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

Working on a little something new in the studio tonight.
Sure, I could’ve tried making just one.. but that’s not nearly as much “fun”
as trying something new with twelve!

Categories: classes, mugs, process, production

For tonight’s “Simply Soda” class, we tackled colored flashing slips as a decorative accent for the soda-firing process. Many of my students are new to soda-firing and don’t really know yet how colored slips can accentuate their work. So tonight’s demo was to explain some basic “concepts” in slip decoration and how they will work together when they get soda-fired. It was a great opportunity to push my students a bit out of their comfort zone. Including myself… as we were doing some demos & techniques that I’ve never really done before either.

Slip Demo #1
First the mug was dipped into a colored flashing slip. I let it set-up a bit..
and then dipped it a second time. As the second dip was setting up, I dragged a stiff wire brush across the surface to reveal the original stoneware color.

Slip Demo #2
On this squared off tumbler, I masked off the corners using wet nespaper stuck in place for my stencil. I painted a smooth layer on the tow opposing sides. After that had set-up, I masked the thin stripe again with wet strips of newspaper. I dabbed on a thivk layer of the lighter slip making a thick coat. I then dragged my fingertip through the slip to create the slight diagonal texture. Remove the newspaper strips… and voila’.

Slip Demo #3
Again using wet newspaper strips as my stencil, I cut a wavy line and placed them slightly off-kilter to create the wave pattern. Dabbed on the thick slip, dragged my finger through to make the diagonal texture. Peel off the newspaper and you’ve got crisp edges and a great textural accent.

Slip Demo #4
First I dipped the top portion in a colored flashing slip. After it had set-up, I filled a squirt bottle with the blue-green slip. On a spinning banding wheel, I squirted the slip into the pot. I’m hoping for some great contrast between the base color and the blue-green accents

Slip Demo #5
I dipped the entire mug on a colored flashing slip first. After it had set-up, I used a foam stamp from the craft store for the lower pattern. I painted some colored slip onto the foam stamp, and then carefully press it onto the sides. In hind sight, I think the pattern would have shown up clearer if I had not dipped the base layer of slip… it was a little too “slippery”… all pun intended. At the end, I felt that the top portion needed something, so I painted some vertical lines with a paint brush.

Slip Demo #6
You know how we’ve loved bubble glazing… so why not bubble slip?!
A small cup of thin colored slip with some Dawn dishwashing detergent mixed in. Then you blow into it with a straw and make some bubbles overflow from the small cup. You then get the overflowing bubbles to “land” on the sides of the cup without too much dripping or smudging. As the bubbles burst, the lines of slip are created.

Slip Demo #7
Okay, so the plan here was to do some “marbled” slip effects. So I dipped the pot into a colored flashing slip. I gave it a second dip, and while it was wet, I used a squeeze bottle to put on the blue-green slip. Since they were both wet, they slid around nicely on the surface and mixed with each other. I should have stopped there… but instead, I decided to go one step further and add another layer of colored slip. Unfortunately, the base was too dry and the “orange” slip didn’t marble into the others…. instead, it just kinda ran in drips.

Slip Demo #8
Thick layers of thick colored slip. Letting the heavy brushstrokes make the difference. Hoping that the depth and thickness is accentuated during the soda-firing process.

Slip Demo #9
Very simple. A quick dip into the colore flashing slip to make the base layer. And then a second dip of the base, followed by the “drippy” dip of the second lighter color.

Slip Demo #10
Fun with slip trailing… thick slip in a squeeze bottle. If I were doing more of this, I would press the slip through a fine sieve before putting it in the bottle. It wouldn’t sputter so much if it were smoother.

So there we have it… ten different quick “tricks” using a variety of colored soda slips. Hopefully one or two of these might turn out nice after the soda firing. And again, my goal was to show my students some new ideas. And to encourge them to try new & different things. To experiment and to play with their clay! It’s not precious… it’s just clay!!!

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Categories: glaze, kiln firing, mugs, process, production

Looks like it might be time to consider glazing something?!

Categories: kiln firing, process, production

So I loaded another bisque kiln Friday night. I wasn’t quite ready to fire my own kiln, but with the addition of my student’s class work it filled up quite nicely. My Monday night soda students will be excited to get there soda slip test cylinders back so soon!

Layer #1 – the ying-yang of mugs – half porcelain, half stoneware with iron.

Layer #2 – oval casseroles, mugs and some new berry bowls

Layer #3 – some textured square vases and Melissa’s “M.C. Escher” oval casserole from my Tuesday class. She has worked on it so much that I just felt it would be safer if we put it right into this kiln… and avoided the dangers of the classroom kiln,

Layer #4 – an oval casserole and the test cylinders for my Monday soda class.

So close to the top… packed tight all the way up… just how I like it.
I even had to double-stack some cylinders using the varying heights to fir under the lid!

Categories: process, production, stamped

Another batch of wall pocket vases done and drying on the rack…
for tomorrow night they go into a bisque kiln!

Categories: process, production, stamped, textures

Spent the night finishing up some wall pocket vases. Stamping, detailing and painting a few small accents of colored flashing slip.

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.

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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.

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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.

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