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

So it’s been a quick trimming session. After Tuesday’s class demo with a LOT of bowls, I had a good amount to tackle. But I love trimming… so it was a “labor of love.” Fun and messy with trimmings flying left & right. And done. And drying…

Categories: bowls, process, production, studio

I LOVE TRIMMING.
It’s so much fun to finish off a piece with a well-trimmed foot. I made a decision early on that I would trim everything! It just doesn’t look quite “done” to me if it isn’t trimmed?! But maybe that’s just me?
And luckily, I have a lot of bowls to trim from class this week. So here we go… trim, trim trim!!!

Save

Categories: bowls, process, production, stamped

After last Tuesday night’s bowl demo, I had a table full of bowls to continue working on.
Sure, I could have left them as they were…. but why would I do that?!
Instead, I did a bit of stamping, texturing and detailing. So now my “not-so-basic-bowls”
are even less basic than they were after the throwing demo in class.

Save

Categories: bowls, classes, production

This is my favorite demo of every session of classes. It’s so much fun to teach my students how to make a bowl on purpose, instead of it just being a cylinder gone bad! So the first part of the demo is making bowls on purpose. We talk about techniques and downfalls. They go back to make some bowls, while I sit at my wheel and quickly throw some more bowls… a whole bag’s worth!!! When I finished all eighteen bowls, we reconvene and start doing some alterations to the bowls.

My goal for this second part of the demo is to get them over-the-hump, and encourage them to try different things to make their bowls more individual. And that the clay is not precious. Have fun. Make something. And if it doesn’t work out… just squish it up and do it again!!! So here are my eighteen quick tricks that I showed my class. Remember, we started with 18¬† very similar plain round bowls. And then some quick flicks & tricks… and now we have 18 completely different bowls.

Bowl #1 – Simple fluted twists. One finger inside, one finger outside, side-by-side. A bit of a pinch and a twist. Four times… aligned with the corners of the square bat for even spacing.

Bowl #2 – And is four fluted points are good… maybe eight are even better?!

Bowl #3 – Then I gently bent the rim out on over to create a flattened flange around the edge. The outside finger stays pretty stationary while the inside fingers gently press the rim outwards over that outside finger. And I like to add in a little groove line just inside the flange… like a nice way to show the delineation between the interior & exterior.

Bowl #4 – And if a thin flange is good, maybe a wider flange is even better?! Kinda like that bowl they serve in fancy restaurants with one small dollop of food in the bottom and charge a ton of money!!!

Bowl #5 – Then we combined the two – the flattened flange and fluted rim.

Bowl #6 – Next up was splitting the rim with the point of my wooden knife. I use my left hand with thumb & forefinger gently “pressing” the rim for support, while my right hand has the knife gently pressing the point into the rim. Press down slowly while the wheel is spinning asnd watch the rim split open. And then I like to pinch it back in a few spaces for a bit of fun.

Bowl #7 – Another split rim pinched together in four spaces. But then the I pressed the other four spaces outwards which kind of squared off the bowl… so why not “force” it to be even square-er?!!!

Bowl #8Okay, so we’ll place this bowl in the category of not all demo’s work.
I started by splitting the rim a little deeper & wider then before. And then I took the wooden end of a big loop trimming tool to press indentations outward on the split rim. And on the very first one… the wooden handle literally STUCK to the clay!!! I mis-estimated the wetness of the rim… and the thinness of the split rim. The tool stuck and when I tried to force it away it ripped half of the split rim off with the tool. Not good. So we all had a bit of a laugh as I once again proclaimed my mantra… “It’s just clay.” So I pulled off the other half of the split rim and smoothed it out a bit. And then tried to come up with a new “plan” on the fly with an already dented bowl. Not so sure how this one will turn out… but it’s “just clay,” right?!!!

Bowl #9 – A simple indentation made in the bottom of the bowl with a metal dragonscale tool.

Bowl #10 – One of my students “scoffed” a bit when I did the indentation flower and said how easy it was. And since she was sitting at the wheel right next to me… I handed her a fresh bowl, the dragonscale tool, and told her to do something with it!!! It’s just clay. She balked a little, got a bit embarrassed, but when everyone cheered her on, Lucy ended up making this pretty incredible pattern in the bottom of her bowl. See?… sometimes it’s fun to be pushed out of your comfort zone… and look what beauty can came out of it!!!

At this point it was time to introduce colored slip as a decorating option. A layer of colored clay painted onto the pot to give it some more color & texture. We talked about the difference between slip and glaze, and when it might be better to use one or the other.

Bowl #11 – A full coating of white slip on the inside of the bowl – and then a fun spiral dragged through the slip with the rounded end of my wooden knife. It’s fun to see the contrast between the lighter white slip and the darker clay body.

Bowl #12 – Same coating of white slip on the inside of the bowl but this time with horizontal banding instead of spiral.

Bowl #13 – Tools are great… but so is finger painting. So for this one I made the layer of white slip a bit thicker than the others. And then I squiggled a couple fingers through it while the wheel was spinning. I love the undulating curves, the revealed clay color and the texture that will show up even better when glazed.

Bowl #14 – A layer of white slip to cover the entire interior of the bowl. And then a steady, rhytmic tapping of my plastic rib… tapping up & down, up & out, while the wheel is spinning. It’s a combination of all three that creates the pattern.

Bowl #15 – Okay, so I apparently forgot a bowl here?! Mwah, mwah, mwah…
And it’s a NICE one… trust me!!! It was another white slip with a tighter, angled chattered effect,

Bowl #16 -Instead of coating the bowl with white slip, this time I drew a spiral of slip white a squeeze bottle. My original intention was to have a perfect slip-trailed spiral. But the slip sputtered out a couple times. Ugh. So instead of trying to “fix” the splotches, I decides to do some gentle chattering through it… a very happy accident!!!

Bowl #17 – The other bowls have all had slip on the interior of the bowl, but for this one I put slip on the outer rim. I then drew some bands through the slip in concentric circles to the bowl. And then did some finger dragging outwards to get the contrast.

Bowl #18 – For our final bowl, I did a simple ombre blend of white slip with a black slip

So for now, all of the bowls are safe up in my studio under wraps. Of course I wish I could have shared these bowls a lot sooner…. but those darn Income Taxes got in the way. But now they’re done… I’ve breathed a small sigh of relief… and I hope these bowls were worth the wait.

Save

Save

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!!!

Save

Save

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.