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

My studio cart is pretty much full… which means I’ve glazed & wadded enough pots to fill the soda kiln. Of course it’s kind of a guessing game of how it will really fit when stacked in the kiln.

A few quick masking tape “seat belts” and my cart is ready to make the trip downstairs to the kiln room. The masking tape helps keep pots from jumping off while they ride down in the rickety freight elevator!

Categories: glaze, ornaments, process, production
Categories: glaze, process, production

The glazing continues… and it’s pretty much taking over my studio!!!
And making quite the mess on my wedging table.

Since this is a soda firing, a lot of the surface “glazing” will be created by the soda atmosphere in the kiln. So I typically leave a lot of the exterior clay unglazed. Instead, I like to fill the stamped indentations with temoku glaze.

After painting over all the stamps with glaze, I then take a damp sponge and gently wipe off the top surface. Leaving the glaze in the indentations to help highlight the stamped texture.

Wiped clean, ready for wadding and the on to the kiln!

Categories: glaze, process, production

Had to start somewhere… so first up were these simple ikebana vase disks.

Categories: kiln firing, process, production

It was a long drive home… but actually enjoyable with beautiful skies, wonderful scenery, songs to sing with and great road trip snacks! Did I mention homemade pie from Norske Nook??? Any way, I rushed home today to load another bisque kiln. I’ve got a lot of glazing to do before next Friday’s kiln loading. And first things first… got to get ‘em bisqued before I can start glazing!

Kiln Layer #1 – mugs, large bowls, and ornaments.

Kiln Layer #2 – wall pocket vases, mugs, tiles and tripod supports.

 Kiln Layer #3 Рmugs, tumblers, bowls, and berry bowls.

Kiln Layer #4 – oval vases, mini vases and ikebana vase tops.

Kiln Layer #4.5 – a half layer of berry bowl plates, ikebana vase tops and small cups.

Categories: process, production, stamped

Freshly stamped plates for the latest batch of berry bowls.

Categories: bowls, process, production

With just a month left before art fair season, it’s time to buckle down and produce some more pots! Tonight I focused on throwing some more bowls… that will be trimmed & drilled to become berry bowls.

And some small plates that will go under the berry bowls.

Categories: mugs, process, production

Another fresh batch of mugs with new handles.
The perfect way to finish off another Mugshot Monday!

It all started with some stamped cylinders and some freshly pulled handles.

And ended with another batch of mugs… stamped, handled and ready to start drying!

Categories: bowls, process, production, stamped, stamps

The bowls from last Tuesday night’s class have been sitting in my studio under plastic for a few days. Last night I finally got around to doing some stamping & detailing. I would love to continue this demo with my students in class, but I’m always afraid that they will dry too far if I were to wait until next Tuesday. So hopefully, they will see how their class demo bowls have progressed here on the blog… just like the rest of you!

Flanged Bowls with a border of stamps.

Flared & Fluted Bowl with a border of stamps.

Wide Flange Bowl with a border of stamps.


Split Rim with pinches… with little balls of clay attached at the pinch-points with a small stamp.

Two-Fluted Bowl… I thought it would be fun to stamp just one side of the bowl.

Dragonscale Flower… so I used the same dragon scale tool to decorate the rim.

Split Rim, Pinched & Rounded Bowl – I added small balls of clay at the pinch points, and then textured just the inner rim of the split using a pointed wooden tool.

Lotus-fluted Split Rim – the previous textured split rim was nice, so I did it again!

Slip Spiral Bowl with a stamped rim.

Ombre Slip Bowl with a simple textured rim.

Banded Slip Bowl with a simple textured rim.

Slip Chattered Bowl with a textured rim from a rounded wooden tool.

And now that all of the demo bowls have been stamped & detailed, they are back under some plastic hoping to be trimmed tomorrow,

Categories: bowls, classes, lillstreet, process, production

So we’re in Week Four of the new Spring session of classes at Lillstreet Art Center. My Beginners are doing so well this time around. Catching on really quickly and progressing quite nicely. So last night we had a full discussion about making bowls on purpose instead of “accepting” cylinders gone bad. That a “good” bowl has a really nice curve on the inside. Not a flat bottom cylinder with corners that then swoop out into a bowl. No “beginner’s” ledge on the inside from where they pinched their fingers together to lift the clay. So I showed them how to throw that good basic bowl.

After we finished that first bowl demo, my students went back to their wheels to start practicing. While they threw their bowls, I continued to throw mine as well. I used up a full bag of clay… throwing seventeen basic round bowls, each about 1-1/2 lbs. Once I got them all thrown, we reconvened so I could show them some quick tricks on how they can alter, design & personalize their pottery. Anyone can make a basic round bowl… but the fun part is making it your own!!! So I showed them the tricks, introduced them to colored slip, and tried to beat it into their head that “IT’S JUST CLAY.” Don’t be too frightened to try something. It’s not precious. Make lots of stuff. Try lots of things. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, just squish it up and do it again. Don’t be afraid. IT’S JUST CLAY!!!

Bowl #1 – Fluted on two opposite sides.

Bowl #2 – If two flutes are good, maybe eight would be better?

Bowl #3 – A simple flared out rim… becomes a great “canvas” to decorate later.

Bowl #4 – A much wider flared flange… for even MORE decoration later.

Bowl #5 – A combination of the flared rim and fluted edges. Gives it a bit of an undulating rim.

Bowl #6 – This one was squared off a bit. Who says bowls need to be round? The shape and edges will be refined and decorated later as the clay stiffens up a bit.

Bowl #7 – A simple flower pressed into the bottom with a metal dragonscaling tool. Always a fun little surprise for someone when they get down to the bottom of their bowl of soup!

Bowl #8 – A split rim using the point of my wooden knife. Then pinched back together.


Bowl #9 – The same split rim trick, but then rounded out between the pinches.

Bowl #10 – Another split rim bowl. This time the shape was altered outwards in four corners, and inwards in between.

After playing with the shapes & edges of the rim, we switched our focus to colored slips. And the huge options thisopens up for them. The fact that colored slip is like adding a new “skin of clay” on top of your bowl. An easy way to add color to your pottery at this stage. It will dry and be fired onto the pot… and then create some new effects when glaze goes over it.

Bowl #11 – I coated the inside of the bowl with some basic white slip. And then dragged the rounded end of my wooden knife through while the bowl was spinning to create this fun spiral. The color contrast between the white slip and the darker clay body will show up after glazing.

Bowl #12 – Another bowl with white slip, this time with horizontal banding.

Bowl #13 – White slip with chattering through the slip. Chattering is rhythmic tapping… I use my rubber rib tapping up & down through the glaze, moving upwards while the bowl is spinning.

Bowl #14 – A thicker layer of white slip with some squiggly finger grooves.

Bowl #15 – Another layer of white slip with finger grooves sliding up the sides. I didn’t like the way the lines met up in the center, so we added the little circular “medallion” in the middle. My original intention was to clean up the top edge, but my students really loved the texture the rough slip edges created… and they were right!

Bowl #16 – A simple newspaper stencil stuck onto the clay with water… then painted over with slip. I waited a couple minutes for the slip to set up and then carefully removed the paper stencil.

Bowl #17 – A colorful ombre effect blending white slip with some iron red slip.

And there they are… seventeen bowls that all started out very basic & round. Just a few minutes of altering and voila’… seventeen different tricks & techniques. Now go play with your clay!!!

At the end of the night I had to carry them all upstairs to my studio so I could wrap them up for the evening. Only took three trips up the back stairs… not so bad. So now all seventeen bowls are under plastic so they don’t dry too fast. I’m still planning on doing some extra detailing & stamping to some of them.