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

As part of my time at Summer Camp, I find it important to teach the kids more than just how to make a projects or two. There are so many opportunities to share life lessons & more. So I find it a great chance & challenge to teach the kids about some famous artists & art history along the way… making it a “game” so they frequently don’t even realize it’s happening!!!

In fact, at the end of the week… we did a “socially-distant” game of MEMORY with the kids flipping over the cards to match up the artists… not the images… as most of the artists had two different artworks that they memorized. So they had to match the artist by name… with a lot of hand sanitizer in between turns flipping cards!!!! Good thing my flash cards are laminated!!!

So here’s a quick overview “POP QUIZ” of some of the artists & sculptors that my Summer Campers learned this summer.

HOW MANY OF THEM CAN YOU NAME??? First & last names please…

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So?… how many did YOU get right?!
Without the benefit of GOOGLE… or looking them up somewhere?
Not as easy as you would think, right?

But now many of my Summer Campers know a lot more artists than YOU!!!

Categories: lillstreet, summer camp, wheelthrowing

My final week of camp… sadly, as all good things must come to an end!
But in one way or another… virtual or on-site.. the kids are going back to school soon.

So this was my final week of camp – another week of Wheelthrowing!
And by this time, several of them had already done a Wheelthrowing Camp over the summer, so it was a little easier for everyone. And they made some great little pots!

And then there was Greta, who asked if she could layer two different slip colors… and then carve through them! Of course I said YES!!! So she put down a layer of green slip, and then covered it with white slip. We tried to “quick dry” it a bit. And then she started carving through to reveal the color and the clay body below! I love when kids go a bit further with their projects… MORE IS MORE!!!

Even with kids!!!

And with that… the end of my Summer Camp 2020!

So much fun playing with all of the kids this Summer. I think it was so good for all of us to be able to work together face-to-face… errr, mask-to-mask… after so long being quarantined and sheltering-at-home. I know the parents were so thankful that we were there to teach the kids… and to give them an option to get them out of the house! Let alone, give the kids something fin to do this Summer. As practically everything else had been cancelled due to Covid-19.

Categories: handbuilding, lillstreet, summer camp

To kick-off Chess Camp Week, we have a discussion about the chess set, playing chess and how we’ll be making a full set of chess pieces in one week! And that they need to come up with a theme for their set… who is battling who???

We then do some basic handbuilding demos… score, slip, attach, repeat!!! And that everything thicker than their pinky has to be hollow! And that any mess they make, they need to clean up…. also know as Gary’s Summer Camp Rule #3!

And then the fun begins… lots of handbuilding, lots of pieces!!!

While they’re building all of their chess pieces, we also start working on painting their chess boards. We use a large sheet of wood so they can draw out their grid and paint it all with acrylic paint. We do it in stages, one color at a time… letting the first color dry overnight before tackling the second color.

Once we finish making all of the chess pieces, we started painting all of them with colorful underglazes. Once they’re done painting, their pieces will be glazed by one of our Lillstreet Monitors with a clear glaze to make the colors a bit more vibrant & colorful.

As they’re painting, we do occasionally have some “breakage” along the way… typically where there was not any scoring & slipping. I try to tell them that they will fall apart if they’re not careful… but sometimes it takes a bit of breakage to prove the point. Luckily, they have time to build a few back-up pieces! And if you look closely, sometimes there’s no scoring & slipping to be seen… even though the kids “profess” that they did score & slip!!! But the evidence shows otherwise!

So here are a few of our “finished” sets…
drying and ready to be glazed with clear glaze and fired!
Sadly, we were running so close to the deadline on Friday, that I didn’t get a chance to get photos of all the sets. We were still building a few “replacement” pieces & painting with underglaze as the parents were arriving to pick up their kids!!!

THE SOLAR SYSTEM
With many of the planets represented… including a “lot” of Mercury’s as pawns???

COMIC BOOK SUPERHEROES
Sometimes the themes aren’t so apparent… but as long as the kids LOVE them, I’m okay with it! Like this one… if you look closely, there are some “logos” of the superheroes… and then birds are supposed to be Robins!… get it???

CATS VS. DOGS
Complete with fire hydrant & mouse pawns!

HATS
Yes, a bit of an “odd” theme… but he was excited about it. And had a perfect plan to make it all happen. Even when I made suggestions… he had a great rationale as to why he wanted it THIS way! So he made it his own way… which he loved, as he could “see the vision” even if I struggled a bit.

