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

This week in my Tuesday night Beginning & Advanced Beginning Wheelthrowing class, we tackled making bowls. Yep… making bowls on purpose instead of a cylinder gone bad. I started with my bowl demo… starting with a good interior curve right from the start! After we had covered all of the “basocs” of basic bowls… they went back to their whee;s to start throwing their own bowls. Meanwhile… I continued throwing more bowls. A total of EIGHTEEN “basic” bowls.

When I had made all of MY owls, we re-grouped at my wheel for a little “decorating” FUN!!! My goal for the secodn part of the demo is to encourage them to PLAY WITH THEIR CLAY!!! To do some decorating… to make thier bowls their own. The wheel pretty much makes them round… now they get to make them their own style!!! So I quickly took my 18 “matching” bowls and started doing some quick & simple “tricks” to make them all different & special!!!

Bowl One – Here’s the “basic” bowl.. the starting point for all the others!!!

Bowl Two – Two simple “flutes” to add some flair. One finger inside, one finger outside. pinch and twist.

Bowl Three – And if two flutes are cute, maybe eight would be better?!

Bowl Four – A simple one-inch flange bent out to “widen” the bowl.

Bowl Five – And if one-inch is nice, maybe three inches would be better?!

Bowl Six – And then a combined, bent-out flange and four fluted twists.

Bowl Seven – Using a metal dragon-scaling tool… a simple flower indented in the bottom.

Bowl Eight – A split-rim pinched together in eight places.

Bowl Nine – Another split rim – dented inwards at four places.

Bowl Ten – Another split rim this time dented inwards four times, and outwards four times!

Bowl Eleven – This was last session’s “challenge” bowl… a TRIPLE split rim and then fluted in eight places. My students from last session now refer to this one as the “churro” bowl!

And then I introduced my “beginner’s” to colored slip… and then benefits.

Bowl Twelve – a simple coat of thick white slip  applied and then a spiral dragged through it with the curved end of my wooden knife… which I’ve now been told is called “The Potter’s Thumb.”

We noticed that the thick white slip wasn’t showing up very well for my demo purposes…
so we switched to black!

Bowl Thirteen – A layer of black slip – and then banded rings with “The Potters Thumb.”

Bowl Fourteen – A layer of black slip, and then a chattered pattern made by rhythmic tapping of a rounded rib as the bowl is spinning.

Bowl Fifteen – A layer of black slip, followed by some thick white slip squirt-bottled onto the surface… ala Ryan Greenheck!

Bowl Sixteen – Then using the same squirt bottle, I piped on a white slip spiral.

Bowl Seventeen – Using a couple strips of wet newspaper, I outlined a triangle… layered in some thick white slip, draged my finer through it to make some texture lines and then peeled away the newspaper “stencils.”

Bowl Eighteen – Always up for a challenge… this is the one this session. Stacey was sitting-in on class and she saw this bowl on her Instagram feed. So I tried my best to “mimic” the style… flaring out the flanged rim, denting down the four accent areas, and then piping some thick white slip accents. Coincidentally, Stacey was also the one who challenged me to the triple rim “churro” bowl last session

So for now they’re all “under wraps” in my studio. I think there’s a”very good chance” that there might still be a bit of embellishing & stamping to be done on them… maybe, just maybe?!




Categories: creativity, inspiration, lillstreet

So fun to see some of the LILLSTREET THROWDOWN projects coming out of the kiln… like this incredible “creamer” from the Beatles Sugar & Creamer challenge! Well done Jon!!!… everyone needs an adorable yellow submarine in their life!


Categories: classes, lillstreet, mugs

Tonight in my Beginners Wheelthrowing class, we tackled mugs and it’s only their second week!!! Sure, one of them might not hold much liquid… but it was Mario’s first pot, first time trimming and first time adding a handle. I told him I t will only get better!!!

Categories: classes, lillstreet

Every challenge needs winners… and ribbons.. and a TROPHY!!! Right?
After twenty-eight challenges in just 10 weeks of class, we finally have some winners!!!
And surprisingly, we were just a dozen points difference between the top three places!!!

First off… the ribbons… all well-deserved in my book at least!!!

So let’s break it down a little bit more…

BEST TAG-TEAM – Patti & Jon


And now for the TOP WINNERS!!!


SECOND PLACE – we had a tie!!!…. TAYLOR & TATIANA

And for the BIG WINNER… a TROPHY TOO!!!

