Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: kiln firing, studio

Always a good sign to see…
four little letters that make me VERY happy!!

Categories: kiln firing, pottery, process, production, studio

Just like something out of “The Wizard Of Oz”…
a bucket of water takes down the Wicked Witch of the West!!!
Well, it didn’t take a bucket… and there wasn’t a witch…
but there was a lot of MELTING!!!

So when I was loading my bisque kiln, I was loading boards full of pieces into the kiln. Many of the boards had been stored in the kiln room for a couple weeks… to dry out… as well as to get them out of my small studio space! Some of them have been there for a couple days… some for a couple weeks.

To my surprise… when I took down a board of twelve mugs from the top shelf… and found that “something” had happened to a few of them. They looked weird, and it took some time for me to process what had occured.

Apparently, there was some sort of water dripping down onto them over time. That’s the best solution I’ve come up with. There’s a electrical pipe running along the ceiling about an inch from the corner. Which I think would lineup with the drip marks on the mugs. Yes… if you look closely… I believe this is “erosion” from repeated water drips falling on them!

It had to be happening for awhile… as you can also see drips on the wall! And the amount of “melting” is kinda crazy… I think this must have been going on for quite some time! And since it was on the top shelf and out of eye-sight… who knew?!

You can actually see where there’s an actual hole all the way RIGHT THRU the bottom of the mug!!!… drip… drip… drip… kinda like Chinese Water Torture during the War!!!

Luckily, the mugs can just be broken up and reclaimed again… IT’S JUST CLAY, right?! And I’ve learned a valuable lesson… no more greenware storage on the top shelf… at least not pushed all the way back… until we find out why water might be dripping from an electrical pipe?! Now THAT doesn’t sound good either, right?!

Categories: kiln firing, process, production

I’m so used to cranking out as much pottery as I can usually this time of year. You know, getting ready for all of the summer art fairs. Racing to meet deadlines. Scheduling and working towards kiln dates… work, work, work. But this whole Coronavirus thing is really screwing up my mojo! With all of the summer art fairs being cancelled one after another, it’s weird to NOT have that kind of pressure & incentive to keep busy in the studio. Plus, the fact that there is NO ONE around in the studio… there’s no excitement or “energy” there either! It’s just WEIRD.

But, I have been working in the studio… trying to keep busy… trying to maintain some sort of “normalcy” in my life. Trying to find it anywhere I can! So I finally made enough work to fill a bisque kiln. So here it is… layer-by=layer. Not my tightest packed kiln… but it did feel good loading & closing the lid!

Bisque Layer #1 – mugs, oval vases, bowls & ornaments

Bisque Layer #2 – more oval vases, bowls, square vases, berry bowls and more ornaments!

Bisque Layer #3 – sgraffito platters, platters, spoon rests, tiny bowls and a square vase!

Bisque Layer #4 – more berry bowls, mugs, bowls and couple square vases

Bisque Layer #5 – small plates for berry bowls stacked to fit.

i didn’t think I even had quite enough work to fill the kiln. Turns out that I did… as there were still a few pieces that didn’t quite fit into this load. Luckily, the top shelf worked out pretty well… loading pretty much right to the top. Not a lot of extra space there!

Categories: kiln firing, ornaments, process, studio

As I was leaving the studio today, I left this festive “bowl-full-of-fun” in the kiln room just In case someone has room in their bisque kiln. I’m guessing these might there for quite awhile… luckily, dust will burn right off!!!

Categories: kiln firing, process, production

When asked if I have any greenware to help fill a bisque kiln… the answer is almost always YES!!! This impromptu loading happened thanks to Mary who only had a few pieces from a workshop she taught that needed to be fired… and I’m ALWAYS willing to help!

Categories: kiln firing, soda-fired, textures

This past weekend was my 3-Night Soda-Firing Workshop. A quick introduction to the many wonders of soda-firing. We glazed, wadded, loaded, fired, cooled, unloaded, cleaned, admired and potluck’d all in three days! A lot of work… but it all starts with an empty kiln. Perfect for TEXTURE TUESDAY!!!

Categories: classes, kiln firing, soda-fired, workshop

I started firing the soda kiln early in the morning…
trying hard to “schedule it” so that my students would be returning in the evening at the “right time” to help add the soda mixture into the kiln. The firing was pretty smooth… everything going as planned. Cones were melting & dropping as planned. I was checking the kiln every half hour to make sure everything was good.

Unfortunately, when I went down to check on the kiln at 6:00pm…
it was OFF!!! Yes, the entire kiln was OFF!!! Shut down!!!

