Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: classes, collaborations, flowers, food, handbuilding, pottery

And oh, but wait there’s more… SO MUCH MORE!!!
Or would that be MORE-eo?!!!

Not only did I get Christine’s Chicago flag flowerpot as part of our trading game… l ALSO got this amazing piece that she made as a surprise gift for me!!! Christine has been taken several of my classes and knows my penchant for OREOs firsthand. So she knew that this would be the PERFECT gift for me. And apparently, there was an all-on covert operation going on behind-the-scenes at Lillstreet to get it through all of the firings without me seeing it (thank you Dave – her cohort in crime!) Such an AMAZING way to end our session… with this AMAZING OREO PLANTER.

And don’t hate… but this is only Christine’s second handbuilding project ever!.. yes, she’s one of “those” people!!! I will do a post soon that show’s her step-by-step process in building this masterpiece!!!

Categories: collaborations, family, platters, pottery, stamped

Another one of my super-secret Christmas projects was a commissioned piece for college football coach P.J. Fleck. My brother-in-law Scott is a long-time fan of P.J. Fleck, as well as my pottery, and thought the perfect one-of-a-kind gift for P.J. would be a custom platter with his personal mantra on it.


So I set off on making a large stamped platter. I threw the platter and left the center section smooth… which kinda killed me! You know how much I LOVE a good spiral!!! But with plans to put the logo in the center, I knew I would need a smooth “canvas” to work with.

My brother-in-law Scott is also a commercial printer with access to a vinyl cutter. So he offered to cut a few vinyl stencils for me to work with. Now keep in mind… this is the very first time I’m even trying this technique! I’ve seen others do it… so it’s gotta work, right?!

I started by peeling off the backing and then pressing it smoothly into the center of the platter. I wanted to make sure the edges were attached everywhere… but I was kind of afraid of pressing too hard! I didn’t want to make it hard to peel off later… or even worse, leave any kind of adhesive residue on the platter that might affect the glazing later..

After peeling off the top layer, I filled it all in with some thick underglaze. Kinda piling it on top with a pretty thick layer of color.

When the underglaze was mostly dry… but not totally, I peeled off the vinyl stencil. I was afraid that if it got too dry, it might flake off more while peeling it off. I knew that I wanted to keep it as clean as possible… as I didn’t want to do any clean-up & touch-ups later.

The toughest part was peeling away all of the smaller parts & pieces…
I kept finding more areas that were oddly “glossy” and knew that there was still some vinyl under the underglaze that wasn’t drying!

A little touch-up here & there… but not much at all.

Knowing that I didn’t want to blur the image, I thought my best option would be to spray the glaze over the applied logo design. So I started slowly around the edge. And then gradually sprayed more & more to build up the glaze slowly over time. I don’t do a lot of spraying glazes, so I’m always kind of questioning when I’ve got enough glaze material on the piece. You don’t want too little… but then again too much is bad too!

And then it went into the kiln… with all of my fingers crossed.
Remember, this was my first time doing the vinyl stencil technique… first time using this new brand of underglaze… and unsure of how my glaze I “sprayed” onto the piece… and if the logo would blur out & “melt” during the firing?!!! A lot at risk here…

But… two days later… I opened the kiln to find this!!!

But the real photo that counts is the one where University of Minnesota Head Football Coach P.J. Fleck is showing off his new platter!

That smile says it all.

Categories: collaborations, mugs, pottery, soda-fired, special events, stamped

I’ve been working on these pieces for awhile.
And it finally feels GREAT to call them done!

I received a request from a local Chicago customer for a special order last Summer during the shutdown. He owns & runs THE ECCENTRIC CAFE in Kalamazoo, Michigan… a part of Bell’s Brewery. Apparently, the bar has a lot of “visual intrigue”… wonderful collections & things to look at all over the place. In fact, it’s one of the only brewery pubs with NO TELEVISIONS!!!

So the request was that I would make a large “tankard” or stein for his newest collection. I LOVE making mugs… so I was definitely intrigued to tackle them on a much larger scale! He said he was “collecting them” from a few of his favorite potters around the country. So I was HONORED to be chosen to be part of his collection of favorites!!!