SOME SORT OF VIDEO GAME
Yes, frequently the kids want to make their theme based on a video game. And since I don’t do video games, I’m at a loss for words & ideas! Again… as long as he knew what he was making and had a good plan… I’m in!

And as part of Summer Camp Rule #3
We need to make sure the kids lift by the sides of the jars of underglaze… or at least make sure that they lids are screwed on really tight. Because if we don’t… THIS happens!!! Luckily, the kids are ready to do the cleaning. It’s all part of “the fun” of Summer Camp with Gary!!!

Categories: handbuilding, lillstreet, summer camp, wheelthrowing

This week was a combination of Wheelthrowing & Handbuilding. We work on wheelthrowing for the first couple days, and then switch to handbuilding on Thursday. Friday is reserved for glazing of their wheelthrown pieces, as well as finishing & slip painting of their handbuilt pieces.

But first… it’s the messy fun of WHEELTHROWING!!!
And many of them are excited to finally have a chance… as they need to be at least 8-years old to take a Wheelthrowing Camp at Lillstreet. Some of them have “waited” to be old enough to come take the wheel for a spin!

And then on Tuesday after camp… THIS happened…
This year all of our campers’ tools & clay were stored separately in Ziplock bags to keep everything safe. And then we roll this cart back & forth to class & storage afterwards. Imagine my surprise as I was turning the corner after camp… and three of the wheels popped off the cart!!! Good grief. Always something exciting to keep you on your toes!

On Thursday, we switched to handbuilding… so we had to have separate & dedicated slip containers for each camper so there would be no “sharing” of tools to contaminate anything. Luckily, I had a camper “volunteer” to fill the containers with slip for me!

So we worked all day Thursday making handbuilt dinnerware pieces & parts. A lot of making slabs by hand, draping them into Chinet plates as molds… and then “maybe”… just “maybe” a little of my stamping addiction may have rubbed off on them?!

Then on Friday they started painting their dinnerware sets with colored slips as they would be glazed with clear glaze the week after camp by one of our Lillstreet Monitors.

And as always… I keep encouraging the kids to do their fair share of the clean-up. And if that includes pushing all of the reclaim clay scraps through the grid, and then wiping it off, so be it. Someone’s got to do it, right?!

Categories: clay, process, summer camp

So I keep telling the kids to keep their wet clay under plastic so that it doesn’t dry out. Spray it water if necessary… but keep the extra scraps under plastic!!! We talk a LOT about not letting their clay dry out too fast.

And THIS is why!!!
Because now they need to reclaim it themselves… making terra cotta slip out of their scraps. Because dry clay is not usable for their dinnerware sets!!! So now they need to do some manual labor… all part of the clay process. And an important lesson to learn.

So we start by having them pulverize their dried terra cotta pieces – pounding & crushing with rolling pins. For once,. it was a good thing that everyone has to be wearing masks!!!… as this can be a bit of a dusty process.

And then as they get it crushed down to small pieces & powder, we scoop it into plastic buckets.

Then we add water and they get “the privilege” of stirring forever to make it smooth! After all of this work to make something out of the clay they let dry out too much… they might re-think keeping their clay wet under plastic a bit more next time!

And if not… at least we have a LOT of really nice smooth slip now!!!

Categories: handbuilding, lillstreet, summer camp

We started camp this week with the usual introductions and discussion of our class projects. For FIRE, FORGE & FEAST, we have a LOT to get done in a short amount of time. So I need all of my campers to stay focused & engaged in the process. We do a lot of handbuilding in this camp… so there’s a LOT of scoring & slipping to be done.

And to make it one step tougher for them… I threw them a curve-ball by telling them that they needed to design their entire dinnerware set based on a Famous Artist. Somehow incorporating their style, imagery, color palette or characters into their pieces! So we started the class off with some Flash Cards of famous artworks by Famous Artists. Enough for them to get some ideas of who they might want to focus on for their project. Little did they know that the Flash Cards “Game” would continue all week long until they had them ALL memorized!!!

We started glazing everything on Wednesday. For the kids’ terra cotta projects, we use a once-fired color glaze so we can get their pieces back on Friday. The colors are limited, but easy to use… and they will be darker, shiny & more colorful after firing.

