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

After the bowl challenge, my Throwdown students moved on to matching cylinders. So they had five minutes to throw their own “perfect” cylinder. They thought that was it… but after setting their own standard, the “real” challenge was announced. They had an hour to throw as many matching cylinders to their own “perfect” prototype!

When that hour ended, they got points for the ones that matched, and the ones that didn’t match… SQUISH!!!

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: classes, mugs, stamps

Last night was only the second class of the new session for my Beginners…
and they’ve already thrown, trimmed and made mugs!!!!…
oh yeah, and a couple new stamps just for fun!


Categories: classes, lillstreet

Online registration for the new Winter Session of classes at Lillstreet Art Center opens today!!! I will again be teaching my Beginning/Advanced Beginning Class on Tuesday nights.

And NEW this session… a fun new class based on the BBC reality show “The Great Pottery Throwdown.” Every Thursday night will be filled with challenges, games, contests and all around ceramic shenanigans!

Sign up quick… my classes fill up fast!!!

To register online, click here for Lillstreet Art Center.


Categories: artists, classes, patterns, porcelain

As part of our last pottery class, my students were challenged to make a plate for our class White Elephant type trading-stealing game. After a lot of fun & trading, I came home with this porcelain beauty made by my teaching assistant Susan Slogoff. Using liquid latex & black underglaze for her stunning surface design.


Categories: classes, food

Last night in my pottery class, my students rocked one of the best potlucks ever for the last class of their session. Korean wings, homemade sushi, tandoori chicken, stuffed dates, charcuterie plates, fruit pies, ice cream and so much more!

But let us not forget the new flavor of OREOs that I also brought in
to push us over the top!!!

Categories: classes, friends, lillstreet

Well, I was out of town last week… so I missed teaching my pottery class on Tuesday.
Which just so happened to be Halloween!
Kind of a bummer because I had HUGE Halloween plans for my class… maybe next year?!

Anyway, apparently some of my students had Halloween plans also.
And when they found out I was going to miss our Halloween class, they decided to push their Halloween costume back a week for when I returned. So funny when you wee them all working at the sink…

Yes, I “think” this is flattering?!     I hope…
But they decided for Halloween to dress up as ME!!!
Complete with my shorts, tie-dyed shirt, sandals or Crocs, my IRONMAN tattoo!
They even took it to the smallest of details with a smattering of glitter. Long story…

But here’s the test… can you pick out the REAL IRONMAN???

So much fun in class… I HAVE THE BEST STUDENTS EVER!!!



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, classes, glaze

Since we’re in-between class sessions, I thought this morning might be a good chance to glaze my past class demo pieces. My students know all-too-well how much I “love” glazing and how my pots tend to pile up! Too many glazes. Too many options. Too many ways for the glaze to “ruin” my pots after I’ve employed some of my “control issues” to get them to this point.

Categories: bowls, classes

Tonight was the last class for Beginning & Advanced Beginning Wheeltrowing class.  We ended with a great potluck and a fun “White Elephant” trading-exchanging-stealing game. Everyone brought in a bowl they had made, and then went home with someone else’s. I was excited to come home with this beauty by Kit… a charming stoneware bowl that she carved using my new Zebra Wood Carving Tools from CI Industries.