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

So if you recall our last class, I had all of my LILLSTREET THROWDOWN students throw platters “thinking” that they were going for the widest diameter platter. But then I flipped it on them and had them paint it with a dark colored slip… and told them the REAL CHALLENGE was going to be the Sgraffito Challenge… SURPRISE!!!

Of course I threw mine into the mix… since I was challenged to participate by Taylore…
of course, mine wasn’t in for points… just for fun!

I drafted longtime Lillstreet potter Lester to be our special “surprise” Guest Judge.
He was eager to accept, but quickly realized it’s not any easy task ranking all of this hard work from 1 to 15. He took his task very seriously, and gave some very “realistic” comments & critiques along the way. Unfortunately, he started off by saying he’s not a fan of “geometric” sgraffito… so many people had an uphill battlle to win points from Lester!

So here are the “entries” in our first “Sgraffito Surprise Challenge.” To think that they threw these platters a week ago, and they’ve already finished decorating & carving them is pretty impressive… especially when several of my students had never really tackled sgraffito!!! Amazing work team! In no particular order… until the end!

And Ryan’s accidental entry! This was his SECOND sgraffito platter!!! His back-up plan so to speak. It wasn’t intended to be in the contest since he preferred his other one. But in the mix-up of setting up and putting all platters on the table, somehow his made it into the mix! So this angler fish was part of the judging… but points values awarded were worked out to accommodate this slight mix-up.

And the big sgraffito winner… this beauty by Stacey! Even though I wasn;’t the judge… this was my favorite too. I love the way the plant is in the center and overlaps the border. Love the woodcut look of her style. And the way she cleared out the white background but left the texture and just a smidge of color in between. Now I think Stacey needs to make a set of plates like this…each with a different botanical element.

Categories: classes, creativity, lillstreet

Last week in my POTTERY THROWDOWN class, I surprised my students with the “SGRAFFITO SURPRISE”!!! We talked briefly about sgraffito and looked at some examples. And then I “sprung it on them”… one hour to decorate a black slip covered cylinder I had prepped prior to class. So much to watch how each of them approached the challenge… and tackled the blank canvas with some sharp carving tools.



Categories: classes, creativity, lillstreet, mugs, seasons

So it’s another week of The Great Lillstreet Throwdown!
And another challenge… turning their four matching mugs into The Four Seasons!

So my students brought their “greenware finished” sets of mugs to class.
They set them out for all to see… and for our special Guest Judge Sam Hostert to come in
and award them points for their efforts. Thanks to Jon for some of these beautiful photos!

It was so much fun to see how everyone approached the challenge. How to depict the Four Seasons on four mugs???… illustrative? narrative? literal? figurative? symbolically?… so many options. And only four mugs!!!

So here are the sets of mugs… in no particular order…

The Four Seasons depicted with a tree through the seasons… and a special surprise on the bottom of each mug.

A seasonally-appropriate bug on the bottom of each mug!!!

Abstract brushwork showing the color palette of the seasons… winter, spring, summer & fall.

Straight forward and quite literally… spelling it out clearly for all to see…

The phases of a lant through the season… carved & inlaid illustrations in black with color-coded interiors to help show the season. Didn’t quite make first place… but “not-so-secretly” this one was my favorite set!!!

High-contrast black & white… porcelain & black slip depicting the sunlight cycle throughout the year… shown in the amount of white “sun” in relation to the black “night”. As an added bonus… a brief explanation carved on the bottom of each mug.

The seasons as seen on a mountain top… and something to do with a “mountain meditation” too.

Sponge-painted underglazes to show the change of colors for the change of seasons.

Another tree changing through the season… snow, flowers, leaves & fall foliage.

An erudite entry… the Four Seasons as seen through alchemical symbols.

Graphic contrast in black & white symbolizing day & night through the year…
and a brilliant surprise on the bottom of each cup.

Graphic symbolism for the moon & sun attached to the sides of this set.

No one specified “which” four seasons were to represented…
so this set went more for the activities of the seasons!

And unfortunately, this entry didn’t quite work. There was a last minute attempt at applying a cut-out stencil on the side, them paingint the darker slip color over the stencil -a nd then pulling it out. Apparently in the rush to make the deadline, the stencils didn’t quite get pulled out cleanly… something stuck… something didn’t… and in the last moment she decided to paint them over and call it done. Valiant effort.

So for now, the mugs are done. They can go off to the bisque firing and then get glazed. No more challenges for these mugs… but I did ask my students to bring them back to class when they’re finished just so we can see them!








Categories: Chicago, color, creativity

On my way home this morning, I happened to pedal past this great bricolage mural on Thorndale near the lake. I love when “everyday” city spaces like fences & walls become works of art… hosting a wonderful message of art, creativity and diversity for the neighborhood.




Categories: color, creativity, lillstreet

Another great way to brighten up an otherwise dreary day is with some of the fantastic kid’s art murals hanging on the walls at Lillstreet.

So much color.
So much uninhibited creativity.
So much fun.
A great contrast to the grayness outside!



Categories: artists, Chicago, computer, creativity

Chicago flag created by the students at Lane Tech High School using laser cutters, 3D cutters & 3D printers. Each student in the LT Makers group designed & created their own “tile” as part of the overall “flag.” Each tile representing “something-Chicago” in a topographical form to make up this really cool Chicago flag being displayed at Navy Pier!



Categories: color, creativity

Dear Santa,
I know we’re less than a week away, but I just saw this today…
and I need to add it to my Wish List.
Remember how much I loved Lite-Brites when I was a kid?…
well this is even better!!! It’s the same thing, but oversized for bigger kids!!!

Like me!

And if one Sants’s Helpers needs to know where to get more information…
because the Elves are in a last minute crunch…
click here for more information about LiteZilla.






Categories: creativity, inspiration, terra cotta

Okay, so every year I add another creature to The Ghouls Collection… with the “big reveal” being at ART IN THE BARN. Each character is a Limited Edition of forty. And when they’re gone, they’re gone! And just in case you’re wondering… here’s the doodle that inspired this year’s addition!

Categories: creativity, theater, YouTube

Tickets just went on sale today for the return of “Les Miserables” to Chicago!
Coming this Fall… and opening on my birthday! Go figure. Some sort of cosmic kismet, huh?
You know it’s my favorite musical… and this choir group does an amazing job singing
basically the entire show in just nine minutes!!! Amazing!

Click here for the amazing nine minute YouTube video.

Categories: artists, creativity, sculpture

The two things that made me smile the most during the ArtWalk.
One, the fun ongoing wood project that encouraged the kids to measure, cut, drill, sand, etc to build a wooden fort right there on Ravenswood. So cute.

And two, this crazy cool assemblage sculpture piece by Mathias Schergen. A whole bunch of crazy-cool parts & pieces put together to guarantee a smile! So much fun!!!