The request was that I can make any style, shape or form tankard “in my style”… and they had to hold more than 64-ounces! Knowing that I was going to be soda-firing them, I decided to make a couple extra just in case something goes wrong during the firing… a drip from the ceiling, a splotch of errant soda, or any other random issue that comes up while soda-firing. So here are the three finished pieces seen from both sides. Totally pleased with the finished results… and NO random soda mishaps!!!

Tankard #1 –

Tankard #2 –

Tankard #3 –

As I was making them, I was continually concerned that they wouldn’t be large enough… a minimum of 64-ounces. You know how clay shrinks when it dries… again when it gets bisque fired… and yet again when soda-fired. So I threw them fairly large with the shrinkage in mind… but after each step in the process they kept getting smaller and I kept getting more & more concerned!!! Turns out I was all good… BY FAR!!!… as each of them finished out with a volume of nearly 96-ounces each!!!

When I sent photos of them finished to Larry to choose which one he wanted… I was blown away when he said he loved them and wanted ALL THREE!!! Blown away!!! I was so excited that he loved them so much.

Last night I dropped them off … so nice to complete the commission and pass them off to the client. They will now be on their way to THE ECCENTRIC CAFE in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I can’t wait to see photos of them in “the collection” when they all come together. I know a few of the other potters involved… and it’s sure to be a pretty sweet collection! And then when “things” settle down a bit this summer, I may just need to do a roadtrip to Kalamazoo to see the pottery collection in person!

Categories: artists, collaborations, music

Okay, just one more. I promise. Darn rabbit hole!!! Another musical diversion. Gotta love me some Adele… and some another fun Carpool Karaoke!!! Now I need to get back to work… really!!! I swear… no more diversions… eyes on the prize!

Categories: collaborations, music, theater

And while I’m sliding down that proverbial slippery slope, here’s another fun musical diversion for the “HAMILTON” fans out there… okay, really for any of you missing live musical theater these days!!! Such a great flashback to better times… and be sure to wait for that final note!!!

Categories: art fair, artists, collaborations

One of the highlights of ART IN THE GARDEN is that the artists get to play together & collaborate on some cool projects. One of collaborations this year was this batch of porcelain soda-fired jars that I made and other artists added their own “artist-styled” knobs to the tops

Well, a couple weeks have gone by since ART IN THE GARDEN, and I’ve been sitting here with a few of the collaboration jars waiting to be photographed & posted here online for sale. I’ve been playing hooky a bit too much lately while it’s been so nice outside… but the clouds have come over Chicago so I finally got my act together today! Here are a few “teaser” photos of the nine collaboration jars that will go up for sale only on my Fire When Ready Pottery Facebook page at 6:00pm CST. It will be first come, first served when the “official” Photo Album is posted. So set an alarm reminder to check them out at 6:00pm tonight!

Click here to go to my Fire When Ready Pottery Facebook page!

Categories: art fair, artists, collaborations, porcelain, soda-fired, stamped

Not to be outdone, or out-bling’d…
here’s a little sneak peek at what Retta Hentschel did with the three lidded jars I sent her to play with. Such an amazing assemblage of colors, textures & bling on each of them. Stop by ART IN THE GARDEN to see them all… before they’re gone!

Categories: art fair, artists, collaborations, porcelain, soda-fired, stamped

Another glimpse into some of the collaborations we’ve been working on for this weekend. Months ago I soda-fired some porcelain lidded jars and then “challenged” some of my fellow ART IN THE GARDEN artists to add a knob to the lid. Here’s what metalsmith Amy Taylor did with the three jars I sent her. A beautiful addition to my pottery.

Collaboration projects like these are part of what makes ART IN THE GARDEN so special.

For more information, click here.

Categories: art fair, artists, collaborations

Totally loving these cool beaded bracelets that Lynda Wallis has made with some of my soda-fired beads!!! She’ll be bringing them to Glenview this weekend for ART IN THE GARDEN… fun in the garden with MASKS and a lot of cool collaboration projects you won’t find at any other art fair!!!

Categories: art fair, artists, bowls, collaborations, color, handbuilding

What a difference a little underglaze can make?!!!
A whimsical “paint-job” by my “cohort in collaborations” Cory McCrory on her bowls for this weekend at ART IN THE GARDEN. We’ve been working on this little project for awhile now… and now we’re both in our final kiln firings!!! Getting ready to put our collaboration pieces together in Glenview for every one to see!

For more info –