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

For the in-class challenge, they found out it would be a surface decoration challenge.
Easy-peezy… especially when I passed out some already-thrown cylinders for them to work on. So all they needed to do was decorate them!

Oh, but there’s a twist!
They needed to do their entire surface decoration using just one tool.
And it was NOT a tool of their choice…

They found out quickly that that one tool was going to be a basic DIE…
yes, DICE for everyone!!!

After their 45 minutes for the challenge. we gathered to look at each of them. It was fun to see how they had each approached the challenge differently. Some went straight for stamping, some for drawing with a corner, some with colorful underglazes or slips using the die as the paintbrush!

At the time, we discussed their newly-decorated cylinders… with them “thinking” that THIS was the challenge! We talked about texture, pattern, and approaches to the challenge itself. But then they found out that this was not a judged challenge for points… but instead a stepping-off point for their next challenge!

So their homework for the week is to create a new vase that is a minimum of 9-inches tall that has surface decoration made again with that ONE TOOL… the dice! Their new cylinder does not need to match exactly, but instead be “inspired by” the original cylinder. I told the to think of that original cylinder as the “maquette” for their larger vase. So now I’m looking forward to next Thursday night when we get to see their newly created vases with DICE DECORATIONS!

Categories: classes, creativity, mugs

This week at our LILLSTREET THROWDOWN class, my students brought back their set of four matching cylinders… now turned into matching mugs! Well kinda. Their week-long challenge was to convert their matching cylinders to matching mugs in terms of construction. And then to decorate them to be a good “matching” set where the cups don’t actually match, but have a great continuity of design that ties them all together. And oh, but wait there’s more… they also had to utilize at least four out of the five patterns… * spirals * stripes * polka dots * plaids * paisley.  With an added contingency that all four cups could NOT be identical in design. Just how I like it…. vaguely specific! And open to a lot of interpretation… as longs as they made their decoration “creative, thoughtful, deliberate & beautiful.”

So here we go… quite a few exciting & creative  entries into this week’s THROWDOWN challenge!

Taylor’s tall mugs with carved details…

Melanie’s “petticoat-inspired” colorful mugs with perfectly matching round handles.

Helen’s short stoneware mugs with carved accents…

Dana’s tall cylinders… whoops, no handles?… with beautifully carved patterns.

Jen’s cuties with carved “diagonal” details…

Molly’s colorful animal-inspired mugs… where each animal is based on one of the patterns!

Stacey went for a more “business” look with patterned ties on each cup!

Jacob went for detailed texture on his set which is destined for the soda kiln…
during the Soda-Firing Workshop I’ll be teaching next month at Lillstreet Art Center.

Coming in at second place, these beautifully layered patterned cups by Tracy.
Carved patterns with layers of underglaze patterns.

And our BIG WINNER this week… Christine with these amazing “cartoon” cups.
AMAZING CREATIVITY!!!… and great craftsmanship. Each cup tells its own story utilizing the designated patterns, as well as some of the actual verbiage from the challenge itself!



Categories: classes, wheelthrowing

Just a quick glimpse of some quick cylinders I made for my LILLSTREET THROWDOWN students. They had made “matching” cylinders to turn into mugs last week… this week they’ll get these cylinders to take them in a different direction!

Categories: classes, food

The new session of pottery classes are well under way…
so it only makes sense that we have NEW OREO’s too!!!

Thanks to Kate for finding these new flavors and bringing them in for us to enjoy!
Yummy & yummier!!!

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: classes, food

Last night for our LILLSTREET THROWDOWN class, I arrived with a large black bag with secret goodies inside. They all assumed it was going to be the next challenge or big twist. Turned out to be a lot yummier than they had presumed.

Turns out the big bag was full of smaller bags of Garrett Popcorn!!!

They’ve been selling small bags for a dollar all week to celebrate National Popcorn Day. Sure, it may be “one bag per visit”… but no one said you couldn’t go through the line “a couple” times!!! So they all got their own individual bag of Garrett’s! And we all went home with the ever-popular cheesy orange-stained fingers!!!

Categories: classes, kiln firing, lillstreet, soda-fired

Ever wanted to try soda-firing your pottery but don’t have access to a soda-kiln?
Wanna come play with us and learn about soda-firing at the same time?
Like playing with fire???

Well lookey here… I’m teaching a 3-Night Soda-Firing workshop at Lillstreet Art Center
in a few weeks! You bring some bisqued pots and we’ll soda-fire them together.
Just a few spaces left!!!

From the Lillstreet Ceramics Instagram news feed…
Get an introduction to the processes involved in soda firing. Friday night, bring in bisque for slip, glazing, and wadding. Then load and close the kiln. Return Saturday evening for two hours for the adding of the soda to the kiln. Monday evening, set aside four hours to unload, clean the kiln, potluck & critique.

This workshop will meet:
Friday, February 21 from 6-10pm
Saturday, February 22 from 7-9pm
Monday, February 24 from 6-10pm

This is an intermediate/advanced workshop. Students must have one year of ceramics experience to register.

Click here for more information & registration details!




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: classes, lillstreet, wheelthrowing

So fun to be back from the holidays… and kicking off a new session of pottery classes! My Beginning Wheelthrowing class started last night with some returning faces, a good number of newbies and a lot of enthusiasm!!!… oh yeah, and some OREOs too!!!


Categories: artists, classes, ornaments

So excited that Christine’s latest batch of ornaments came out of the kiln beautifully just in time for Christmas! She made her first ornaments in my class last session and soda-fired them in my kiln. But now this batch she played even more with underglazes with a clear glaze in a high-fire kiln. Very festive & very fun!!!