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

It was the last night of class, and we had already critiqued & judged the final project…. but I still had one more trick up my sleeves. With two of my studetns getting married this Spring, and wanting to make ceramic vases to share with all of their guests… I figured what better way than with a THROWDOWN assembly line?! So we all buckled down and started cranking out as many vases as we could during the remainder of class. Everyone had a great time working & chatting together. A perfect way to end our class!

And our lovely “hand model” Susan…

And here’s Jacob, the Groom-To-Be, putting some final touches on a cylinder by carving some patterns into it with our favorite DiamondCore Carving Tool.

And here’s Molly, the Bride-To-Be, who “apparently” didn’t get the memo that they were all making small vases out of extruded tubes?! What’s with that???

And here they are by the end of class… approximately half of what they’re hoping to get finished in the next month or so… as the wedding is later this Spring!!!



Categories: classes, creativity

After the HUGE success of the BEATLES Salt & Pepper Shakers…
I decided that we should stick with the theme… and go for The Beatles again!
But this time I allowed them to choose their own song… which many of them said was tougher than when they were assigned… but the “final twist” was that they needed to make a sugar & creamer set with a tray this time!

DAVIDkind of amazing as this is David’s FIRST lidded jar!

SUSANsimple & subtle as the “nestle” together… spooning… snuggling…

DONNAlove the addition of the copper border… although I would have liked it as a street.

CLAIRE - simple & clean

PATTIand yes, that green pattern is completely carved away by hand! CRAZY COOL!!!

MOLLYrecognize the sugar bowl?… it’s a sphere from last week’s sphere trowing challenge!

RYANcontinuing his theme… of “spice” packets… remember, it started with pepper!

TERESA - loving the details on the sugar… the windshield wipers are killin’ me!!!

JACOB – Simplicity in black & white…

TATIANAlovely surface decoration depicting all parts & lyrics in her song.

And now for our TOP TWO!!!

TAYLORonce again utilizing the extruder!

JONincredible “animation” & whimsy… and his first ever hand-built human sculpture!

 Wondering what some of the Beatles song themes are?…
and I apologize for missing a couple… I’ll add them soon!

DAVID – Lucy In The Sky With Diamondsthe lid’s knob is a diamond

SUSAN – The Ballad of John & Yokoas seen in the infamous photo spooning in bed.

DONNA – Penny Lane

CLAIRE – The White Album


MOLLY – Let It Beas in don’t decorate it… just “let it be.”

RYAN – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Bandcontinuing his S&P theme of packets.

TERESA – Ticket To Ride

JACOB – The Long & Winding Road

TATIANA – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

TAYLOR – Obla-Di, Obla-Da

JON – Yellow Submarine – AND – Nowhere Man


And now that we’re “revealed’ the themes & the challenge winners…
Let’s take a closer look at Tatiana’s.. and the crazy attention-to-detail
she used in representing her song.

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head.
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she’s gone.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds, ah, ah

Follow her down to a bridge by the fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies.
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredibly high.

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore
Waiting to take you away
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds 
And you’re gone.

Picture yourself on a train in a station
With plasticine porters with looking glass ties,
Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile,
The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.


Well done Tatiana!





Categories: classes, process

NOTE : This should have been posted a few weeks back, but I didn’t want to reveal
t0o much too soon for my students! I didn’t want to ruin the surprise!

Well, we’ve been having a great session of classes & challenges in the Second Annual LILLSTREET THROWDOWN!!! And since we were nearing the finish… I knew that I had to have a prize for the winner, right. You can’t have a competition class with a bunch of great people working hard and paying all of your silly games without a trophy for the winner!!! So I made one…

And then I went out and bought some gold spray paint… thank you Rust-oleum!!!

And since I made this a month or so ago… during The Polar Vortex…
it was SO COLD out that I had to turn on the flame throwing heater to make sure the spray paint would dry correctly. It’s always better when you have access to great power tools!!!

Sure, the gold paint was pretty, but… every trophy should “sparkle” a bit, right?

So there it is… the trophy for onw lucky winner in the LILLSTREET THROWDOWN!!! Now we just need to find out who will have accrued the most points throught the session to win this distinction!!!



Categories: classes, food, glaze, platters, stamped, textures

To celebrate the last class of our LILLSTREET THROWDOWN class, we threw another potluck. And I decided to make a cheesecake… with homemade hot fudge… on a handmade platter. I considered it my own personal “throwdown.”

Categories: classes, food, lillstreet

It’s the last week for my pottery classes… and we like to celebrate with some potluck yummies. Last night we had a great spread… much in thanks to Patty for bringing this beautiful tray of delectable yumminess!

Categories: classes, lillstreet

Well we’re nearing the end of the Second Annual LILLSTREET THROWDOWN class.
So for this week’s in-class challenge, we re-visited a few of our previous challenges with a twist. We divided into two teams and had everyone decide which of six challenges each team player was going to tackle. Twist was… they didn’t know what challenge each was! After they all signed up for their challenge “number”… we rolled the dice to randomly assign project challenges to each number! So they all started working on their assigned challenge… so all six challenges were going on simultaneously.

