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

As posted on Facebook this morning…
Looks like one of my Facebook Fans will be joining my Beginning & Advanced Beginning Wheelthrowing Class tonight at Lillstreet. If she’s been a “fan” for seven years, I hope I don’t disappoint?! That’s a lot of pressure to live up to. I may need to step up my game a bit?… and bring a LOT of Oreo’s?!!!

Categories: classes, lillstreet, soda-fired

It’s amazing how fast a ten-week session can go by. This past Tuesday was the last class for our Winter session of classes. And my students out-did themselves once again!!!

Each session I like to challenge them with a class project. We all work on a similar piece and then we do some sort of White Elephant Trading Game. They each bring in their finished piece and we all admire & trade… then everyone goes home with someone else’s piece. So much fun for everyone… and great motivation for everyone to make something that they’re “proud enough of” to share and trade in the end.

So this session’s challenge was to make an oval. My brand new beginner’s had it a little bit easier… whereas my Advanved Beginners were challenged to make a lidded oval!!! And they all took it on with wreckless abandon!!!

Emily made this sweet little oval with carved vertical lines a temoku glaze.

Ryan made his oval glazed with Shaner White glaze and blue brushstrokes.

Lily went for a two-tone glaze dip with a beautiful overlap in the center.

Kerry missed the oval a bit, but made a great lidded round casserole with Reitz Green glaze.

Tony‘s oval casserole has a great rustic glaze to it.

Katie went for a two-tone Shaner White and Aviva’s Blue contrasting oval casserole.

Stacey used Reitz Green glaze to finish her oval, giving her a nice metallic finish on the lid.

Taylore used a color accent in her gallery, and a great pop of red inside the knob. A great contrast to the Shaner White glaze finish. Even better, and sadly no photo, but the inside has the same red pop of color too!!!

Melissa emphasized her oval and handle with a cobalt stain on Matte White glaze.

Rachel went with a traditional Shino glaze and got some wonderful variations.

Catherine went perfectly white on her perfect white porcelain.

Grace did a wonderful combination glaze on the outside of her casserole…

But it’s REALLY all about the inside of Grace’s oval that has me enamored!!!

And now you see why… my little stamping prodigy….

Susan, one of my class TA’s, offered up her graphic black & white porcelain oval.

Patty‘s oval didn’t quite turn out to her liking…
so she offered up a set of three bowls in place of her oval casserole!

Steven‘s oval casserole came home with me after the trade!!! And I LOVE it.
With a subtle matte glaze combination and a graphic stamp pattern…

But it’s the “surprise” pattern stamped on the inside that slays it!!!

And you know I’ve got to play along with the game, so I made an oval casserole for the trade as well. Surprisingly, mine is stamped and soda-fired!!! Ha!!!

And a few more “glamour” shots…
with a colored slip on the lid, and a few sprays of Josh Green glaze before soda-firing…

Huge thanks to my students for playing along. And for always embracing this little class challenge I like to throw at them every session. We’ve done bowls, mugs, plates, more mugs, and now ovals. I’m gonna need to think of something cool to top this one!!!

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Categories: artists, flowers, gallery, lillstreet, vases

Last night was the Lillstreet Gallery Annex Opening Reception for a vase show featuring the ceramics faculty. So many great vases with different styles & techniques showcasing the teachers at Lillstreet Art Center.

FLOURISH : Lillstreet Ceramics Faculty Showcase
Lillstreet Gallery Annex : March 3 – April 9, 2017

Catherine Tweedie & Lisa Harris

Sharon Hartshorne

Les Orenstein & David Bromley

Sam Hostert

David Todd Trost & Nolan Baumgartner

Corinne D. Peterson & Kyle Johns

Mary Drabik & Susan Messer-McBride

Robin Power

Chris Chaney & Catherine Schwalbe

David Hartshorne

And my blue stamped vase…
next to a vase by Jason Lawfer with some VERY dramatic greenery…

Special thanks to Brian who coordinated this gallery show and furnished the flowers…
and even MORE flowers at the very last minute!!! The show looks great Brian!
Thanks for showcasing the Lillstreet ceramic instructors!!!

Okay, back to me… one more shot of my stamped & soda-fired blue vase…
finished off with some very last minute flowers from Brian – Thanks!

March 3 – April 9, 2017

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Categories: lillstreet, sunset

Yesterday was pretty gloomy… yet surprisingly warm again for the middle of February. It wasn’t until I got to Lillstreet that I finally got treated to a beautiful sky show. Another amazing sunrise from atop Lillstreet just before class started last night.