As the glazing continued, I set up a fun splatter glazing station for Graham in the hallway. We set out his pieces on a large piece of paper and let him go! Of course he had a full understanding of Gary’s Summer Camp Rule #3… whatever mess you make, you WILL be cleaning up! So he did a great job of keeping his splatters as contained as possible!

And one of the best parts… as he made painter’s palette platters…
he now had JACKSON POLLOCK PAINTER’S PALETTE SPLATTER PLATTERS!!! Say that three times fast!

And while the splattering was going on… Eve had a little more time to make a few more side plates. Such attention-to-detail… as I would expect… as this was her THIRD TIME taking my Fire, Forge & Feast Camp!!!

As the first kiln was unloaded, we got their ceramic handles for the cutlery. They figured out which ones fit best, and then I epoxied them together. Not quite as much fun as previous years when we actually made them in the Metalsmithing Department of Lillstreet… but these desperate times called for desperate measures!

So their dinnerware sets started coming out of the kiln… still warm, bit now more colorful. We started setting them out as a set to see how everything goes together. Unfortuantely, not everything made it out of the kiln… as some of it was put into a “second kiln” that wasn’t quite done by the end of camp on Friday. So the kids had to come back later to pick-up their stuff… and I didn’t quite get photos of everything!

So here are some of the FIRE, FORGE & FEAST dinnerware sets…
based on the work & style of some Famous Artists!!!

ALEXANDER CALDER –

Including a “plate-elevating-stand” based on the Calder sculpture downtown called “The Flamingo.”

JACKSON POLLOCK –
Every kids favorite when they realize the get to splatter everything!!!

JIM DAVIS – cartoonist of the “Garfield” series
Complete with chopsticks as whiskers!!!

WASSILY KANDINSKY –

PIET MONDRIAN –

VINCENT VAN GOGH –

WALT DISNEY –

HAYAO MIYAZAKI – Artist & director of the anime’ classic “Spirited Away.”

And then potluck on Friday… the FEAST portion of Fire, Forge & Feast.
It was questionable as to whether or not we could pull-off a potluck feast during Covid Pandemic times. No such things as bringing homemade treats in any more. No more sharing. No more finger-licking!!!

Luckily, we did it… all with pre-packaged, individual serving foods that the kids brought in. We separated them onto plates so everyone had one of each. They then went back to their “assigned” safe work space to feast! I did have to tell them there would be no sharing, exchanging or passing around of their treats. Once on their plate – it was theirs!!! And it was one of the weirdest conglomerations of potluck food that Lillstreet has EVER seen!!!

At the end of camp, we did a little Pop Quiz on the famous artists that they had been memorizing all week long. They had over fifty artists on the list… so I had them write them all down as I showed the flash cards. And here’s the kicker… they needed first AND last names!!! I told them that spelling didn’t matter unless there was a tie.

After fifty-some flash cards, Jo was the big winner!!!
Just missed one… just one FIRST NAME!!!
Had the last name… but forgot Anish.

So the BIG PRIZE was the demo plate I had made earlier in the week!
Looks like Jo was pretty pleased with the prize!!!
And I was more than pleased with another successful week of Summer Camp!!!

Categories: animals, lillstreet, sculpture, summer camp

After finishing their Robert Indiana inspired letter sculptures… and sending them off to the kiln!… my Summer Campers re-focused to start their new larger sculptures! We discussed options & ideas with a little bit of brainstorming. Then we covered how were going to build them… discussing process, materials and options. We all worked together to finalize our plans, and the kids drew pictures of their sculptures.

We then started building the basic structure & inner armatures for their sculptures. I helped them with the structure and power tools… but it was their creativity & inspiration that led the way. After building their armatures, they set-off on filling them in & bulking them out with lots of newspaper & masking tape. Their challenge was make it look as much like their “intended” sculpture with minimal supplies. A lot of crumpling, folding & taping in place.

After filling the armatures, we started covering the newspaper with a thin layer of plaster gauze. Think “industrial-strength” paper mache! It’s the same stuff they make plaster casts out of at the hospitals. A bit of water, several sheets of plaster gauze… and they were able to add an outer layer to their sculptures.

After a full day of working with plaster gauze, we were ready to clean-up for the day! Yes… back to Gary’s Summer Camp Rule #3... “Whatever mess you make, you WILL be cleaning up!” So they did… on their hands & knees scrubbing the floor to get the plaster dust & splatters off the floor before it dried too much.

