Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: mugs, porcelain, process, production

Adding handles. Making mugs. Two of my favorite things. No, really.

Categories: mugs, porcelain, process, production, stamped, stamps

Another batch of mugs. Another round of stamping.
I had a customer request a certain color glazed mug the other day… and when I checked my mug inventory, I was a little surprised to NOT have any on the color she wanted. So I’m back making more of my favorites… thanks to Rosene for a little mug motivation!

So here’s the latest batch of mugs-in-the-making. Porcelain cylinders thrown and then stamped… and the stamps that did the magic!!!

Mug A

Mug B

Mug C

Mug D

Mug E

Mug F

Mug G

Mug H

Mug I

Mug J

Mug K

So for now they’re all under plastic for the evening. Plan is to get them all trimmed tomorrow, make some more things… and then if all goes as planned, maybe even get handles on these tomorrow as well. Hard to work when your fingers are crossed.



Categories: clay, process, studio

So by now I’m sure you’ve figured out how much I love FREE CLAY!!!
I’m not afraid of a little reclaiming. I always have a large bucket of scraps slaking down to become a new, fresh batch of clay.

But what to do when you have a whole block of 25 pounds TOTALLY DRY?!!!
I had received a couple solid blocks of dried porcelain from a friend who doesn’t do much reclaiming. In my mind I thought I would be breaking it all down, pounding it down, pulverizing and working on it forever. That was a lot of labor in my mind for a project that I kept putting off. Until now…

So I saw a video online about a “trick” to rehydrate the whole block of dried clay…
THE EASY WAY!!! Easy?…I’m in!

So I started with the solid blocks of clay. I double-bagged each of them in case there was a hole in the original bag. I then added a water bottle full of water. The video says to add one cup of water for a 25 pound block. I of course had not remembered the specifics… so I just threw in a full water bottle of water. I then sealed up the bags as tight as possible. And then submerged each block into a water-filled five gallon bucket. The video says to leave it for about two weeks… but I got busy, distracted, and they were in the buckets closer to three weeks!

Still don’t know how much water I actually put in… but here’s my water bottle.

After three weeks, I pulled the bags out of the water, opened them and sliced through the block of clay. It was amazing how much the clay had rehydrated. The center of the block was still a bit crunchy, so I just assumed I had not put in enough water originally. So I added another 1/2 bottle of water into each bag. Tied them back up and submerged them for another week.

Okay, back out of the water, and ready to check the clay…

Just upon opening the bag, you could see right away that the clay was SO much better…
and no longer the solid block of bone dry clay it had been!

After cutting it in half, I was excited to see that the porcelain was all back to usable clay! Sure, it might need a bit of wedging to get it all back to normal, but SO much better than having to break it all down and reclaiming the old-fashioned way!

And the terra cotta looked good too. This one was especially rewarding, as the solid block of bone dry terra cotta was all my fault. It was reclaimed terra cotta in the first place. I had let the trimmings dry, added water and let it slake down the old-fashioned way. When it was ready to turn out onto a plaster bat, I got too busy… and kinda just kept putting it off. Apparently. Fast-forward a couple months of procrastinating and voila’… a solid bucket of BONE DRY terra cotta!!! All my own fault!!!

Bag out of the water… cut in half… and again, perfectly rehydrated clay!!!

So this new trick is pretty darn amazing. And it adds a whole new level of “fun” to my free clay reclaiming endeavors. I would highly recommend it for anyone who finds themselves with solid chunks of clay that just seem daunting to reclaim the normal ways.

Intrigued?… Still think it’s too good to be true?…
Click here to see the YouTube video by Janis Wilson Hughes of Evolution Stoneware Pottery.



Categories: bowls, process, production

After trimming the feet into the bowls, it was time to put in some drainage holes for my newest batch of berry bowls. For years I would use a small brass hole punch for the holes. But now I’ve upgraded to POWER TOOLS!!! Who doesn’t like working with a power drill in the studio?!

I like to use my MKM Decorating Disks to help mark out the holes evenly. The two-disk set gives you even-numbered spacing, or odd-numbered spacings. For more about the MKM Decorating Disk, click here.

So I place the transparent disk on top of the foot. Then put a small dot into the clay with my needle tool through the holes in the disk.Evenly spaced guides for where the drilled holes will go.

And then the power drill comes out!!!    Vrroooommmm!!!
The bowls are on the drier side of leatherhard, but definitely not bone dry.
Starting at the guide dots, I place the tip of the drill bit and spin right through!

