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

This week in class was my favorite demo of the entire session!!!
Making bowls on purpose instead of a cylinder gone bad… and then altering & decorating.

My bowl demo has a three-part approach.
First, to show them how to make nice, smoothly rounded bowls instead of settling for a cylinder gone bad. So we have a nice curve in the interior instead of a flat bottom and corners like a cylinder.

Second, to introduce them to colored slips as another “tool” for surface decoration to make their pots more special & fun.

Third, to get them to play with their clay more. To realize that is not as “precious” as they think it is. To get over it. Pinch, flute, flare, squish, whatever. Do something fun with your pot to make it your own!!! Any one can make a plain round both. Make it special. Make it yours!

So we did the throwing demo… and then my students went back to their wheels to start practicing. While they were away, I threw the rest of the bowls… a full bag of clay to make 16 bowls! When I finished throwing them all, we reconvened to do some altering. All of the bowls started out pretty much the same… but after some quick changes, each one was different from the others!!!

Bowl #1 – two simple twisted flutes

Bowl #2 – and if two twisted flutes are good, eight might be better?!

Bowl #3 – a simple flared flange of a rim.

Bowl #4 – a much deeper flared flange… kinda like that bowl you get a very fancy expensive restaurant where the give you the big bowl with a teeny-tiny nugget of food in the bottom for a very high price!

Bowl #5 – then we combined fluted twists on the flared flange.

Bowl #6 – a simple split rim… pinched back together in four places.

Bowl #7 – another split rim, dented in in four places, and then dented outwards too!

Bowl #8 – a fun little “surprise” flower in the bottom of the bowl made with a metal dragonscaling tool.

Bowl #9 – For this one, my students were excited to have me try a new style. My plan was to cut the rim off in with decorative curves. I started with four curved incisions… and I tossed the cut-off parts into the splash pan. But then someone suggested I use the cut-off parts somehow. So I pulled them out, rolled them a bit and decided to add them on as handles. Unfortunately, the clay cut-outs were a bit gooey, and I didn’t score & slip them on… so I will be peeling them off and adding better handles later.

And then I introduced colored slip as a decorative accent…

Bowl #10 – a simple coating of thick white slip on the interior of the bowl. My plan for later is to do some decorative carving through the slip to reveal the darker clay in the design.

Bowl #11 - a simple layer of thick white slip and a rounded tool dragged through while the wheel was spinning to get this mesmerizing spiral effect.

Bowl #12 – another layer of thick white slip and some “finger painting” squiggles while the wheel was still spinning.

Bowl #13 – thick white slip with a spiral and some simple banding.

Bowl #14 – thick white slip with some chattering through the slip. Steady rhythmic tapping of a plastic rib through the slip to show the darker clay. Tapping, spinning and moving up all at the same time to get this great design.

Bowl #15 – a flared flange covered with thick white slip… and then some simple finger drags through it to create a patterned rim.

Bowl #16 – a layer of white slip, and then a layer of blue mazzerine slip over part of it for a groovy ombre effect.

So for now they’re wrapped up under plastic… soon to be stamped, carved, detailed and more!


Categories: classes, lillstreet, summer camp, terra cotta

CHESS CAMP at LILLSTREET  :  Monday, July 10 – Friday, July 14  :  9:00am-3:30pm

Are your kids looking for a fun Summer Camp for the week after 4th of July??
Well, we will once again tackling thematic Chess Sets with one of my favorite Summer Camps at Lillstreet Art Center. We’ll spend the week making thematic chess sets… handbuilt chess pieces with whatever theme the kids want!!! That’s a LOT of pieces to design & build… all building up to the big climax of actually playing chess with the complete set they’ve designed & built all by themselves! And they get to play with ME!!! How cool is that?!

Click here for more information or to register your kids!!! Only a few spots left!

Categories: classes, mugs

Tonight was the second class for some of my Beginning Wheelthrowing students…
and they’ve already finished up their first batch of mugs! We’re off to a great start!!!



Categories: classes, food

This week we kicked-off the summer session of classes at Lillstreet with some more new OREO’s!!! I’m still a bit unsure of the “Thins”… you just need to eat twice as many, right?!!!

As for the coconut… tastier than I expected.
Although someone said it tasted like suntan lotion..
let’s just say that still didn’t stop us from finishing them!!!

Categories: classes, mugs, process, stamped, summer camp

It’s the third day for my Summer Campers and today they had to “finish up” their stoneware pots. So we did some trimming, some stamping, some adding of handles and colored slip detailing. Never too soon to start stamping, right???

Categories: classes, lillstreet, mugs, soda-fired

This past Tuesday night was the last class for my Simply Soda class for the Spring session. My beginning soda-firing students did a great job working through some of the “difficulties” and “unpredictabilities” of firing in the soda kiln. But after ten weeks, we made it to the end and everyone learned a LOT… including me!

