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

In my Thursday morning pottery class, I did a little demo of my wheelthrown & handbuilt “combo” textured mugs. Well, they’re all assembled and I just dipped them in colored flashing slip. I didn’t want a bunch of crazy drips to run down onto the trimmed bottom… so I supported them upside-down on kiln posts until the slip set-up a bit.

Categories: handbuilding, patterns, textures

After spreading some “good fortune” for the New Year by hiding twenty-one fortune cookies for an “Illinois Beach State Park Scavenger Hunt”… I figured it was time to replenish the inventory a bit. So much fun to make these little cuties. This is just the first batch… I’m sure there will be more to come!!!

Categories: friends, handbuilding, inspiration, textures

Apparently Allison & Terry have become just a little “addicted” in their quest to find more of my ceramic fortune cookies at Illinois Beach State Park. Their first adventure was Saturday, and they went back again yesterday to continue their scavenger hunt!!! I love seeing their adventures… and hope that others are having fun finding more of them!!! There were 21 hidden to kick-off the New Year…

21 fortune cookies for Good Fortune in 2021 !!!

Categories: handbuilding, holiday

Apparently the Christmas Carol is correct…
Santa Claus IS indeed coming to town!!!
As I found this little festive cutie in the hallway by the Kid’s Classroom at Lillstreet Art Center!

Categories: handbuilding, patterns, soda-fired, stamped, vases

We’re kicking off DAY ELEVEN of my TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS POTTERY SALE featuring twelve soda-fired & two-sided square vases. With a different texture “picture” on each side of the vase… it’s like getting two-in-one. Get tired of one side, just turn it around!

Just scroll through the “official” Photo Album on my Fire When Ready Pottery Facebook page and if you see a square vase you want, be the first person to put a Comment of “MINE” in the Comments section of that one! I will then follow-up with a confirmation & a Facebook Message with further details. It’s that easy!!!

Click HERE to go to my Fire When Ready Pottery Facebook page.

So start shopping… be the first to claim your square vase… and then come back each day for a different pottery selection. Each of the twelve days will feature a different “category” with twelve new pieces up for sale first-come, first-serve only on my Facebook page… with a very SPECIAL event TOMORROW to celebrate Day Twelve!!!

At the end of each of the “12 days”… any unclaimed pottery will be added to My Online Pottery Store on my website … so you can still shop anytime, even if it’s on the “wrong day” of this pottery sale!!!

LARGE SQUARE VASES – 6.75″ x 6.75″ x 1.75″

MEDIUM SQUARE VASES – 5.25″ x 5.25″ x 1.75″

SMALL SQUARE VASES – 3.75″ x 3.75″ x 1.75″

Categories: handbuilding, lillstreet, summer camp

To kick-off Chess Camp Week, we have a discussion about the chess set, playing chess and how we’ll be making a full set of chess pieces in one week! And that they need to come up with a theme for their set… who is battling who???

We then do some basic handbuilding demos… score, slip, attach, repeat!!! And that everything thicker than their pinky has to be hollow! And that any mess they make, they need to clean up…. also know as Gary’s Summer Camp Rule #3!

And then the fun begins… lots of handbuilding, lots of pieces!!!

While they’re building all of their chess pieces, we also start working on painting their chess boards. We use a large sheet of wood so they can draw out their grid and paint it all with acrylic paint. We do it in stages, one color at a time… letting the first color dry overnight before tackling the second color.

Once we finish making all of the chess pieces, we started painting all of them with colorful underglazes. Once they’re done painting, their pieces will be glazed by one of our Lillstreet Monitors with a clear glaze to make the colors a bit more vibrant & colorful.

As they’re painting, we do occasionally have some “breakage” along the way… typically where there was not any scoring & slipping. I try to tell them that they will fall apart if they’re not careful… but sometimes it takes a bit of breakage to prove the point. Luckily, they have time to build a few back-up pieces! And if you look closely, sometimes there’s no scoring & slipping to be seen… even though the kids “profess” that they did score & slip!!! But the evidence shows otherwise!

So here are a few of our “finished” sets…
drying and ready to be glazed with clear glaze and fired!
Sadly, we were running so close to the deadline on Friday, that I didn’t get a chance to get photos of all the sets. We were still building a few “replacement” pieces & painting with underglaze as the parents were arriving to pick up their kids!!!

With many of the planets represented… including a “lot” of Mercury’s as pawns???