Categories: classes, lillstreet, soda-fired

Registration for the Spring Session at Lillstreet Art Center has just opened.
I will once again be teaching my Tuesday night Beginning & Advanced Beginning Wheelthrowing class. But NEW this Spring, I will also be teaching a Simply Soda class on Monday nights! An beginner’s introduction to the atmospheric soda firing process!!! Sign-up quickly, as hopefully both classes will fill fast!!!

Click here for the Lillstreet Art Center website to register today!!!
The new 10-week session of classes begin March 27th, 2017.

SIMPLY SODA – Mondays 7:00-10:00pm
BEGINNING & ADVANCED BEGINNING WHEELTHROWING – Tuesdays 7:00-10:0pm

 

Categories: artists, lillstreet, pottery, process

Last night at Lillstreet Art Center, we had a great little workshop by one of the Artist-In-Residence Artists before my class. Nolan Baumgartner demo’d three different large platters… but more importantly, three different techniques of centering & throwing them. Since the demo was right before my class, I encouraged my students to come an hour early. Even though my students are mostly Advanced Beginners, it’s always good to watch someone throwing pottery. Even if their skill sets aren’t quite ready to tackle this amount of clay!

Platter #1 – Traditional Centering
Nolan started with a large ball of porcelain… about 20 pounds. He muscled & finessed his way through centering the clay in the traditional way. Locking in his elbows and pressing everything to the center. He then started throwing a large cylinder with a slight angle inwards before the pull of centrifugal force sets in. You could just see my students soaking up every little bit… intrigue, concern and understanding.

But when Nolan pulled out the blow torch…. WATCH OUT!!!!
My students were mesmerized... and I had to nip it in the bud. I don’t even allow my Beginning students to use fans or blow dryers. So when they saw Nolan using an open flame to help stiffen his clay quickly, I knew I was in trouble!!! But I kept “glaring” at my students with my best “don’t even think about it” look!

After stiffening up his clay a bit, Nolan went back to doing some more shaping of his platter… flaring out the flange wider & lower. And look at my students Taylore, Patty and Catherine right there closely watching his every move!

Some finishing touches and Platter #1 was ready to be set aside.

Platter #2 : Centering Layered Balls of Clay
For his second platter, Nolan started with centering a 5-pound ball of clay. He then carefully set another 5-pound ball of clay on top of it… and then slapped and centered it downwards.

After smoothing & centering the second five pounds onto the bottom five pounds…
Nolan added another 5-pounds on top making it a total of 15 pounds of clay. Again, centering the top ball of clay down onto the centered bottom two-thirds. Once he had all three balls of clay centered & incorporated, Nolan went back to throwing the second platter similar to the first one.

And then again… THE BLOW TORCH!!!
Really?… you’re killin’ me! I know I’m going to need to “re-direct” my beginning students a bit when we get back to my classroom! But for Nolan’s large porcelain platters, I get it. Especially for a workshop demo like this. If he pushed it too far too fast, the porcelain platter would just flop down.

A little more shaping with ribs, and a little more blow torching, and Platter #2 was ready to set aside.

Platter #3 : Pounded, Paddled, Beat-up and Fluted Platter
For this one, Nolan started with another large ball of wedged porcelain. He set it on the wheel and slapped it around a bit until it was close to centered. But his third technique was to make this platter WITHOUT centering it the traditional way. So he started slapping it down while the wheel was rotating slowly with open palms.

Once it was “kinda” centered, he then pulled out a square mallet… and started pounding!!!
The wooden mallet is covered with a white gym sock. Again, pounding the clay evenly as the wheel is rotating slowly. I think the trick is to keep the spacing even, as well as the strength & power of each pounding of the mallet.

Pounding the sides, then the top… then the sides…. and the top again…
Getting it more & more centered, compressed and flattened out.

When it gets low enough, flat enough, and centered enough… Nolan switched to pounding it with a closed fist. Again, rhythmic pounding as the wheel is rotating slowly.

At some point, the clay is “centered” and it was time to throw the rest of the platter the “normal” way. Since this was the third and final platter, Nolan decided to decorate this one with his special fluted technique. He did a split rim, and then curled up even spaced areas using an MKM Decorating Disk.

A quick pinch and a pull upwards…

And since the clay was still a bit squishy & slumpy, Nolan likes to use some clay “logs” to hold up the fluted points. A quick hand-squished coil to put in… kinda like flying buttresses.

Once supported, Nolan then curves the spaces between the pinches downward to give it some sexy curves.

Huge thanks to Nolan for sharing his tricks & techniques. My students loved the demo, as did all of the other students who came to his workshop. He definitely gave everyone a lot of great ideas… some too good for my Beginners.

Did I mention the blow torch?!!!

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Categories: classes, lillstreet

Getting ready to teach my pottery class tonight. It may only be the second class of the new session, but I’m pretty darn confident it will go better than this!!! My students ROCK… and I don’t allow them to make ashtrays!

