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

Spent a lot of time stamping… and stamping… and stamping. Adding some texture to my latest batch of bowls… soon to have HOLES. As these will quickly be turning into berry bowls!

Categories: bowls, patterns, process, production, sgraffito, tools

I just found two bowls that I made “awhile” back, and painted the interior with colored slip. I wrapped them up in plastic… and then apparently forgot about them. And it’s been “quite’ awhile… so they were harder & drier than I would like them to be. But with my one of my extra-sharp DiamondCore Tools they still carved like a dream!

Categories: bowls, process, production, wheelthrowing

You know how I love making mugs… but I figure Spring has got to get here
at some point, so I better be ready with some Berry Bowls! So I threw my first batch…
of something “other than” mugs!!! Ha!!!

Categories: bowls, lillstreet, special events

Last night was another successful EMPTY BOWLS fundraiser at Lillstreet…
raising lots of money for First Slice to help feed the hungry.
And while lots of people picked their bowls… others picked their…

Categories: bowls, lillstreet, special events, stamped

Just a “few” of the HUNDREDS of handmade ceramic bowls that will be part of tonight’s
EMPTY BOWLS fundraiser at Lillstreet Art Center. Stop by tonight from 5:00-8:00pm
to help the needy, have some hot soup and keep your new handmade bowl.

Attendees will choose from a selection of $25 ceramic bowls, handmade
and donated by Lillstreet artists, enjoy a delicious serving of soup, and leave with
a unique piece of art… all while giving back to the Chicago Community.
All funds raised will benefit First-Slice Cafe‘s initiatives to fight hunger in Chicago,
serving close to 4,000 meals to those in need each month.

Stop by early to get your “best choice” of bowls… including a dozen of MINE!!!


Categories: bowls, classes, wheelthrowing

Okay, so I would love to call this the POTTERY OLYMPICS…
but that only happens every four years! Ha!!!

So this week in class after we critiqued , judged & awarded the Nesting Bowls…
we moved onto the POTTERY OLYMPICS… okay, so maybe it’s not so bad…

We started by dividing the class into four teams of three. I had pre-chosen the Team Captains… by splitting up the couples… so it was Molly vs. Jacob vs. Patti vs. Jon. But then we found out that Jon was not coming to class for a medical issue… so his “Captain-manship” was handed off to Teresa who had just finished eating Jon’s dinner! So the four Team Captains chose their teams and we were almost ready to move on… except one team only had two people. So I drafted my friend Natalie who has recently returned to Chicago & Lillstreet to join us in the activities. She was great to agree on such short notice!!!

To kick it off… I had each team fill out a worksheet to assign who might be the “competitor” in some of the challenges… only using cryptic hints as to what the challenge would be.

Each team had one bag of clay, a wire tool and one competitor to cut it up into predetermined weights. No scale. No weighing of the pieces. Just their best judgement with a chance to compare each ball to each other. At the end of the challenge, we weighed the balls of clay… to add up the variances. Team that was the closest to the correct weights would win the challenge!

We then did a bit of housekeeping…
Each team had a chance to even out their weighting mistakes, making sure their balls of clay were the correct weight. They then wedged them up – while another member of their team set-up a wheel for future throwing challenges!

This time we had two competitors for each team… each using a two-pound ball of clay. They had a limited amount of time to hand roll the longest coils they could…. and limited table space! And here’s the twist… if your coil were to break during the challenge, you’re done! No squishing it back together. We would just measure the longest segment while the others continue to roll clay.

For the next challenge… it was the third member of each team who did NOT roll a coil that was up! Now they had to use the recently-rolled coils to build the tallest coil cylinder. Simple enough, right? They could not continue rolling the coils… and it had to be freestanding at the end.

We then switched to a wheelthrowing challenge. All three players on each team would get a 3-pound ball of clay. Using one wheel per team, they would take turns throwing matching bowls! The first person would throw a bowl, and then they switched places as the second person stepped up to match that first bowl. Now with two bowls in, the third person stepped in to match the first two! Harder than it sounds… since there was no going back to “fix up” or alter the previous bowls!

