowls, stamped

Early morning detailing with a dab of colored flashing slip on every stamp.

Categories: bowls, classes

Every session I do this demo mfor my class. I first teach them how to make a “bowl on purpose”, instead of a cylinder gone bad. We discuss the smooth curve inside by using a plastic rib, and not having that “ledge” indentation that you get with a cylinder-gone-bad. After we make it though the first bowl, I send them back to their wheels to try making better bowls on purpose.

While they’re making their bowls, I continue throwing a bunch of bowls that are “almost” the same. When I get them all thrown, we reassemble at my demo wheel so I can do some quick decorative tricks to make the bowls all different. I try to encourage “playing” with their clay and trying some new tricks. The wheel can make it round, but it’s up to them to make it special. So this time I made nineteen bowls for our demo… all basically the same to start out, but then all different by the end of the demo!

Bowl A – Two flip-twists to make a simple fluted edge.

Bowl B – And if two fluted edges are good, eight might be better.

Bowl C – A simple flared out rim.

Bowl D – A simple flared out rim with four fluted edges.

Bowl E – A wide flared out rim with some concentric indentaitons in the center.

Bowl F – A split rim with four “pinched” accent points.

Bowl G – The same split rim with four pinches, but then squished and altered into a new shape. Who says bowls need to be round?

Bowl H – And if altering the shape of a split rim bowl is your thing, take it a bit further by going inwards with four, and outwards with the other four to create a lotus-type shaped bowl.

Bowl I – A simple flower indentation using a dragonscale tool.

Bowl J – While I was doing the demo, Ryan asked if I ever do any that are asymetrical. I pondered it for a bit… and then came up with this one. I cut it, and then bent it, and rolled it in a bit. Just playing… experimenting… accepting the challenge… and I kinda like what came out of it.

Bowl K – Then we switched to slip decoration as another option. So I painted the entire interior with thick white slip and then dragged a rounded stick through it to get the spiral effect.

Bowl L – Again, the thick slip is painted in to cover the interior, and then I used the rounded tool to make incised bands. Using slip like this creates a nice color-contrast to the clay body, as well as a bit of a textural change where the grooves are.

Bowl M – Sure, you can use the rounded wood tool… but you can also squiggle your finger tip through the thick slip. Squiggle, spin and move up all at the same time.

Bowl N – Then instead of covering the entire interior, we filled a small squeeze bottle and squirted out a thin spiral of a contrasting color.

Bowl O – Again, Ryan was right there ready to give me another challenge. And he asked if we could do two different colors of slip spirals… and make one go the opposite direction too!!!

Bowl P – A simple ombre effect with a green slip blended down to a white slip.

Bowl Q – Then I filled the interior with thick green slip and did a rhythmic chattering technique to create this bowl.

Bowl R – And since slip is just liquid clay, why not use it a bit thicker than normal… in a pastry bag squeezing it through a cake decorating nib. I like the concept… I like the look of it… but I’m still not quite sure that I’ll like the final result. Not quite sure how to resolve the sharp points???

Bowl S – Then we tackled another colored slip trick. I layered some slip on newspaper and transfered it onto the bowl. I started by squeezing some white onto the newspaper. I let it stifffen up for a few minutes and then I squirted on some black lines. When that set-up, I painted over it with a couple layers of green slip. As the news paper draws the moisture out of the slip, the slip stiffens up. I put another piece of newspaper on top and presses it together to flatten it out a bit. When it was stiff enough to move, but still wet, I cut out circles with a small cookie cutter and adhered them to the bowl. Again, not sure that I like this final bowl, but I’m intrigued by the process. I’m thinking a more thoughtful plan might work great on the right form.

So that’s nineteen quite bowl alterations. Remember, they all started out looking the same…. but don’t any more after a few quick tricks. Remember to play with your clay to make it your own! Anyone can make a “round” bowl… now it’s time to make it your own!!!








Categories: bowls, soda-fired, stamped

Small bowl stamped & soda-fired. Ready to fill with ice cream & hot fudge!!!

Categories: bowls, soda-fired

Here’s a quick glimpse of the class demo bowl I did for my class awhile ago!
It’s a simple bowl with a carved pattern with a great Zebra Carving tool. But before the carving, I painted the bowl with wax so that the slip wouldn’t get smudged all over the bowl… I only wanted it to stay inside the carved pattern. With the waxed surface, the excess slip was so easy to wipe-off… leaving only the slip-filled pattern. After soda-firing, the color contrast became a bit more predominant. I like how the decoration is “part of the bowl” and not just slip sitting on top of the bowl. What I don’t like?…. there was some cracking and shrinking of the slip. So the drying & shrinkage rate must be off a bit from the clay body. Definitely a fun demo. I’ll have to try it again. Maybe another demo opportunity for this session’s class?

Click here to see the steps that lead up to this!

Categories: bowls, glaze, holiday, kiln firing, mugs

With ART IN THE BARN getting closer & closer…
and so many “Ghouls” still to make… I decided to squeeze in one more kiln firing just because I can. So I threw together some quick replenishment pieces that will get a quick cone six glaze firing early next week… just under the wire. Sure, it’s not my best packed kiln. But it does have a lot of mugs & bowls for ART IN THE BARN. As well as a little holiday surprise on the top layer!

Bisque Kiln Layer #1my favorite thing to make... mugs, mugs and more mugs!!!

Bisque Kiln Layer #2 – some stacked bowls and small trays for salt & pepper shaker sets.

Bisque Kiln Layer #3 - more bowls, more trays, and some ikebana vase tops.

Bisque Kiln Layer #4 – which in this case turned out to be a low-fire GLAZE kiln layer!!!
The green glaze is actually a low-fire clear glaze. After firing, these little pumpkins will show their true colors… warts and all.