To celebrate our last class, we had a little class challenge to finish with. At the beginning of the session, I had challenged each student to make enough mugs to trade one with everyone in class. So each student had to come with ten mugs for the trade… Peter already moved away, so nine… and then we played a little game. Going one person at a time, each student got to pick one of their group to call their won. By the end, everyone’s mugs had found a new home… and they were going home with one mug from each of their fellow students… and me!

So here are MY mugs that were up for the taking! Stamped and soda-fired B-clay.

And then AFTER The exchange, these are the mugs I came home with!!!

This sweet porcelain mug with subtle flashings and two white glaze stripes by Catherine.

A shallow “diner cup” with some great carved details at the bottom by Taylore.

A beautiful tankard mug by Cecelia with butter yellow slip and gray carbon trapping.

A sweet little mug made with B-clay and a Tom’s Purple glaze liner by Patty.

A fun little mug with indented dots across the surface with a Tom’s Purple liner by Katie.

A beautiful grooved mug by Stacey with a wonderful flashing on the mustard slip.

Unfortunately, Ed’s mugs were still in the soda kiln cooling. Just a day short of making the deadline. He participated  in the exchange and promised to fulfill his “trade” end of the bargain soon!

So all in all, I’d say my beginner soda students knocked it out of the park!
A great session… and a great exchange… and great additions to my Mug Collection!!!





Categories: classes, food, lillstreet

One of my students made this incredible Ursula covered chip & dip bowl in my class last session. Last night, Stacey brought it back for our last class potluck. Even better when filled with goldfish crackers, fish cookies and gummy Swedish Fish inside!!! Too funny. Too yummy!!!

Categories: artists, classes, mugs, textures

So I got an email from one of my Facebook Fans… Kate Chenok, a potter from the San Francisco area. She told me she was traveling for business and would LOVE to stop by my studio to meet me. She gave me her travel schedule and it aligned with the classes I teach on Mondays & Tuesdays. She suggested I check out her website to see her work… so I did. And I saw these wonderful little “folded mugs” on her website. And a plan started to develop…

Sure, she could easily stop by the studio and sit-in one of my classes while my students were working during Week #9. But I had a better plan… I figured it might be fun if Kate Chenok stopped by and then do a quick demo for my students! Perfect timing. Perfect plan!

So I asked her to swing by the studio on a Tuesday night. We’re in Week #9 of the ten-week session, and I thought my Beginner’s might like a little handbuilding “break” from the wheel. Kate got here a t little late… so we did a quick tour of my studio and Lillstreet… and then it was right into my classroom. Quick introduction and she was on for the demo.

We threw some quick slabs, and she showed how she adds texture using assorted texture forms, vinyl placemats, corrugated cardboard and more.

She then shared the patterns she uses to cut our a shape from the slab. Carefully aligning her textured design with the shape of the cut-out pattern.

And then that cut-out shape was carefully rolled and seamed together with angled edges… carefully seaming the seam with as little fudging & smudging as possible. The cutout darted sections are also scored, slipped and stuck together. Basically folding in the bottom of the cup.

After the darts are connected, she took a second to smooth out the interior and double-checking the security of the seam. All the while trying to keep the exterior pattern as clean and smudge-less as possible.

The square bottom “hole” that is created by the folding in of the darts needs to be filled. Another small piece of textured slab is scored and slipped into place.

After securing the bottom, a little refining of the rim is in order.

And then there’s the question of the seam. Is it smooth enough? Does it need to blend in better? Or should it be made more apparent?… or even decorated with little stamped buttons?!

After Kate finished her demo, we encouraged my students to step up and give it a go. Some of them were very excited… you could see it on their faces during the demo. So they pulled out their slabs and texture tools  and dove right in!!!

Kate was great… so sharing with her knowledge and time. Helping my students through every step of the process.

Such focus and determination by Carmina and Grace…

And here’s one of the “finished” pieces… a very sweet little pitcher that Grace made. She’s become quite the master of texture… and even added a bit of slip detail on top of the textured surface!!!

Huge thanks once again to Kate for stopping by and playing with my students. We all had a great time and learned a lot from her.

To see more about Kate Chenok and her work,
including her wonderful folded mugs, click here for her website.






Categories: classes, lillstreet, mugs

Last night in my Beginning & Advanced Beginning Wheelthwoing class,
we ended the Spring session with a fun class, potluck snacks and a Double Mug Exchange! At the start of class I challenged my students to make mugs to exchange during the final class. With a small twist… my brand new Beginners needed to make two mugs, but my returning Advanced Beginners needed to make “matching” mugs!!! Here are a “few” of the mugs that were up for grabs last night!!!

And two “individuals” by one of my brand new Beginners… pretty sweet, huh?!

And of course I had to play along too… so here are my contribution
to the Double Mug Exchange… two stamped and cone 6 glaze fired mugs!






Categories: bowls, classes, process

Just some quick photos from one of tonight’s bowl demos for my Simply Soda class.
I coated the bowl with wax before carving the leaf pattern… and let it dry for a few minutes.
Then I painted the exterior and filled-in the grooves with colored slip…

After it set-up for a few minutes, I wiped the excess off the wax layer.
Thus filling in only the carved grooves for a colorful slip inlay.