We stuck with wheelthrowing for the next challenge… this time with two pre-determined players. Again with a three pound ball of clay they had to throw one “perfect” bowl. And here’s the twist… One throwing. One driving. Yep, one person was doing all of the centering & throwing… while the other person had complete control over the speed on the foot pedal.

 Whoops!!!…  I missed the photos of this one! But trust me, it was fun to watch!

After two wheelthrowing challenges… we switched back to handbuilding for a slab throwing competition. With five pounds of clay, they had to throw the largest slab of clay… round-robin fashion with each team member taking a turn. And again, if their slab broke at any point… they were done with the challenge. No squishing it back together! Largest surface area wins!

It’s a “shame” no one had any fun!!!

For their final challenge.. and the funniest… for me… each team had to throw one final “perfect” bowl with a four pound ball of clay. They would each have two minutes… switch… two minutes… switch… two minutes… Two full rounds of working on the same bowl. Yes, each team would continue to work on their one bowl to make it as “perfect” as they could. Each person had two “two-minute” chances to help their team

And here’s the best part… for ME at least… all the while BLINDFOLDED!!!

And then the final challenge envelope… THEIR HOMEWORK!!!


They have no homework this week as they have all been working so hard over the past couple weeks.. the deserve a break – and some tie to make what ever they want for a change!

And again, I have the BEST STUDENTS EVER!!!
Each of them embraced my crazy challenges and played along with my silly reindeer games!



Categories: bowls, classes

Okay, so right off the bat… I need to apologize for not having the best photos this time!
I regret NOT getting photos of everyone’s nesting bowl sets. The bowls were all squeezed onto one table… some were stacked… some were not.. some were still too wet to move… and my mind was swirling knowing that I had to pick the TOP TWO… and more importantly, knowing that I had a LOT of crazy fun challenges that we had to get started quickly if we were going to get around to all of them?!

So this week’s homework challenge was a set of three wheelthrown nesting bowls. A tough challenge to get done in just one week! And to up the ante even more… I added a secondary challenge for EXTRA CREDIT BONUS POINTS!!! If the they were to make a nesting set of FIVE bowls and still get chosen for the TOP TWO… they would win huge bonus points!!!

Donna made this adorable set of nesting bowls…
a wonderful set for the “handbuilder” in the class! Her fit & sizing was spot-on!

Dave went for a nesting set of FIVE… but had a few issues along the way…
so he ended with a set of four porcelain bowls decorated with some blue underglaze.

Susan went for a set of FIVE nesting bowls.. and took a narrative spin on “nesting” as well!!! She bowls were beautifully decorated on the outside with some colored slip and sgraffito “nest” and “leaf” patterns. She even went as far has having nests & eggs inside a few of them… and an “empty nest” for when the kids leave!

Claire made a lot of bowls that all stacked well… and were ULTRA-light!!! Some brushed on colored slip details to bring them all together!

Patti was chosen as one of the TOP TWO with these very well-thrown,
well-trimmed and perfecting nesting bowls. The simple perfection of the underglaze
decoration helped with the win!

Tatiana won the BIG BONUS PRIZE for her set of five nesting bowls…
well, actually more than FIVE!!! Again so sorry I didn’t get a photo of her full set stacked.
were pretty wet still, so they were stacked & unstacked very quickly by Tatiana.
She threw several porcelain bowls and then altered their shape and gave them
some great textures & patterns scraped on the outsides!

Categories: bowls, sgraffito, tools

One of the ONLY “benefits” of working in my studio while the ceiling light fixture is not working is that I get some really dramatic photos from the tabletop task lights I had to install in the meantime. Like these carving through an ombre-slipped class demo bowl with one of my favorite DiamondCore Tools!

Categories: bowls, studio

And for those of you who may have noticed my return to the overly “dramatic lighting” in my studio… yes, it’s true… my fluorescent ceiling light is on the fritz again! So whatever it took them two months to fix last time… apparently didn’t work… so for now I’m back in the dark!!!

Categories: bowls, process, production

And by the time the afternoon was over, all of my class demo bowls had been trimmed and are now drying overnight. Another quick set of bowls done… for now.