Sometimes the themes aren’t so apparent… but as long as the kids LOVE them, I’m okay with it! Like this one… if you look closely, there are some “logos” of the superheroes… and then birds are supposed to be Robins!… get it???

Complete with fire hydrant & mouse pawns!

Yes, a bit of an “odd” theme… but he was excited about it. And had a perfect plan to make it all happen. Even when I made suggestions… he had a great rationale as to why he wanted it THIS way! So he made it his own way… which he loved, as he could “see the vision” even if I struggled a bit.

Yes, frequently the kids want to make their theme based on a video game. And since I don’t do video games, I’m at a loss for words & ideas! Again… as long as he knew what he was making and had a good plan… I’m in!

And as part of Summer Camp Rule #3
We need to make sure the kids lift by the sides of the jars of underglaze… or at least make sure that they lids are screwed on really tight. Because if we don’t… THIS happens!!! Luckily, the kids are ready to do the cleaning. It’s all part of “the fun” of Summer Camp with Gary!!!

Categories: handbuilding, lillstreet, summer camp, wheelthrowing

This week was a combination of Wheelthrowing & Handbuilding. We work on wheelthrowing for the first couple days, and then switch to handbuilding on Thursday. Friday is reserved for glazing of their wheelthrown pieces, as well as finishing & slip painting of their handbuilt pieces.

But first… it’s the messy fun of WHEELTHROWING!!!
And many of them are excited to finally have a chance… as they need to be at least 8-years old to take a Wheelthrowing Camp at Lillstreet. Some of them have “waited” to be old enough to come take the wheel for a spin!

And then on Tuesday after camp… THIS happened…
This year all of our campers’ tools & clay were stored separately in Ziplock bags to keep everything safe. And then we roll this cart back & forth to class & storage afterwards. Imagine my surprise as I was turning the corner after camp… and three of the wheels popped off the cart!!! Good grief. Always something exciting to keep you on your toes!

On Thursday, we switched to handbuilding… so we had to have separate & dedicated slip containers for each camper so there would be no “sharing” of tools to contaminate anything. Luckily, I had a camper “volunteer” to fill the containers with slip for me!

So we worked all day Thursday making handbuilt dinnerware pieces & parts. A lot of making slabs by hand, draping them into Chinet plates as molds… and then “maybe”… just “maybe” a little of my stamping addiction may have rubbed off on them?!

Then on Friday they started painting their dinnerware sets with colored slips as they would be glazed with clear glaze the week after camp by one of our Lillstreet Monitors.

And as always… I keep encouraging the kids to do their fair share of the clean-up. And if that includes pushing all of the reclaim clay scraps through the grid, and then wiping it off, so be it. Someone’s got to do it, right?!

Categories: handbuilding, lillstreet, summer camp

We started camp this week with the usual introductions and discussion of our class projects. For FIRE, FORGE & FEAST, we have a LOT to get done in a short amount of time. So I need all of my campers to stay focused & engaged in the process. We do a lot of handbuilding in this camp… so there’s a LOT of scoring & slipping to be done.

And to make it one step tougher for them… I threw them a curve-ball by telling them that they needed to design their entire dinnerware set based on a Famous Artist. Somehow incorporating their style, imagery, color palette or characters into their pieces! So we started the class off with some Flash Cards of famous artworks by Famous Artists. Enough for them to get some ideas of who they might want to focus on for their project. Little did they know that the Flash Cards “Game” would continue all week long until they had them ALL memorized!!!

We started glazing everything on Wednesday. For the kids’ terra cotta projects, we use a once-fired color glaze so we can get their pieces back on Friday. The colors are limited, but easy to use… and they will be darker, shiny & more colorful after firing.

As the glazing continued, I set up a fun splatter glazing station for Graham in the hallway. We set out his pieces on a large piece of paper and let him go! Of course he had a full understanding of Gary’s Summer Camp Rule #3… whatever mess you make, you WILL be cleaning up! So he did a great job of keeping his splatters as contained as possible!

And one of the best parts… as he made painter’s palette platters…
he now had JACKSON POLLOCK PAINTER’S PALETTE SPLATTER PLATTERS!!! Say that three times fast!

And while the splattering was going on… Eve had a little more time to make a few more side plates. Such attention-to-detail… as I would expect… as this was her THIRD TIME taking my Fire, Forge & Feast Camp!!!

