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

My “Simply Soda” class also got to mix their first batch of slip EVER!!! They were quite excited going into it. I think until they realized it was just measuring & mixing. No magic. It was the pressing through the fine mesh sieve that did ‘em in. Good team project though… and now they have another flashing slip color to play with! Butter Yellow!!! Thank you Nolan for sharing your recipe.

At least they got to play with power tools!!!

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Categories: classes, lillstreet, soda-fired

Last night my “Simply Soda” class got their first pieces back from the latest soda firing… albeit the sets of test tiles they made the first week. Lots of “information” for them to process with different slips, glazes and the variations from hi-soda to low-soda. Lots of organizing, comparing to the “legend”, labeling and admiring… some more than others!!!

Categories: Chicago, classes

Celebrating the big home opener of the Chicago Cubs…
with thematic snacks for my pottery class tonight!

Categories: classes, mugs, process, production

For tonight’s “Simply Soda” class, we tackled colored flashing slips as a decorative accent for the soda-firing process. Many of my students are new to soda-firing and don’t really know yet how colored slips can accentuate their work. So tonight’s demo was to explain some basic “concepts” in slip decoration and how they will work together when they get soda-fired. It was a great opportunity to push my students a bit out of their comfort zone. Including myself… as we were doing some demos & techniques that I’ve never really done before either.

Slip Demo #1
First the mug was dipped into a colored flashing slip. I let it set-up a bit..
and then dipped it a second time. As the second dip was setting up, I dragged a stiff wire brush across the surface to reveal the original stoneware color.

Slip Demo #2
On this squared off tumbler, I masked off the corners using wet nespaper stuck in place for my stencil. I painted a smooth layer on the tow opposing sides. After that had set-up, I masked the thin stripe again with wet strips of newspaper. I dabbed on a thivk layer of the lighter slip making a thick coat. I then dragged my fingertip through the slip to create the slight diagonal texture. Remove the newspaper strips… and voila’.

Slip Demo #3
Again using wet newspaper strips as my stencil, I cut a wavy line and placed them slightly off-kilter to create the wave pattern. Dabbed on the thick slip, dragged my finger through to make the diagonal texture. Peel off the newspaper and you’ve got crisp edges and a great textural accent.

Slip Demo #4
First I dipped the top portion in a colored flashing slip. After it had set-up, I filled a squirt bottle with the blue-green slip. On a spinning banding wheel, I squirted the slip into the pot. I’m hoping for some great contrast between the base color and the blue-green accents

Slip Demo #5
I dipped the entire mug on a colored flashing slip first. After it had set-up, I used a foam stamp from the craft store for the lower pattern. I painted some colored slip onto the foam stamp, and then carefully press it onto the sides. In hind sight, I think the pattern would have shown up clearer if I had not dipped the base layer of slip… it was a little too “slippery”… all pun intended. At the end, I felt that the top portion needed something, so I painted some vertical lines with a paint brush.

Slip Demo #6
You know how we’ve loved bubble glazing… so why not bubble slip?!
A small cup of thin colored slip with some Dawn dishwashing detergent mixed in. Then you blow into it with a straw and make some bubbles overflow from the small cup. You then get the overflowing bubbles to “land” on the sides of the cup without too much dripping or smudging. As the bubbles burst, the lines of slip are created.

Slip Demo #7
Okay, so the plan here was to do some “marbled” slip effects. So I dipped the pot into a colored flashing slip. I gave it a second dip, and while it was wet, I used a squeeze bottle to put on the blue-green slip. Since they were both wet, they slid around nicely on the surface and mixed with each other. I should have stopped there… but instead, I decided to go one step further and add another layer of colored slip. Unfortunately, the base was too dry and the “orange” slip didn’t marble into the others…. instead, it just kinda ran in drips.

Slip Demo #8
Thick layers of thick colored slip. Letting the heavy brushstrokes make the difference. Hoping that the depth and thickness is accentuated during the soda-firing process.

Slip Demo #9
Very simple. A quick dip into the colore flashing slip to make the base layer. And then a second dip of the base, followed by the “drippy” dip of the second lighter color.

Slip Demo #10
Fun with slip trailing… thick slip in a squeeze bottle. If I were doing more of this, I would press the slip through a fine sieve before putting it in the bottle. It wouldn’t sputter so much if it were smoother.

So there we have it… ten different quick “tricks” using a variety of colored soda slips. Hopefully one or two of these might turn out nice after the soda firing. And again, my goal was to show my students some new ideas. And to encourge them to try new & different things. To experiment and to play with their clay! It’s not precious… it’s just clay!!!

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Categories: classes, mugs, stamped

Tonight was the second night for my new Wheelthrowing Class. We tackled cylinder trimming & pulling handles tonight so they could finish their first mugs of the session! This was my demo mug… that “just happened” to get some stamped details along the way between last week and tonight!

Categories: classes, lillstreet, mugs

One of my students has been away from Lillstreet for about three years. He finally made it back to pottery… and into my “Simply Soda” class. Tonight we were touring the soda kiln room looking at soda-fired examples on the shelves. When lo and behold… Peter found one of his own soda-fired mugs from YEARS ago!!! Apparently it has been “floating around” Lillstreet for years and tonight finally found its way home! A beautiful mug, complete with the prerequisite layers of dust!!! Crazy, right?!!!

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Categories: classes, lillstreet

As posted on Facebook this morning…
Looks like one of my Facebook Fans will be joining my Beginning & Advanced Beginning Wheelthrowing Class tonight at Lillstreet. If she’s been a “fan” for seven years, I hope I don’t disappoint?! That’s a lot of pressure to live up to. I may need to step up my game a bit?… and bring a LOT of Oreo’s?!!!

