Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: friends, My Talented Friends, studio

A few weeks back when I was in Minneapolis for the St. Croix River Pottery Tour, I finally got a chance to see Sarah Chapman’s new studio space. She’s in the same building as before where she was renting a small space within Quench Jewelry Arts. It was a great place, nice studio and easy access to teaching classes there. But when the opportunity presented itself to move to a larger space with Quench owner Sarah Sitarz, the two of them moved upstairs to a bigger & better space!!! The Quench studio & classroom stayed downstairs… it’s just the two Sarah’s that made the big move upstairs!

QUITE POSSIBLY THE COOLEST & CLEANEST STUDIO EVER!!!

A beautiful display of some of Sarah’s wall pieces… and look…
just a few “unlidded” jars that are part of our collaboration challenge.

Let me just say… I am SO JEALOUS of Sarah’s space.
Makes my dirty little cubicle of a space seem SO small.
Sarah’s studio is groovy cool, with exposed brick walls, great natural light, wood floors and incredible tools everywhere you look. If only I was a metalsmith… and knew how to use any of these tools… and this could be the BEST STUDIO EVER!!!

Until then, I’ll continue to love my own little space… with pegboard, shelves & tools everywhere you look. And a seemingly never-ending layer of clay & trimmings on the floor. Ahhhh… the life of a potter.

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Categories: clay, process, studio

After two recent art fairs, it’s time to start up the process again. I’d love to start throwing… but first things first. A little housekeeping with a pile of goopy & gooey reclaimed clay setting up on my plaster bat. A couple days there, a lot of wedging and soon enough I’ll have a LOT of free clay to play with again!!!

Categories: friends, studio

During the frenzy of glazing all day, it was great to have a visit from Gerry & Rosene… my very first art fair friends ever!!! We met several years ago when I was just starting out. It was a small holiday show in Sandwich, Illinois. And they were right across the aisle fomr me. Seasoned veterans of the craft fair circuit… and me just starting out. My very first show!!!

Needless to say, I made all the right mistakes. And they were right there to watch, help and advise. As I quickly overspread my booth space, fumbled all over the floor trying to set up my booth, and getting ready for the show. They were so supportive and encouraging… and we’ve been great friends ever since!

So although I was busy glazing & wadding all day, it was a great diversion to have them stop by. Sure, I was BUSY!!!… sure I was OVERWHELMED at the amount of work I still needed to do. But it was so good to see them stop by my studio for the first time! They were in town celebrating Gerry’s birthday with a studio visit and tickets to “Hamilton.” So we chatted, did a full Lillstreet tour with them, daughter Kristy, hubby Matt and Matt’s mom. I think they all enjoyed their tour of the studio… as they asked a LOT of great questions.

All too soon they were off to dinner so I could get back to work.
Glazing. Glazing more. Wadding. Cleaning. Glazing. Wadding and eventually loading the kiln!!!
I’d rather be eating dinner with them.

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Categories: clay, mugs, process, production, studio

Like a bull in a china shop… quite literally. One false move and I just took out one of the new mugs. Note to self: dried greenware is VERY fragile! A great reminder. Luckily, that “set” had five… so now we’re down to four matching mugs!

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!!!

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Categories: organization, studio

I’d didn’t actually “make” a lot of things in the studio today.
Instead I got swallowed into a vortex that included color-coded tapes
and my label maker!!! It was bound to happen sometime!

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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: family, pottery, studio

My Mom has been busy making pottery aprons again!!!
She has six of them ready to go. They’ve been custom-designed for potters… long enough to cover your thighs with a split to open when you sit at the wheel. The straps go over your shoulders instead of around your neck. And there are three button adjustments to change the height & width. So click on the link to see the current inventory… and thank you Greg for always being the perfect model!!!

Here’s a quick peek of the six that are currently available at the time of posting.
Please click on the “Handmade Pottery Aprons” LINK in the top far right column to see the actual “current” inventory… as well as more details and purchase information.

Or… click here to go straight to my Mom’s Pottery Apron page on my blog.

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Categories: clay, production, stamped, studio

What do you make when you’re at the end of a bag of clay?!
I’m not a fan of leaving partially used bags of clay all over my studio.
I’d rather finish them off… so I did last night with these two bottles.

Categories: clay, process, studio

Just breaking up some more dried trimmings and used clay for my next batch of reclaim. The smaller I can make these pieces now makes my reclaim slurry smoother later. So a bit more pulverizing now will make a better clay later!