And our BIG WINNER!!!

as the “dark horse” and the only primarily handbuilder in the class. I must admit I was questioning if she would be able to keep up with the wheelthrowers… but she SHINED!!! Her creativity, boundless enthusiasm, and willingness to try anything made her the winner!!!

Huge thanks to all of my wonderful students this session! I had so much fun “playing” with all of you this session! Thank you for always sucking it up and playing along with the challenges. Thanks for the camaraderie & supportive nature you all brought to the class. I’ve always thought that pottery classes should be fun, social and community building… and we’ve proven once again that they can be! Thanks again for the great class.


Left to right, kind of… David, Teresa, Jacob, Molly, Ryan, Tatiana, Taylor, Jon, Claire, Donna, Patti and Susan! You guys were the BEST!!!



Categories: classes, food, lillstreet

It’s the last week for my pottery classes… and we like to celebrate with some potluck yummies. Last night we had a great spread… much in thanks to Patty for bringing this beautiful tray of delectable yumminess!

Categories: classes, lillstreet

Well we’re nearing the end of the Second Annual LILLSTREET THROWDOWN class.
So for this week’s in-class challenge, we re-visited a few of our previous challenges with a twist. We divided into two teams and had everyone decide which of six challenges each team player was going to tackle. Twist was… they didn’t know what challenge each was! After they all signed up for their challenge “number”… we rolled the dice to randomly assign project challenges to each number! So they all started working on their assigned challenge… so all six challenges were going on simultaneously.

But after 15 minutes… the timer went OFF!!!    Wait?… what?!!!!

After the first fifteen minutes they all found out that they had to ROTATE to continue working on someone else’s project. Yes, they were going to switch & rotate every 15 minutes for four rotations to finish each challenge. So they needed to work as a team, share information at every rotation, and keep everything on pace so as to finish ALL six challenge projects in the one hour time frame.

Everyone was so focused… and it was surprisingly quiet...
except for the crazy commotion & confusion during rotations!!!

And because one of our students was “out sick” for the night… I had to draft one of my Tuesday night students to fill in to keep the teams even. Thanks to Katie for stepping up and joining in our crazy fun!!!

At the end of the hour… and four complete rotations… we had a table full of projects!
Lots of “matching” challenges… some successful, some not so much…

So here they are side-by-side…  one team versus another!







whoops… and the “other” side…

And the other team’s winning spheres…


Pretty hard to judge… especially when you see all four all lined up…


Categories: bowls, lillstreet, special events

Last night was another successful EMPTY BOWLS fundraiser at Lillstreet…
raising lots of money for First Slice to help feed the hungry.
And while lots of people picked their bowls… others picked their…

Categories: classes, creativity, food, lillstreet

To kick-off our party last Wednesday night, my students took on the “FACE THE COOKIE” Challenge from Minute-To-Win-It. Basically, you put a cookie on your forehead… and then slowly move the cookie down with just facial muscles & expressions… until you get the cookie in your mouth! So I made a challenge… succeed with the cookie in the mouth in one minute and they would get an additional “five minute advantage” in one of the two challenges in class that night.

Crazy fun for everyone… perhaps too much fun… as we got shooshed a bit…
and told to keep it down. How dare we have too much fun in class?!!!

And yes… they “forced” me to give it a try too… harder than it looks…
but the REWARD of success is pretty darn sweet!





Categories: bowls, lillstreet, special events, stamped

Just a “few” of the HUNDREDS of handmade ceramic bowls that will be part of tonight’s
EMPTY BOWLS fundraiser at Lillstreet Art Center. Stop by tonight from 5:00-8:00pm
to help the needy, have some hot soup and keep your new handmade bowl.

Attendees will choose from a selection of $25 ceramic bowls, handmade
and donated by Lillstreet artists, enjoy a delicious serving of soup, and leave with
a unique piece of art… all while giving back to the Chicago Community.
All funds raised will benefit First-Slice Cafe‘s initiatives to fight hunger in Chicago,
serving close to 4,000 meals to those in need each month.

Stop by early to get your “best choice” of bowls… including a dozen of MINE!!!


Categories: clay, lillstreet

In one of the wheelthrowing rooms at Lillstreet, there’s a large plaster bat divided in two sides… one side for clean porcelain, the other side for everything else! Apparently someone left a pile of reclaimed clay slurry on the plaster bat… quite possibly on the wrong side?!!!

You’ve got to love the question… and the response… and the fact the clay is STILL there on the plaster bat!!! Unattended. Not claimed. Sure to be completely dried by the morning.