As the first kiln was unloaded, we got their ceramic handles for the cutlery. They figured out which ones fit best, and then I epoxied them together. Not quite as much fun as previous years when we actually made them in the Metalsmithing Department of Lillstreet… but these desperate times called for desperate measures!

So their dinnerware sets started coming out of the kiln… still warm, bit now more colorful. We started setting them out as a set to see how everything goes together. Unfortuantely, not everything made it out of the kiln… as some of it was put into a “second kiln” that wasn’t quite done by the end of camp on Friday. So the kids had to come back later to pick-up their stuff… and I didn’t quite get photos of everything!

So here are some of the FIRE, FORGE & FEAST dinnerware sets…
based on the work & style of some Famous Artists!!!


Including a “plate-elevating-stand” based on the Calder sculpture downtown called “The Flamingo.”

Every kids favorite when they realize the get to splatter everything!!!

JIM DAVIS – cartoonist of the “Garfield” series
Complete with chopsticks as whiskers!!!





HAYAO MIYAZAKI – Artist & director of the anime’ classic “Spirited Away.”

And then potluck on Friday… the FEAST portion of Fire, Forge & Feast.
It was questionable as to whether or not we could pull-off a potluck feast during Covid Pandemic times. No such things as bringing homemade treats in any more. No more sharing. No more finger-licking!!!

Luckily, we did it… all with pre-packaged, individual serving foods that the kids brought in. We separated them onto plates so everyone had one of each. They then went back to their “assigned” safe work space to feast! I did have to tell them there would be no sharing, exchanging or passing around of their treats. Once on their plate – it was theirs!!! And it was one of the weirdest conglomerations of potluck food that Lillstreet has EVER seen!!!

At the end of camp, we did a little Pop Quiz on the famous artists that they had been memorizing all week long. They had over fifty artists on the list… so I had them write them all down as I showed the flash cards. And here’s the kicker… they needed first AND last names!!! I told them that spelling didn’t matter unless there was a tie.

After fifty-some flash cards, Jo was the big winner!!!
Just missed one… just one FIRST NAME!!!
Had the last name… but forgot Anish.

So the BIG PRIZE was the demo plate I had made earlier in the week!
Looks like Jo was pretty pleased with the prize!!!
And I was more than pleased with another successful week of Summer Camp!!!

Categories: artists, handbuilding, sculpture, summer camp

So we started with a little “art introduction” of sculptor Robert Indiana and his works. We discussed his style, design & concept…. and they all got excited to build their first sculpture based on his work. So the challenge for each of them was to build a large version of this sculpture using their own names!!! A LOT of handbuilding… but I was confident they could do it!!!

The campers started by drawing out the letters for their names. I encouraged them to have some sort of style & design… like maybe adding serifs to the letters?! Then the kids started making their slabs and cutting out their large letters. To make them a 3-dimensional letter, they needed to cut-out two of every letter to make the front & back.

Some of them were so pleased with their letters… and even the canvas covered boards that they worked on. Making an overlapped letter outline masterpiece!!!

After a quick demo on how to assemble their letters, they all set off for a LOT of scoring & slipping! I kept telling them that I can “pretty much guarantee” that of they don’t score & slip… their piece will fall apart! So they were all very diligent with their assembly!

At the end of Day One, I made sure that my campers did a full cleaning of their workspaces. Each kid with their own dedicated space to be safely distant from the other campers. And as part of Rule #3… whatever mess they make, THEY will be cleaning up… and that includes the FLOOR!!!

After stacking & assembling their name letter sculptures, the kids started painting them with glaze. It’s a special glaze that we use for some of our Summer Camp projects. They can paint it on “raw” terra cotta for a single firing. The colors will be darker & shiny when they come out of the kiln!

FAST FORWARD TO FRIDAY : The Last Day of Sculpture Camp
And also the day that the kid’s sculptures came out of the kiln. Always exciting when there are no “explosions” or severe breakage during the firings. Sure, we may have lost a couple feet off the bottoms… but everything still stood up well. And maybe next time they’ll remember to score & slip a little better?!

NEXT UP : My Summer Campers had to shift gears to start another sculpture for the rest of their week. This time, much larger and made with plaster gauze!!!

Categories: artists, clay, handbuilding

Just sharing a little TEXTURE TUESDAY flashback… back to last week when Pam posted this for her Texture Tuesday post! And flashing back even further to wonderful memories of her amazing Northwoods cabin, the beautiful lake, the tranquility, serenity and the fun of leaving behind a handmade ceramic leaf for her to find!!!