Of course… panic ensued. Students were arriving… asking how it was going… I was freaking out. Luckily, Fred & Levi were in the building… both skilled soda kiln firers… and they helped diagnose the problem. After at least 20 minutes of the kiln being off… plus the time it took us to diagnose & fix… Levi finally got the kiln turned back on!!! Whoo-hoo!!!

HUGE THANKS to Fred & Levy who finally got the kiln up & running again.

However, it took awhile for us to get back up to temperature… and then to get it to move even further. We were right around cone six going down when the kiln shut down. All of the workshop students were there waiting… watching… asking questions… but we all know… A WATCHED KILN NEVER FIRES! At some point, you just need to open up the air & gas and let the kiln do its own thing. FIRE!!!

So we waited… we chatted… we hung-out… we waited some more… Those who were Lillstreet students had projects they could work on while we were waiting. But Charles & Cassie were stuck doing nothing… until Jacob offered up two bowls that needed to be decorated. So he decided a little “collaboration” would be great… giving them each a bowl he made for the LILLSTREET THROWDOWN class and some black underglaze!

Finally we were up & running… temperature rising, cones going down. My students weighed-out and mixed-up the soda mixture of soda ash, soda bicarbonate, whiting & wood chips. As the kiln got up to the top temperatures, we started adding the mixture into the kiln using a long angle iron inserted through the peeps on the sides right above the side fire boxes. Safety fire gloves & respirators were added to keep everyone safe!!!

When we had finally inserted all of the soda mixture into the kiln, I let it fire for about a half hour longer so that the soda mixture could float around a bit longer to “soak” inside the kiln! They loved the flames shooting out of the kiln. A lot of reduction going on. A lot of soda flying about.

After that, I shut it down… on purpose this time! It was a VERY long day of firing with a bit of panic in the middle. My workshop participants were very understanding & helpful. All with fingers crossed that this kiln “issue” in the middle wouldn’t affect their pots in a negative way. I guess we’ll find out on Monday when we unload the kiln as a group.

Categories: classes, kiln firing, pottery, soda-fired

Tonight was the kick-off of my 3-Night Soda-Firing Workshop at Lillstreet Art Center. I’ve been firing the soda kiln for awhile now, and it’s always fun to share some of that knowledge with my students. The first thing I always stress is that soda-firing is very random based on the air flow of the flames & where the soda mixture lands. So we can “try our best” to plan for want we want… but no guarantees!!!

We started with a discussion & overview of soda-firing… then quickly moved onto glazing & wading our pieces. It was great to have some of my current & past student sin the workshop, as well as a couple “newbies” to Lillstreet. The group bonded quickly and were very helpful – working as a team to get everything glazed & wadded.

Once we were all glazed & wadded, we started to load the soda kiln. Always an interactive project with all students taking time to understand the process, the placement and the hopeful results of how location in the kiln might affect their final fired results. And then the loading began…

We discussed air flow, and how it will affect their pieces. The importance of putting different clay bodies in different areas of the kiln as each kind has a different finished effect. Luckily, we had just the right amount of work to put into the kiln… with just a few of my own pots to help fill-in here & there!

Once fully loaded, we added in the cone packs and then started closing up the brick door. Brick-by-brick. layer-by-layer…

When the door was finally bricked & closed… we called it for the night. For tomorrow I will fire the kiln, with students coming back in the evening to help add the soda mixture into the kiln.

Categories: classes, kiln firing, lillstreet, soda-fired

Ever wanted to try soda-firing your pottery but don’t have access to a soda-kiln?
Wanna come play with us and learn about soda-firing at the same time?
Like playing with fire???

Well lookey here… I’m teaching a 3-Night Soda-Firing workshop at Lillstreet Art Center
in a few weeks! You bring some bisqued pots and we’ll soda-fire them together.
Just a few spaces left!!!

From the Lillstreet Ceramics Instagram news feed…
Get an introduction to the processes involved in soda firing. Friday night, bring in bisque for slip, glazing, and wadding. Then load and close the kiln. Return Saturday evening for two hours for the adding of the soda to the kiln. Monday evening, set aside four hours to unload, clean the kiln, potluck & critique.

This workshop will meet:
Friday, February 21 from 6-10pm
Saturday, February 22 from 7-9pm
Monday, February 24 from 6-10pm

This is an intermediate/advanced workshop. Students must have one year of ceramics experience to register.

Click here for more information & registration details!

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Categories: kiln firing

Two bisque kilns… two CPLT messages! Always a good sign to see with a lot of work firing in the kiln. Even if it was over a month ago, and I’m just now getting around to posting about them!!!