Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: color, creativity, summer camp

So I’ve been a fan of tie-dyed t-shirts for a VERY long time.
And for those who are not at Lillstreet on a regular basis, you might be surprised that I wear one pretty much every day that I’m in the studio! I think it’s the colors, the patterns, the fun activity of making the tie-dye… and some sort of childhood flashback to Summer Camp fun. Yes, my very first job ever was a Summer Camp counselor… and look at me now… STILL a Summer Camp counselor!!!

And with Summer Camp coming up again… and PROJECT RUNWAY focusing on tie-dye as high fashion last week… I felt it was time to step-up my game and make some new t-shirts!!! And thanks to my friend Jill Miller of Hooey Batiks for inspiring me with a little tutorial advice on how to ice-dye! Didn’t sound too difficult… so here I go…

No need to tie them all up with tight rubber bands… more of a crumpling and “holding in place” with a couple rubber bands. Its going to be the ice and the dye that does all the work! So I decided to start with four shirts… two new white ones, and two colored shirts that have a couple stains “to be creative-camouflaged away.”

And then I covered the four t-shirts with a bag of ice cubes from the convenient store.
I tried my best to cover every part of the shirts.

Then you sprinkle dry dye powder on top of the ice. It’s kind of “random” as you’re sprinkling… I’m more accustomed to dipping into colors where you can “control” what part you dip into what. Sure, the folding, twisting & crumpling are all part of the pattern & end result… but I’m not so confident on the colors I”m going to get out of this pile of ice & color?!!! I’m thinking this might come with practice… but this is my first try… so here we go!

As the ice melts, the powder dye dissolves and kind of “travels” with the water as it drips & seeps into the fabric.

And it seemed like this batch went well… my first time ice-dying…
so why not do two more quick while I’m all set-up?

So here’s a quick peek at my new tie-dyed shirts… actually more “ice-dyed”… but you get the idea. I’m pretty excited for these new designs & patterns. I’m kinda digging the ice-dyed technique. A lot easier, quicker and “newer” than traditional tie-dye with a ton of rubber bands! Don’t get me wrong… I still have rubber bands… I still have dye… and I still have t-shirts… never say never!

Unfortunately, these still need to be washed to get some of the extra dye out…
which is also when you lose some of the beautifully vibrant colors.
I wish there was a way to keep them this bright… but they’re just t-shirts, right?!!!



Categories: summer camp, terra cotta

On this week’s episode on THE GREAT POTTERY THROW DOWN, the potters had to do some handbuilding to build a complete chess set! They had 4-1/2 hours to build them all, and then another 3-1/2 hours to glaze them after bisque firing. And the whole time I was watching the show, I kept thinking about how great my Summer Camp kids are… and that many of them have done the same project as these adults on the show. And then I realized that I never posted pictures from last summer’s camp!!! So here we go… a fun flashback to last summer when my campers cranked out their Chess Sets in one week of fun!!!

We always start the camp with some discussion of rules & expectations… followed by some fun brainstorming to come up wth the themes the kids will be using to make their chess sets. Once they have their set all planned out, I do some demos for them to show off some basic handbuilding skills they’re going to need. And then I set them loose!!! Eyes on the prize… they need to stay focused as we start building & cranking out all of their pieces.

We continued building their pieces… as well as RE-building a few of them that might have fallen apart overnight as they dried. I mean, I keep telling the kids that they MUST score & slip everything really well or they will fall apart with they dry. Frequently a couple of them will think they know better… until they come back on Tuesday to see some of their pieces fell off… from NOT scoring & slipping! Told ya’ so!!!

We started the day with working on their chess boards. They had to decide what colors they wanted to go along twith their chess set theme. And then today’s goal was to paint the first set of squares.

They’ve also made more pieces today… working towards our goal of having all (or at least most) of their pieces completed by the end of the day.

