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

With the Rio Games coming to an end, it seemed only appropriate that we “celebrate” with our own Pottery Olympics. Tuesday night was the last class of the summer session. We typically have a potluck dinner, a pottery exchange and then we sit around without much to do. Typically there is no “wet work” during Week Nine. But in the name of “fun & games” I decided to introduce a little Olympic Throwdown into the mix!!!

So I had my class divide into two teams… choosing schoolyard style. Then I showed them what the seven challenges were going to be… kind of… with fairly cryptic messages. They needed to decide which of their team would be doing each challenge. We then went through them one by one. Seven challenges in all. Not quite a decathlon… but maybe a septathlon relay?!

ROUND ONE : Take a full bag of clay and divide it into even cubes that weigh 1-1/2 pounds each… without the assistance of a scale. They had to guess and even them out as much as possible. It was Catherine versus Taylore… with an initial lead taken by team Taylore!!!

ROUND TWO : Remember those 1-1/2 lb. blocks of clay… well now the race was to wedge them all. So it was Natalie versus Stephen. They were both a little overwhelmed, but impressed with themselves when they had accomplished the daunting task.

ROUND THREE : This bout was Rachel versus Erin to make the best bowl with a perfectly round bottom. At first glance Rachel was the clear winner… with bonus points “sucking up” to the judge (me) with a spiral in the bottom and a split rim pinched together. Two of my favorites. But… upon closer inspection, it was Erin who had a more rounded bottom. Rachel’s was actually a little flatter and wider, but still with a nice curve. Erin’s was more rounded as challenged.

ROUND FOUR : This round was the relay!!! A tag team bout of throwing ten cylinders the fastest. With each team member taking a turn, and then repeating until they had ten. I served as the judge to determine at what point it actually counted as a cylinder. They actually had to throw it, compress it, and make some thin walls before I would call it good.

ROUND FIVE : The challenge was to throw an enclosed form that is the closest to a perfect sphere. We’ve done enclosed forms in class… but never a sphere. Katie took a quick lead, while Sam never really got her’s together. She was close, and kept working at it… but it kind of self-imploded before she could finish the sphere!

ROUND SIX : Throw the tallest cylinder in five minutes.
They centered. They threw. We measured.

After measuring, they were pretty close… too close to call when we averaged out the two heights on Stacey’s angled rim. So I gave them each another minute to perfect it even more. And then we measured again! It was Melissa who won the point with the tallest cylinder she has EVER thrown!!! And now that I know she can do it… I’ll have “higher” expectations for her next session!

ROUND SEVEN : The final challenge… BLINDFOLDED!!!
It was Tony versus Natalie in the final round. They both looked as though they would be facing a firing squad. But instead, they challenge was to center & throw the best cylinder while blindfolded in ten minutes.

It was great to see the teamwork & support of their team members…

Such focus & determination… when I expected it to just be a fun & silly little exercise!!!

In the end it was Natalie who won the Blindfold Challenge. But each of them had a pretty amazing cylinder considering the lengths that I put them through.

It was a wonderful night of Pottery Olympics. And to tell you the truth, I;m not even sure which team won?! We all had so much fun, and everyone was so supportive and encouraging of each other. A great game. Several pots. A lot of clay… that has already been re-claimed & re-wedged. Thanks to everyone in my class for stepping up to the plate… err, podium… for a wonderful game. It was another great session of classes. Ending on a hug night of fun!!! You’re ALL gold medalists in my book!!!



Categories: olympics
Categories: olympics, special events

Looks like the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are starting with a bang!
And as always, the Opening Ceremonies left us with some incredible visuals. Lots of floating islands. Incredible projection imagery. Thousands of performers. And an incredible gantry system that moved all of the hanging scenery pieces across the stadium. A little disconcerting to hear that this entire stadium, and the MILLIONS of dollars spent on it, is only being used for the Opening & Closing Ceremonies. No sports will be played in there. Seems like a waste… even though it was stunning for us to watch on TV. I can only imagine seeing it in person… some day…

And then there was the moment when they did the traditional “Dove Of Peace” representation that happens at every Olympic Opening Ceremony. However, they did it in an incredible, mesmerizing way… twirling, glowing, undulating… practically flying!

Of course, a production this huge can’t go off without a hitch somewhere. The only one I really saw was when the fifth snowflake didn’t open up into an Olympic ring as planned. No biggie… we still knew what they meant.

Now we leave it up to our American Athletes to go out and conquer Sochi.
Bring on the games!!!… and bring home the GOLD!!!

Categories: olympics, special events

Last night was the kick-off of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics… and I loved it.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of watching sports… that is until the Olympics roll around.
The human drama. The competition. The one-shot-at-making-your-dreams-come-true!
Much better than those professional athletes making millions of dollars for just showing up!
Every time, my favorite part is the Opening Ceremonies. And last night was great.
The excitement. The colors. The pageantry. The emotion. The visual creativity.

It started out a little slow, with four “frozen” totem poles and introductions of the local tribes
of Canada… ho hum… and then they introduced the official Olympic people… again, boring.
I was getting a little concerned. But then it kicked in… and the pageantry began. With a much
smaller budget than Beijing, I think they did a wonderful job. With a lot of lighting, a lot of
dancing, and a lot of projections on white fabric… they created a masterpiece of imagery
as they “toured” the Canadian countryside. From the mountains & prairies… from sea
to shining see. Trees sprouted out of nowhere. Mountains rose from the arena floor.
Prairie grasses waving. Snowboarders skiing from the ceiling. Snow. Leaves. A polar bear.
And a school of whales seemingly “swimming” across the floor spouting water as they
“crested” the ocean’s surface… which was actually the floor?… but appeared to be water?…
but wasn’t?… thanks to the magic of huge floor-covering LED lighting panels. Not to mention
the rockin’ violinists & cloggers who danced with sparks shooting out of their heels!!!

Everything was magical, the excitement and spirit of the Olympics was definitely there to get
the party started. Until the “technical difficulty”… at the climactic moment when all eyes are
upon the four Canadian sports legends holding the Olympic Flames… waiting… and waiting…
for the four supports for the Olympic Flame to rise from the floor… and waiting… as only
three of them came up – and after waiting anxiously, they went ahead with just the three!
The flames were finally lit, and then Wayne Gretsky went out to light the outdoor version
of the Olympic Cauldron… without hesitation, without drama, without technical difficulties!

Typically the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics are a little less than impressive.
Compared to what they pull out for the Summer version, Winter pales by comparison.
Even without the fresh memories of the spectacular opening in Beijing last summer.
Possibly, the most incredible thing I have EVER seen on television!!! All in all, I think
Vancouver made a valiant effort in the painful “Beijing Follow-up” position. And now…
let the games begin!!!

Categories: Chicago, olympics

Without realizing it… today’s bike ride turned out to be a lakefront tour
of Chicago’s “hopeful” Olympic sporting venues! A quick look around the city
and it’s hard to miss that they’re pulling out all the stops for the 2016 Olympic bid.
Everything is covered… flags… banners… sides of buses… bridges… etc.
Plus, to show the International Olympic Committee where the sporting events would be,
they designated each of the venues with special Olympic flags!


While some are annoyed by the Olympics… concerned about taxes… concerned about
the temporary loss of nature on Northerly Island… issues… issues… issues.
Others are excited about the possibility of the Olympics coming to Chicago!!!
It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity… and I’m one who’s very excited!!!




It’s a big deal here in Chicago regardless of which side you’re on!
And there’s no way they’re going to let you miss it!