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

It’s so WEIRD walking through the first floor classrooms when there is absolutely no one there! Just a quiet reminder of the fun we’ve had there… and the hope that we can get back to it soon enough. I miss my students!!!

Categories: classes, lillstreet

After decorating their tiles, I decided to do some quick demos for them on three basic bowls. I had the best intentions… but this time it didn’t go all that well. Valiant effort… loved one of the demos… ha some slip issues.. and some timing concerns!

Anyways… we started here with three basic bowls…

My first”plan” was to take a bunch of colored slip and do some well-planned dripping effects on the interior of the bowl. In theory, it’s not that hard. However… the full layer fo white slip was great, the bands of black were good too… bu tthe green slip was FAR TOO THICK!!! It just kinda clumped on in place, and didn’t do any running down!!! And then to make matters worse, the red slip was far too watery!!! Yep, shoulda checked all that out before class, right?! If all goes well, the colored slips “glide” down the side and kinda pushes the colors down along the way. You can see a bit of the black bands being pushed down by the green.

But if you look closely… you can also see that there is a black drip in the lower right corner that is pushing UP!!! Well, after the demo wasn’t going to well, I decided to just push the pedal down all the way and let the slip fly!!! I expected the slip to blend more like old-school spin art… still too thick… but it did splatter & fly. Not into the splash pan… but luckily my shorts were there to catch the flying slip!!!

My second plan was to do a “tie-dye” effect with colored slip… in honor of PROJECT RUNWAY!!! Yes, seems like this week’s episode of PROJECT RUNWAY was focusing on tie-dye becoming high fashion! Who knew that I’ve been a tie-dyed trendsetter for so many years and never quite knew it?!

Anyway… I should my students how to do some marbling with colored slips…
the closest I could come up with to be a tie-dyed effect! Just pour some “puddles” of colored lsip into the bowl, and then swirl. twist, squiggle and swirl some more… and then pour out the excess. Just that easy… easy-peezy!

BOWL #3 –
My third plan was to do several layers of color slips squiggled & painted on some newspaper. The plan is that the water seeps into the newspaper and lets the slip stiffen up. After several layers of slip, and enough time on the newspaper, you can cut out sections, lift them up carefully and place them onto the surface of the bowl almost like an applique. Sadly, I didn’t start the squiggles & layers soon enough… as I was having too much fun watching them play with their tiles… time got away from me… and my slip never quite set-up enough to cut * apply. So I told them we would try to do it again next week… and I would start a LOT sooner!!

Luckily, my students LOVED the marbled “tie-dye” effect… and all fun & excitement ensued!!!
And they were “tasked” with another challenge…. to decorate their “blindfolded bowl” with one of the tree techniques. And since only one of them really worked… there was a lot of marbling of slip!

While others were too busy finger-painting… and loving it like a four-year old!!!

So here are a couple of our “tie-dyed” bowls…

And one of the dripped slip technique… working a bit better than MY demo!!!

And does anyone see a face in this one, or is it just me?!!!

Unfortunately, one of the “blindfold bowls” didn’t quite survive.
It was far too wet going into the challenge.. and the layers of slip just didn’t help any!



Categories: lillstreet, mosaic

Enjoying a splash of color on a grey & dreary Sunday afternoon
in the back hallway at Lillstreet Art Center.
Thanks to the kids and their colorful grout to brighten up the place!

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!




Categories: bowls, classes, lillstreet

So excited to be starting off the THIRD “season” of my pottery challenges & contests class….

We started with introductions, explained a few overviews & expectations of the class. A couple of my students are returning to the Throwdown from previous “seasons”… so it couldn’t have been too tough if they’ve come back for more, right???

Then I broke out the first challenge… as they were tasked with throwing their “best” 3-pound serving bowl. They were told what parameters we would be looking for… even wall thickness, no heavy bottoms, nicely curved interior, no “beginner’s ledge” inside, and a purposeful rim. They had 30 minutes to work on their bowl… which is sometimes tough when you have “too much time” to overthink & overwork the piece. Throwing the 3-pound bowl was tough for some as we’ve all been on a long holiday break… and this was their very first thrown piece since we all left classes before Christmas!

When they had all finished their bowls, we gathered at the table to discuss & critique them. We looked at the interior curves, the bottom “foot” areas, and the ways some people took it a step further and started decorating their bowls already… even though this was a “throwing” challenge, and not a “decorating” challenge!

They thought we were choosing the winner… but I never told them that this was going to be in a “judged” challenge! So then I pulled out another envelope that told them there was a twist and another challenge. And that was that they now needed to throw another 3-pound bowl to MATCH their first one! They had shown me that they could make nice bowls… now they just needed to do it AGAIN!!!

There was a lot of measuring with calipers and visually comparing them as they were trying their best to match their second bowl to their first.

After 45 minutes, they brought their matching bowls to the table where we proceeded to discuss and critique. We talked about how they matched… how some of them didn’t in some places… and overall they all did AMAZING!!!

It was going to be pretty tough to pick the winner… so we got very nit-picky pretty quick to pick between the Top Three. When they’re all so good, it comes down to the finest of details. There were rulers, calipers and a LOT of squatting-down profile viewings!

Huge congrats to Jacob & Dana for coming in first & second in our very first Throwdown Challenge!!!

But we weren’t REALLY done yet… the final challenge was that they needed to choose their “favorite” of their own two bowls… and then pass it over three places to the right. They now had one of their own, and one of another student’s! Their week-long challenge is that they need to do their best trimming & refining of both bowls before the next class!



Categories: classes, lillstreet, wheelthrowing

So fun to be back from the holidays… and kicking off a new session of pottery classes! My Beginning Wheelthrowing class started last night with some returning faces, a good number of newbies and a lot of enthusiasm!!!… oh yeah, and some OREOs too!!!


Categories: Chicago, lillstreet

Big equipment outside of Lillstreet… working on the Metra train line and taking up a LOT of much-needed parking spaces!!!

Categories: kiln firing, lillstreet

An empty soda kiln filled with potential & possibility.
Gotta love the patina, colors & textures created by soda build-up & residue
from the frequent firings in the Lillstreet soda kiln.

Categories: lillstreet

Looks like the Wheel C classroom is coming along nicely with brand new shelving for the students… can’t wait to see everyone filing them up!!! My new class starts next Tuesday night!!! Just hoping it’s not a crazy, mad-dash-rush to get the good ones… although we all know it will be!

Categories: lillstreet

And it looks like someone else had been busy too… new shelves are already going up in the Wheel C classroom… looks like we’ll actually have new shelves ready when the new class session starts next week at Lillstreet!