After drilling, I let the clay dry up for a few minutes. Then I take a fairly stiff dry paintbrush and wipe off the burrs. They fall right off anf the drilled holes only need a little cleaning up. So much quicker, so much easier, so much cleaner than punching each hole by hand one at a time.

And for now they’re all drilled and drying. Still a little bit of clean-up around the edges…
and some coordinating drainage plates still to be thrown!!!

For more information & pictures, check out the October 2016 CERAMICS MONTHLY issue!
I have a one-page tutorial explaining how I use my power drill for my berry bowls.




Categories: classes, process, stamps, textures

I began my Tuesday evening by throwing a lot of cylinders in my studio. I had a plan…
I was on a mission… and my wheelthrowing class was going to be starting soon!

So I received a package of few carving tools in the mail awhile back… so exciting!!!
And I’m always telling my students to experiment, to try new things, to break out of their shells. To remember that it’s JUST CLAY!!! But I get it… my Beginners are working so hard to make each and every cylinder. It’s a lot of work. A lot of centering & focus. So much so that each piece is somehow considered “too precious” to experiment with. So tonight I plan to test them… to push them a bit… to show them that it’s NOT so precious. I figured if I provide them with already thrown cylinders, all of the “hard part” is done, right?

So I threw a bunch of cylinders and brought the down to class with me. I explained my “not-so-precious” texture & surface decoration challenge to them. I encouraged them each to do anything they wanted to the surface of their cylinder. To carve, slip, stamp, whatever!!! Just have fun… and see what happens with their new-found “freebie” not-so-precious cylinder!!! And here they go…

After class, I did a little “photo shoot” in my studio before they started to dry.

SO HERE”S YOUR CHALLENGE : Can you guess which ones are mine?!

Special thanks to Robert at C.I. Products for sending me a little “care package” of tools to try out. I’ve been kind of busy through the holidays… and finally found some time to try them out. And why not share my new tools with my students?! These Zebra Trimming Tools are pretty darn amazing. They took us a little while to get used to them. The blades are at a different angle than Kemper Tools…. and adjustable!!! The wood is so lightweight… and the foam grip pretty sweet too. But it’s really the extra-sharp blades that cut such a smooth clean line with nice line definition. I definitely look forward to using them more in my own work. Seeing what kinds of great textures & patterns I can come up with using these great new Zebra Tools!!! Thanks again Robert… your tools are GREAT!

Click here to see the wide assortment of tools from C.I. Products.
Or here to go straight to the Zebra Trimming Tools.
You’ll be glad you did… especially those of you who are carving crazy cool patterns, making cool textures and doing a lot of sgraffito or mishima.







Categories: classes, process

During last week’s bottle demo, I mentioned how difficult it was sometimes for me to determine how to stamp a bottle like this. Then one of my students actually called me out and “challenged” me NOT to stamp a piece of mine. What?! No stamps? What to do?

So I ended up adding a textured slip detail running down one side of the bottle instead. I used masking tape to block out the rectangle, layered on some thick orange flashing slip, and then carefully pulled off the tape.

Now hoping that the colored slip rectangle turns out great after soda firing.


Categories: mugs, process, production, stamped

Making more handles.
Making more mugs.
Score… slip… REPEAT !!!

Categories: classes, glaze, process

As part of the “Demo On Demand” portion of my pottery class, last night we returned to the novelty fun of bubble glazing! A little glaze in a small cup, mix in some liquid dishwashing detergent… add straw… and BLOW!!! The soapy-glaze will start foaming & frothing out of the cup. Carefully let the bubbles rest on the sides of your pot. As the bubbles pop, they leave this really great random pattern all around. For my demo bow, I first dipped the bowl in Shaner White to give it a good, overall base glaze. Then I did a layer of bubbles with Josh Blue glaze. And then decided to go for broke and add a second layer of bubbles with Apple Green Celadon. Here’s my bowl as more of the bubbles are popping and leaving cool designs.

But then, not to be left out, the “demo-demander” herself jumped right in to start blowing bubbles!!! Melissa gave her bowl a base coat of glaze as well, and then decided to try some Cohen’s Copper Red bubbles. We’re all anxious to see the results when they come back out of the glaze firing!

Categories: mugs, pottery, process, production

For those of you who saw the twenty balls of clay this afternoon and guessed “MUGS”… you know me too well. I realized that I’m kinda low on glazed mugs, so this batch of cylinders will soon become mugs and then be glazed, not soda-fired. Just filling inventory for the upcoming art fair season!!! And, you know how I love making mugs!!!

Categories: clay, process, production

Twenty of “something” coming soon…  ahh, the potential!!!