Categories: classes, soda-fired

Last night was the kick-off my new “Simply Soda” class at Lillstreet. It’s an introduction to the soda-firing process. So we did a quick overview, tour and started discussing colored flashing slips. But there’s really no better way to see what might happen during the firing process than to make your own test tiles… errr, cups! So last night my students threw a bunch of cups off-the-hump and then applied two swatches of colored slip on each side of the cup. We made two for each color so they can fire one in high-soda, and one in low-soda to see the difference. They were very productive… and hopefully it will all pay off with a lot of flashing slip “information” for them to use further down the road,

Categories: artists, classes, summer camp

Hard to believe that we’re already planning and scheduling Summer Camps!!!
Winter is finally ending, and I’m just looking forward to Spring.
But these adorable kids make me even more excited to see Summer get here!

The following is my schedule for teaching Summer Camps at Lillstreet Art Center.
I work with the older group of kids who constantly amaze, inspire and entertain me.
Summer camp is a wonderful experience for the kids and teachers who work together on all of the wonderful art projects… and good for the parents who get a few hours off! You can stop by the Front Desk at Lillstreet Art Center, call them or register online for Summer Camps. Registration is already open and filling fast. Click here for online information & registration.

Week C, June 19th-23rd – Wheelthrowing – 9:00am-1:00pm
Five days of fun where we start at the very beginning with wedging, centering & throwing. Kids will learn all of the basics, practice everyday and finish with glazing on Friday.

Week F, July 10th-14th – Chess Camp – 9:00am-3:30pm
Kids will make their own complete chess set out of clay in just five short days. Thematic sets are encouraged, no ordinary Kings, Queens & Rooks here! Actual chess experience is not mandatory… we’ll all learn a bit more along the way! Check?

Week H, July 24th-28thFire, Forge & Feast  – 9:00am-3:30pm
Admittedly the biggest & most fun camp of the whole Summer!!! But enough about me…
In this camp, the kids get to play with me and my friend Pam who teaches the metalsmithing portions. In the five-day camp, kids will design and create a full dinnerware place setting out of clay and metal. A lot of creative design & brainstorming to come up with their amazing themes. Two days of clay, two days of metals, and a lot of Friday fun finishing place settings and celebrating with a class Potluck Lunch!!!

Week I, July 31st-August 4th – Wheelthrowing  – 9:00am-1:00pm
More mud spinning & flinging as the kids learn how to wheelthrow from beginning to end. From wedging to glazing and every “muddy” step along the way!

Week J, August 7th-11th – Sculptures Big to Small  – 9:00am-3:30pm
In this camp the kids will each build their own sculptures after being inspired during a field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park. A dash of art history will serve them well as they work on their own large-scale masterpieces!

Week K, August 14th-18th – Handbuilding & Wheelthrowing  – 9:00am-1:00pm
At this point in the summer, many campers have already taken a couple camps. Some of them have already thrown on the wheel, some of them have handbuilt pieces with clay. This week we’re going to do both – working to incorporate all of their skills into their pieces.

Week L, August 21st-25th – Wheelthrowing - 9:00am-1:00pm
My last week of Summer Camp will be another fun week of wheelthrowing. Spinning, centering, wedging and laughing… maybe an occasional joke along the way?! A great way to end my summer camp “tour of duty.”

If you’re interested in sending your kids to Summer Camp at Lillstreet, click here for their website. And then sign the kids up fast…. spaces are filling quickly!!!

It’s a “shame” that kid’s don’t like playing with clay?!!! Ha!!!
WE ALL LOVE SUMMER CAMP!!!

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Categories: artists, classes, creativity, inspiration

My students this past session LOVED challenges.
They asked for them!!! One night challenges. Long-term challenges.
So as part of our “throwing with intention” discussion… and trying to plan ahead and make what you want to make with purpose & intention… I challenged my class to a Masterpiece Challenge. I came to class with some sealed envelopes. And told my class that anyone who wanted to take on the challenge could. No details. No information. Just say yes… and you’re in. Almost everyone signed on.

Then they chose an envelope without knowing the contents.
And then I explained the game. Inside were images from random famous artists. And their challenge was to make a piece that was “inspired by, representative of, influenced by or in some other way similar to” the artist inside their envelope. I tried to choose famous artists who had a very identifiable style.

So they’ve been working on their pieces for a few weeks. Some of them made it to the final class, while others just didn’t quite make it done in time. I know there are a couple pieces still waiting to be fired. But… for the ones that finished, they were SPECTACULAR!!!

RENE’ MAGRITTE as interpreted by Catherine.
The photo doesn’t show it, but… the inside of the lidded jar top is a green apple!!!

GEORGIA O’KEEFFE as interpreted by Taylore.
Pretty literal. Pretty darn amazing!!!

ANDY WARHOL as interpreted by Taylore… double-duty, over-achiever..
From the Warhol “Legs & High Heels” collection…

GEORGE SEURAT as interpreted by Emily.
With s little pointillism with colored stains on Shaner Clear glaze.

FRANK STELLA as interpreted by Ryan.
Three different versions bringing Stella’s work to clay.

WALT DISNEY as interpreted by Stacey.
A wonderful rendition of Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” done as a chip & dip set.
Yes, the dip fits inside her belly!!! Brilliant Stacey!!!

And Melissa’s interpretation of M.C. ESCHER
her largest and most elaborate pottery piece yet!!! Unfortunately, timing got away from her a bit and Melissa’s is still in the greenware stage, but you can tell it’s going to be AMAZING!!!