Click here for a fun Pottery Class with Jeff Foxworthy!

Categories: classes, lillstreet

We’re a week away from starting the new Winter Session of classes at Lillstreet.
I checked in tonight about my Beginning & Advanced Beginning Wheelthrowing class starting next Tuesday… and we are officially FULL. All eighteen spaces taken… with three on the Waiting List. Can’t wait to get started up again!

Categories: bowls, classes, lillstreet, process, production

So we’re in Week Four of the new Spring session of classes at Lillstreet Art Center. My Beginners are doing so well this time around. Catching on really quickly and progressing quite nicely. So last night we had a full discussion about making bowls on purpose instead of “accepting” cylinders gone bad. That a “good” bowl has a really nice curve on the inside. Not a flat bottom cylinder with corners that then swoop out into a bowl. No “beginner’s” ledge on the inside from where they pinched their fingers together to lift the clay. So I showed them how to throw that good basic bowl.

After we finished that first bowl demo, my students went back to their wheels to start practicing. While they threw their bowls, I continued to throw mine as well. I used up a full bag of clay… throwing seventeen basic round bowls, each about 1-1/2 lbs. Once I got them all thrown, we reconvened so I could show them some quick tricks on how they can alter, design & personalize their pottery. Anyone can make a basic round bowl… but the fun part is making it your own!!! So I showed them the tricks, introduced them to colored slip, and tried to beat it into their head that “IT’S JUST CLAY.” Don’t be too frightened to try something. It’s not precious. Make lots of stuff. Try lots of things. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, just squish it up and do it again. Don’t be afraid. IT’S JUST CLAY!!!

Bowl #1 – Fluted on two opposite sides.

Bowl #2 – If two flutes are good, maybe eight would be better?

Bowl #3 – A simple flared out rim… becomes a great “canvas” to decorate later.

Bowl #4 – A much wider flared flange… for even MORE decoration later.

Bowl #5 – A combination of the flared rim and fluted edges. Gives it a bit of an undulating rim.

Bowl #6 – This one was squared off a bit. Who says bowls need to be round? The shape and edges will be refined and decorated later as the clay stiffens up a bit.

Bowl #7 – A simple flower pressed into the bottom with a metal dragonscaling tool. Always a fun little surprise for someone when they get down to the bottom of their bowl of soup!

Bowl #8 – A split rim using the point of my wooden knife. Then pinched back together.

 

Bowl #9 – The same split rim trick, but then rounded out between the pinches.

Bowl #10 – Another split rim bowl. This time the shape was altered outwards in four corners, and inwards in between.

After playing with the shapes & edges of the rim, we switched our focus to colored slips. And the huge options thisopens up for them. The fact that colored slip is like adding a new “skin of clay” on top of your bowl. An easy way to add color to your pottery at this stage. It will dry and be fired onto the pot… and then create some new effects when glaze goes over it.

Bowl #11 – I coated the inside of the bowl with some basic white slip. And then dragged the rounded end of my wooden knife through while the bowl was spinning to create this fun spiral. The color contrast between the white slip and the darker clay body will show up after glazing.

Bowl #12 – Another bowl with white slip, this time with horizontal banding.

Bowl #13 – White slip with chattering through the slip. Chattering is rhythmic tapping… I use my rubber rib tapping up & down through the glaze, moving upwards while the bowl is spinning.

Bowl #14 – A thicker layer of white slip with some squiggly finger grooves.

Bowl #15 – Another layer of white slip with finger grooves sliding up the sides. I didn’t like the way the lines met up in the center, so we added the little circular “medallion” in the middle. My original intention was to clean up the top edge, but my students really loved the texture the rough slip edges created… and they were right!

Bowl #16 – A simple newspaper stencil stuck onto the clay with water… then painted over with slip. I waited a couple minutes for the slip to set up and then carefully removed the paper stencil.

Bowl #17 – A colorful ombre effect blending white slip with some iron red slip.

And there they are… seventeen bowls that all started out very basic & round. Just a few minutes of altering and voila’… seventeen different tricks & techniques. Now go play with your clay!!!

At the end of the night I had to carry them all upstairs to my studio so I could wrap them up for the evening. Only took three trips up the back stairs… not so bad. So now all seventeen bowls are under plastic so they don’t dry too fast. I’m still planning on doing some extra detailing & stamping to some of them.

 

 

Categories: bowls, lillstreet

A quick Selfie from one of the “lucky” people to snatch up my donated empty bowls last night at the EMPTY BOWLS fundraiser. Thanks for sharing your Selfie Lisa! Enjoy your new bowl… and thanks for contributing to a great cause. I’m sure your hot fudge sundaes will taste SO much better now!!!