But after 15 minutes… the timer went OFF!!!    Wait?… what?!!!!

After the first fifteen minutes they all found out that they had to ROTATE to continue working on someone else’s project. Yes, they were going to switch & rotate every 15 minutes for four rotations to finish each challenge. So they needed to work as a team, share information at every rotation, and keep everything on pace so as to finish ALL six challenge projects in the one hour time frame.

Everyone was so focused… and it was surprisingly quiet...
except for the crazy commotion & confusion during rotations!!!

And because one of our students was “out sick” for the night… I had to draft one of my Tuesday night students to fill in to keep the teams even. Thanks to Katie for stepping up and joining in our crazy fun!!!

At the end of the hour… and four complete rotations… we had a table full of projects!
Lots of “matching” challenges… some successful, some not so much…

So here they are side-by-side…  one team versus another!







whoops… and the “other” side…

And the other team’s winning spheres…


Pretty hard to judge… especially when you see all four all lined up…


Categories: classes, music, salt & pepper

This past week my LILLSTREET THROWDOWN students rocked my word!!!
They were challenged to make Salt & Pepper Shakers… with a theme!

I gave them a list of some of the most popular Beatles songs.
And then the TOP TWO winners of the first in-class challenge got to choose their own song title. The the second TOP TWO winners from the second in-class challenge got to “assign” the rest of the themes to everyone else in class! So they left class with a classic Beatles song on which they had to base their salt & pepper shaker set on… with a thematic tray to hold them all together.

So how well do YOU know your Beatles Songs? See if you can figure these out…






But I especially loved how the holes “unintentionally” lined-up to become eyes!!!






And our TOP TWO WINNERS for the week…



So there they are… a bunch of AMAZING salt & pepper shakers!!!
They definitely stepped up to the challenge!!!


Need a few answers to the Beatles Trivia S&P Challenge???

CLAIRE -         Blackbird
JON -                Rocky Raccoon
TERESA -         I Am The Walrus
DAVID -           While My Guitar Gently Weeps
RYAN -             Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
SUSAN -           Yellow Submarine
TAYLOR -        Across The Universe
JACOB -           Norwegian Wood
MOLLY -          Octopus’s Garden
DONNA -         Strawberry Fields
TATIANA -      Paperback Writer


Categories: classes, process, production

After tackling their wheelthrown spheres, we stuck with the geometric vibe, but switched over to handbuilding. And their next challenge was to handbuild a “perfect” cube… minimum of 4-inch wide. With only a half hour to finish it… they had to work fast with a dedicated plan. Many of them realized quickly that freshly thrown slabs aren’t as rigid as they would have hoped for. But they all perservered… along with some “structures” to help hold up their walls as they forged ahead. They were all a little “iffy” as the start… but quite impressive when they all came together in the final minutes!!!

For some reason, Patti & Jon decided to work together… which was adorable… but they only made ONE cube?! Not quite right… my thinking was each person should make a cube… so it makes sense that two people should make two cubes, right?

Sheesh… look at that craftsmanship… nice sharp corners there Jacob!

At the end of the thirty minutes, we had a table full of square cubes. Some had curved corners. Some were sagging a bit in the middle. All of them were pretty well assembled considering the time constraint.

And again, look at the sharp corners that Jacob had on his winning cube!
He was in the TOP TWO along with our “token” handbuilder Donna!




Categories: classes, creativity, inspiration

After last week’s POTTERY THROWDOWN class where they decorated tiles and a cylinder using that one tool… their “homework” was to throw another cylinder at least 9-inches tall… and then decorate that new one with that same one tool. Looking to see how the design transformed from the two-dimensional tile, to a smaller cylinder… and then even larger where there was even more “canvas” to decorate. This time, they had to use THAT ONE TOOL as their primary decorating tool, but they could also embellish with other surface decoration techniques as well.

Unfortunately… Teresa, Jon & Patti missed the class the week before…
so they didn’t have a tile or a cylinder to work from.
All they had was their homework assignment… and ONE TOOL.




And now back to the original challenge… with tiles, cylinders and their new vases!








And now our TOP TWO WINNERS…

Ryan who carved out all of the areas with the dull metal part that was inside his tool.. and then applied each cut-out to the vase to make it even more dimensional.

Donna who started with a simple heart design on her nine tiles, then extrapolated one tile of the heart into the five dots and one hexagon for the cylinder… and then came back and combined them all back together for her heart-themed vase… still with the dots and hexagons!



Categories: classes, creativity, food, lillstreet

To kick-off our party last Wednesday night, my students took on the “FACE THE COOKIE” Challenge from Minute-To-Win-It. Basically, you put a cookie on your forehead… and then slowly move the cookie down with just facial muscles & expressions… until you get the cookie in your mouth! So I made a challenge… succeed with the cookie in the mouth in one minute and they would get an additional “five minute advantage” in one of the two challenges in class that night.

Crazy fun for everyone… perhaps too much fun… as we got shooshed a bit…
and told to keep it down. How dare we have too much fun in class?!!!

And yes… they “forced” me to give it a try too… harder than it looks…
but the REWARD of success is pretty darn sweet!