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: classes, food, holiday, mugs

Last night in pottery class on July 3rd, we celebrated the Fourth a day early with FIREWORK OREOs… and in between the cookies, my students also managed to trim cylinders and make a few mugs as well.

Categories: classes, flowers

Last night we had a “Plate & Platter” Exchange Game to celebrate the last class of the session. Many of my students struggled with getting their plates trimmed, dried, fired, glazed & fired again in time for the game. So we “freely expanded” the definition to “handmade ceramic vessels.” And I came home with this adorable little Josh Blue planter from Teresa…. all ready with a jade plant good to go!!!


Categories: classes, glaze, platters, stamped

Last night was the last class of the Spring session of my Beginner’s Wheelthrowing class. Every session I challenge them to make a piece to trade & exchange at the final class. This session the “theme” was plates & platters. This Josh Blue & sprayed temoku plate was my entry into the Exchange Game… which one of my students gladly went home with!!!

Categories: classes, food

Tonight in my pottery class we had another sweet treat from “across the Pond.” Special thanks to Katie who “imported” these from London on her way home through Heathrow Airport. Didn’t really expect it to be a slab of chocolate wedged inside a mini OREO cookie?! Not that that’s a bad thing.

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: classes, glaze

This week in my pottery class we had a LOT of glazed cups to look at… as the week before we had glazed sixty cylinders as part of our second glazing demo. So much fun to have so many different combos & results… some good, some not.

But either way, a LOT of great information for my students to share.

Here’s a quick glimpse… more to come…
and thanks to Tracey & Steve for getting them fired so fast for us!!!




Categories: classes, food

More sweet treats for my students tonight… two NEW OREO flavors!
Tonight we had Cherry Cola OREOs and Pina Colada Thins.
One tastes a bit like a mix of summer & sunscreen…
and the other is a bit too sweet & “carbonated.”

And yes, we finished them all. Go figure.

Categories: classes, glaze

A new bin of FUN for my class tonight!!!
I’ve got the glazed cylinders from last week’s glaze demo project finished, fired and ready to share! Some good combos, some not so much. But a LOT of great “visual information” to be learned from this group glazing project.

Categories: classes, glaze, lillstreet

As Part Two to Tuesday night’s glazing demo… I challenged my students to glaze sixty cylinders in all different glaze combinations & techniques. They’re always talking about how they get overwhelmed when glazing, that each pot is too “precious” to experiment, and that they don’t see enough finished results to really make an informed decision. I’m taking all of that out of the way and I provided them with sixty bisqued cylinders to glaze… none of them “precious”!

We’re looking forward to seeing the results and comparing them to the notes we took for each one! Even if half of them turn out as a good combo I’ll be excited. They all embraced the challenge as they dipped, double-dipped, bubbled, splattered and glazed all of the cylinders. We’ll see soon enough how they all turn out!