We started the day with finishing up the painting of their chess boards…

And then returned back to the pieces… as we started lining up all of their pieces in the right order so they could see how their chess sets are really coming together! As they completed construction, I had them start painting with underglazes. Unfortunately, as they are painting their pieces, occasionally something mght break off if they’re not careful enough… or if something wasn’t scored & slipped well. So along the way, there are some repairs & rebuilds that happen too!!!

At several points throughout the day, I had to remind them that the underglazes
was supposed to go on their pieces… and NOT the table!!!

The final day… and always a LOT still to finish! By the end of class they need to have all 32 pieces consturcted & underglazed. I also encourage them all to make a few “extras” in case something breaks along the way… whether in the kiln or at home paying the game! It’s always so much fun at the end to see all of their themes really coming together!

And then we carefully put them all on the rolling studio cart… very carefully…
So proud of my Summer Campers and all of the hard work they put in this week!!!

So for now they’re sitting on the cart ready to be glazed. One of our studio monitors will carefully glaze them all with a low-fire clear glaze and fire them. The kids will just have to wait a few more days to get their AMAZING Chess Sets back!!!




Categories: sculpture, summer camp

The kids are scrambling and putting the final touches on their Sculpture Art Gallery Show… just about an hour away from the Opening Reception from 3:00-3:30pm at Lillstreet… today only! C’mon by…

Categories: lillstreet, sculpture, summer camp

This week my little Summer Campers have been working hard building large sculptures… photos to come! Tomorrow we finish painting them in the morning and set-up a gallery show for the afternoon. If you’re around town and looking for a fun art experience… c’mon by for the kid’s Sculpture Art Gallery Show at Lillstreet from 3:00-3:30pm in the Kid’s Rooms!

Categories: glaze, summer camp, terra cotta

Today my Summer Campers finished all of their pieces… glazing all of their stoneware pieces warm out of the kiln, as well as trimming, glazing & finishing their terra cotta pieces they made yesterday! Here’s two of my favorites… especially the bowl with the great glaze pattern… and you know how I LOVE a great spiral!!!

Categories: lillstreet, summer camp

Yesterday when I came in early for Summer Camp… I found that one of the adult students had already set-up their “stuff” at one of the pottery wheels. Wow, that’s early… considering it was at last an hour before Lillstreet even opens!!! But imagine “their” surprise when they find out that every wheel in this room (all fourteen of them) were soon going to be taken by a bunch of shall-we-say “energetic” early-teens… with a LOT of terra cotta flying about!!!

Categories: process, stamped, summer camp

Today was the third day of my Wheelthrowing Summer Camp…
and the kids trimmed their pots, decorated, added handles, slip-painted…
and “allegedly” may have done a tiny bit of stamping for fun textures!

Categories: clay, summer camp, wheelthrowing

After two days at the pottery wheel, my Summer Campers were cranking out some nice pots… trying to stay focused, elbows down, arms locked in, fingers steady, centering their clay… and eventually making a LOT of pots!!!

Categories: clay, summer camp, wheelthrowing

This is my first week back at Lillstreet Summer Camp!
And my kids are having a wonderful time and making some pretty sweet pots
in Wheelthrowing Camp! Goopey messy fun!!! WHOO-HOO!!!



Categories: mugs, summer camp

So I just got my schedule for Summer Camp 2019 at Lillstreet Art Center.
Excited that we’ve confirmed schedules as it makes me feel like Summer may not be all that far away?! Also excited that two of my favorite Summer Campers are already checking the camp schedules to see which ones they’re going to take this summer… over a cup of tea… tea for two!!!

JUNE 17th-21th – Wheelthrowing – 9:00am-1:00pm

JULY 8th-12th – Sculptures Big to Small – 9:00am-3:30pm

JULY 15th-19th – Chess Camp – 9:00am-3:30pm

AUGUST 5th-9th – Fire, Forge & Feast – 9:00am-3:30pm

AUGUST 12th-16th – Sculptures Big to Small – 9:00am-3:30pm

AUGUST 19th-23rd – Wheelthrowing – 9:00am-1:00pm

Click on the link here for more information & registration.