The next day, we came back to the plaster gauze… this time adding details, patterns & textures. The goal was to make them as “realistic” as they could… and easily identifiable for what their plan was. The perfect chance to bring their sculpture to life!

After building the sculptures and getting them to dry overnight, we started painting them with acrylic paints. So much fun to see them really come to life in technicolor!!! And a little bit of color-theory… as they only go primary colors to work with. They needed to mix & blend their own special colors!

On Friday, while the paint dried on their sculptures, we pulled together a quick Gallery Show Opening Reception. I had them make a large poster for the door to our classroom, as well as small “art gallery tags” to put next to their artworks. Basically just a show for their parents as they came to pick-up their kids. Tough to do while keeping the quantity of people in our classroom down to a small number. But we did it… and the kids LOVED showing off their work in their ART GALLARY (sp)!!!

So here are most of the final sculptures in our ART GALLARY (sp)…

AVERY – Desert Cactus Flower

CICI – Red Fox

FELIX – Koala Bear

ORI – Quilted Bed

TALI – Magical Pegasus

JANE – Colorful Peacock

Another great week… kicking off what will hopefully be a great Summer at Lillstreet. This whole panademic crisis has been so weird for all of us… it just felt AMAZING to be back teaching the kids in-person. Hoping that the whole summer goes by without incident at Lillstreet. I think this week went smoothly… and we all learned a LOT about how to teach a class of kids during these times of Covid-19.

A LOT OF HAND DISINFECTANT & MASKS!!!

Categories: artists, handbuilding, sculpture, summer camp

So we started with a little “art introduction” of sculptor Robert Indiana and his works. We discussed his style, design & concept…. and they all got excited to build their first sculpture based on his work. So the challenge for each of them was to build a large version of this sculpture using their own names!!! A LOT of handbuilding… but I was confident they could do it!!!

The campers started by drawing out the letters for their names. I encouraged them to have some sort of style & design… like maybe adding serifs to the letters?! Then the kids started making their slabs and cutting out their large letters. To make them a 3-dimensional letter, they needed to cut-out two of every letter to make the front & back.

Some of them were so pleased with their letters… and even the canvas covered boards that they worked on. Making an overlapped letter outline masterpiece!!!

After a quick demo on how to assemble their letters, they all set off for a LOT of scoring & slipping! I kept telling them that I can “pretty much guarantee” that of they don’t score & slip… their piece will fall apart! So they were all very diligent with their assembly!

At the end of Day One, I made sure that my campers did a full cleaning of their workspaces. Each kid with their own dedicated space to be safely distant from the other campers. And as part of Rule #3… whatever mess they make, THEY will be cleaning up… and that includes the FLOOR!!!

After stacking & assembling their name letter sculptures, the kids started painting them with glaze. It’s a special glaze that we use for some of our Summer Camp projects. They can paint it on “raw” terra cotta for a single firing. The colors will be darker & shiny when they come out of the kiln!

FAST FORWARD TO FRIDAY : The Last Day of Sculpture Camp
And also the day that the kid’s sculptures came out of the kiln. Always exciting when there are no “explosions” or severe breakage during the firings. Sure, we may have lost a couple feet off the bottoms… but everything still stood up well. And maybe next time they’ll remember to score & slip a little better?!

NEXT UP : My Summer Campers had to shift gears to start another sculpture for the rest of their week. This time, much larger and made with plaster gauze!!!

Categories: lillstreet, summer camp, wheelthrowing

So now we’re two weeks into the Fall Session of classes at Lillstreet… but I’m still not over Summer!!! Nor am I over the fun we had a Summer Camp this year. Sure, it was a little “different” for all of us to keep everyone safe, masked & socially-distant. But still… it was just a little bit of “normal” that just made me happy every day! I mean, who doesn’t love working with kids, teaching life lessons & making art every day?!

So… every day this coming week I’ll be featuring another week of Summer Camp 2020! Get ready for a week full of Summer Camp Flashbacks… so much fun!

I LOVE SUMMER CAMP!!!

Categories: handbuilding, summer camp, terra cotta

This past week was another wonderful week of Summer Camp with the kids! It was FIRE, FORGE & FEAST where they each make a full thematic dinnerware set… more photos & stories to come! We had to make a few “alterations” to the usual FF&F plan due to the pandemic & more, but they adapted & did a great job.

And then somewhere along the way,
I apparently got a little sidetracked & addicted to making spoons?!!!