Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: artists, pottery, special events

It’s just three months away… and time to start counting the days!
To my favorite Pottery Tour of the year. The St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour.
And this year’s tour promises to be one of the best ever!!!
It’s their 25th Anniversary!!!

As usual, there are seven host locations on the tour. And this year they have invited fifty-two guests artists to join in the celebration. Promising to be an incredible three-day weekend in Minnesota!!! So many pots to see. So many potters to chat with. So much fun for everyone!!! I’ll be coming up as usual to play at all of the locations… and “quite possibly”, add a new pot… or two… or twelve to my collection?!!!

I know I will be going up for the weekend. Wouldn’t miss it. It’s an annual adventure!
Unfortunately, I haven’t been “invited” to be one of the guest artists… yet… so I will still be there shopping, chatting and admiring a TON of wonderful pottery with everyone else!!! It’s the best pottery weekend every year… and I’d love to see some blog fans there!!!

To see the full list of participating potters, and complete Tour details,
click here for the Minnesota Potters website.

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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, family, friends, pottery, process

While down in Chenoa celebrating the New Years, I found out that one of  the kids received a pottery wheel from Santa! And Rosie was anxiously waiting for a private tutorial with her Uncle Gary!!! So we set up her little clay studio… okay, a dining room chair for her wheel, and another dining room chair for her water bucket… err, I man cereal bowl?! And then we had a little tutorial and she couldn’t wait to get her hands dirty!!!

So she started centering and quickly found out it wasn’t as easy as it looks!
But Rosie was a trooper and kept trying…. and trying… and trying…

And then all of a sudden she got it…

Here it is… a centered piece of clay… so NOW what do I do?

So we continued the tutorial and talked about opening the clay, not going down too far (which she did the first time), and making the hole wider.

Once she had the ball of clay opened, it was time to start raising the walls. Two fingers inside, two fingers outside, thumbs crossed, both hands working as one unit!

She kept having trouble with that whole “elbows down” concept…

And then one of her brothers started hovering like a vulture waiting on its prey.

So when Rosie had had enough and saved her first piece of pottery, Finan was quick to swoop in to give it a spin! He jumped right in and gave it a whirl solely based on the online video he watched while Rosie was practicing.

And he did pretty well… except for that whole “elbows down” thing I kept telling them!

His cylinder was looking pretty great… still working on pulling up the walls…

And then… WHOOPS!!!… looks like the clay went one way and fingers went the other!!!

And again, I kept using my favorite classroom mantra…  “It’s just clay.”
Even if it’s all muddy all over your hands!!!

Categories: pottery, soda-fired

A stamped & soda-fired platter to hang on the wall.
And my 1,500th photo posted on INSTAGRAM!!!

Don’t forget to find me there for some quick visual candy in your Instagram Feed…
just do an Instagram search for firewhenreadypottery. Thanks!

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Categories: artists, glaze, pottery

Today at the “One Of A Kind Show” I met a potter from Denver, Colorado. It was my friend Sarah who noticed his work first and then sent me over to check out his pottery a little closer. She was “intrigued” by his lidded boxes. When I went over to “investigate” I met Peter Karner and admired his work. His functional pieces are well-made and beautifully glazed. His surface decoration is created primarily with a wax resist over a base shino glaze, then a second layer of a colored glaze. It’s the wonderful interaction of the two glazes that works so beautifully on his pieces. Melting, blending, “halo” effects and carbon trapping to create beautiful “one of a kind” finishes.

Click here to see more from Peter Karner Pottery.

But it was these wonderful little boxes that caught Sarah’s eye…

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Categories: food, holiday, pottery

Have a wonderful day sharing your day & holiday feast with your family & friends. And if you’re using any of my pottery this holiday, please share a photo with me too! gary@firewhenreadypottery … I’d be very “thankful” on Thanksgiving!

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Categories: kiln firing, pottery, soda-fired

A few more “treasures” revealed as I unloaded my soda kiln tonight. I’m pretty excited about these new larger lidded jars… they all turned out GREAT!!! Can’t wait to show them off in two weeks at my Holiday Home Show! Always the weekend before Thanksgiving. Mark your calendars!!!

Categories: bowls, classes, pottery

Here’s a wonderful set of bowls that one of my students made. Vanessa was in my class a couple sessions ago and never had a chance to glaze her bowls. Well, she’s back in class this session… and finally glazed her bowls. And for those who might not get it… like me… they imagery inside each bowl is cranial sutures. Kind of scientific. Kind of anatomical. Kind of BRILLIANT!!! Well done Vanessa!!!

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Categories: classes, pottery

So my pottery students are doing great this session. They’re all returning “beginners” so we’ve been doing a little bit more than a true “beginner’s” class. And I love when we get to this stage of the class. We’re entering Week Eight of their ten week session. So at this point, they’re making a LOTS of pots. And I love seeing them all bring their finished pot to share in class. So great to see them admiring, critiquing, sharing information and being so supportive & encouraging of each other. Such a great group of students this Fall session… all making great pots and having a great time!!!

Since my pottery students are all doing so great this session. I decided it was time for a “POP QUIZ.” I handed out folded sheets of paper. Told them each to choose a number between one and ten… and write it on the outside of their folded paper. After they had all chosen their numbers, I had them open the sheets to find out what their number “decided” their challenge was to be!!! They all tackled the challenge… and they seemed to appreciate being “pushed” out of their comfort zone and being “forced” to try something new that they might not do on their own. I love Pop Quizzes!!!

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Categories: art fair, pottery, production, stamped

I’m kinda excited about this latest batch of lidded jars. I went a little larger this time… racing to get things made for next Saturday’s soda kiln. Even more importantly, in time for the Holiday Home Show which is coming up all too quickly. Always the weekend before Thanksgiving… just three weeks away?!

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