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

My class Tuesday night was great fun… and always my favorite demo of the session. My new beginners have nbeen working on their centering & throwing skills on cylinders. And of course they’ve “found” a few bowls along the way. Well this week we focused on throwing a good bowl on purpose instead of a cylinder gone bad.

So the way the demo goes is I first sit down to tshow them out to make the basic bowl with a nice rounded interior. No beginner bulges here! After the demo & questions, I set them free to go make their own bowls…. while I continue to throw a full bag of clay into bowls! Once all sixteen bowls were thrown, we re-grouped at my wheel to do some quick tricks & techniques for altering the bowls. I’m a big fan of putting your own twist or design on a bowl… instead of just leaving it round. Anyone can do that. So here are the sixteen tricks I showed the,….

Bowl 1 – a simple bowl with four fluted points and a nice spiral in the bottom.

Bowl 2 – And if four fluted spots are good, maybe eight would be better?

Bowl 3 – Then we flared out the rim to create a nice flanged rim. A perfect sot to do some decorating later. Carving, stamping, slip, glazing, whatever… you now have a nice “canvas” there on the rim.

Bowl 4 – And if “some” flange is good… “more” flange might be better???

Bowl 5 – And then we combined the fluted rim with the flared flange rim.

Bowl 6 – A simple texture pressed into the bottom with a metal dragonscaling tool.

Bowl 7 – And who says bowls need to stay round?… not me…
as we dented in four points to make a clover-ish shape.

Bowl 8 – Next we decided to split the rim with the point of a wooden knife. I then pinched it into four even spaces… and then two more on opposite sides. They all loved that… but the gasps were audible when I stretched it out of shape to an oval. I don’t think they like this one too much…. but I’m sure they’ll come around when they see it with a strap handle to turn it more into a basket later.

Bowl 9 – Again with the split rim, this time four flares out and four flares in…
denting it with the curved side of my wooden knife.

Bowl 10 – Next I introduced them to colored slip. And showed them how easily they can create a two-tone pot faster & cleaner with slip than they would be able to with two buckets of glaze. This is a simple black slip… which I believe I’ll be carving into for a little sgrafitto demo next week.

Bowl 11 – For this one I coated the interior with a thick white slip, and then dragged the rounded end of my wooden knife through to reveal the clay color while the bowl was turning on the wheel.

Bowl 12 – The same coating of thick white slip inside the bowl… but this time some squiggly finger-painting & dragging through the bowl while it was spinning.

Bowl 13 – Again with the thick white slip interior, this time chattered with a rhythmic tapping of my green rubber rib… up & down through the slip, and out towards the rim as the bowl is sinning. This design is slightly different every time based on the speed of your tapping and the speed of the wheel rotating.

Bowl 14 – A simple spiral of black slip as squirted from a small bottle… and a small fluted edge using the side of a medium Sharpie marker!!!

Bowl 15 – A simple lesson on how easy it is to make bands of color… just hold the paint brush still and spin the wheel. My guess is that these bands of green slip will be carved through at some point.

Bowl 16 – An ombre blend of white to green slip… and I’m loving the tight spiral of thick slip in the bottom of the bowl.

So for now… all sixteen bowls are up in my studio under plastic. I’m “pretty sure” that there will be some stamping, decorating & refining of these before I get around to trimming. Just a hunch.


Categories: classes, inspiration, nature, seasons

So now that they have their mugs assembled, it’s time for my Pottery Throwdown students to embellish them. So last night towards the end of class, the next challenge was revealed. They now need to take their four matching mugs and decorate them to represent, signify, resemble, interpret or otherwise show some influence by The Four Seasons. They have until class next Thursday to “finish them up” and bring them to class as they’re drying to greenware!

It’s completely up to them how they approach the project…
stylized & graphic?… sculptural?… illustrative?… carved?… stamped?… sgraffito?… painted?…
or otherwise “naturally” inspired!!!




Categories: classes, mugs, process

Last night in our Pottery Throwdown Challenge class, my students were tasked with trimming and adding matching handles to four matching cylinders in ninety minutes. Sounds like a lot of time, but it went right down to the wire! It was great fun to watch how they processed, produced, prioritized and approached the challenge. A matching set of four mugs compared, judged & points awarded as the coolest clay contest continues… and these mugs are NOT done yet!!!

Special thanks to Fred for (eating our cookies and…) being our special Guest Judge last night for the matching handles challenge!







Categories: classes, food

Another class. Another OREO.
Last night we had the new Chocolate Hazelnut flavor.

I know I “should” like them… but why “ruin” my chocolate with that darn hazelnut flavor?!
I actually preferred the red-hot cinnamon ones!!! Yes, I have the palate of a four-year old.

Thanks to Taylore & Ryan for “importing” them for class last night!!!


Categories: classes, lillstreet, wheelthrowing

After the bowl challenge, my Lillstreet 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!!!