Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: family, special events, Taylor

Yesterday was a wonderful day… beautiful weather, incredible rides and a full day of fun with my niece Taylor and sister Jen. It’s was our annual adventure to Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Ilinois. My cousin Kim was supposed to come with, but she was instead bed-ridden with a back injury. Probably not the best idea to taunt the injury with jostling on some roller coasters?!

We arrived early before the rides open. They allow you to enter the park, but the actual lines don’t open until 10:30am. So there was plenty of time for a few “glamour shots.”

We considered several different roller coasters for our first ride of the day. Taylor was being a little cautious, so we ended up back on “The Viper”… her favorite wooden roller coaster from last year. Lots of bumps, twists and hills that make you fly out of your seat. Okay, she’s right… it is a pretty great roller coaster!!!

Of course there are the prerequisite spinny, twisty, going-around-in-circles rides that Taylor loves!!! Jen gets a little squeamish on these spinny rides, so it’s just Taylor and I taking on the challenge… again… and again… and again…

We didn’t quite make it on “The Demon.” A little too “bouncy” and not quite as smooth as we would like. Taylor did it last year but wasn’t too much of a fan. Too much head shaking & jostling around. But I did get a great shot of it while we were waiting in line for another spinny ride!

Next up was her other favorite roller coaster… “The Whizzer.” It’s one of the original rides form when Six Flags opened thirty years ago. It’s not the tallest or fastest, but it does give you a great view of the rest of the park and its many roller coaster!

And yes, for the record…
Every roller coaster does have a sign that clearly states cameras are NOT permitted while on any of the rides. It also says that arms & legs are to remain in the car at all times. Ha!!! But if we all followed the rules, we wouldn’t have great pictures like this, right?! I rest my case.

After several roller coasters and a lot of spinny rides, it was finally time for lunch. And who doesn’t love huge corn dogs & cheesy nachos?! Not the healthiest of options, but… when in Rome…

And then it was back to the spinny… maybe not the best idea on a newly full stomach?!
I’m sure some good Dippin’ Dots will settle that back down!!!

We took a calming “diversion” to settle someone’s stomach and recharge in the calming & air conditioned Sky Trek Tower. It’s a very slow, revolving elevator that gives you great views of the park.

Front to back… “Raging Bull”, “Giant Drop”, and the original classic “American Eagle”…

“The Whizzer”…

“The Viper” on the right…

The classic carousel at the entrance…

Another great shot of “The Viper”…

And “Hurricane Harbor Water Park” that we never quite make it too.

After our refueling ride up the tower, it was finally time to tackle some water rides!!! First up, “Logger’s Run.” Another Great America classic that has been there for thirty years… and you can tell.

And once you’re wet, you might as well go for another water ride… this time it was “Roaring Rapids” where we all got soaked!!!

What better way to dry off than another trip on Taylor’s favorite “The Viper”???

And Taylor’s nemesis… “Raging Bull.” It’s my favorite of all the roller coasters, but Taylor was NOT a fan last year when she went on. I think it was far too open on the sides, and only has a lap restraint – not the full over-the-shoulder-lock-you-in-contraption as some of the newer ones. So the closest we got to it this year was walking under it as we were in line for “The Viper”… again.

Sunset shots of “The Viper” and “Raging Bull.”

And what trip to Great America is complete without a couple funnel cakes at the end?! I mean if you’re going to go, you might as well go all the way, right?! So I had them add ice cream & hot fudge to mine! Taylor chose the classic powdered sugar route… but obviously was left wanting more!

After the funnel cakes, our day came to an end back where we started. With a beautiful view of the iconic Great America Carousel. And the conclusion to another great day at Great America with Taylor & Jen. Sorry Kim… maybe next year?

Categories: family, music, Taylor

Last night was a fun night with my sister Jen, brother-in-law Scott and niece Taylor.
It was Taylor’s VERY FIRST CONCERT!!! So exciting for her… and fun for me to see!
The concert was at the Gennessee Theater in Waukegan. Beautiful little theater… not so good with the kerning on their marquee!!!

For those who may not know of them, Straight No Chaser is a fun accapella group singing a wide range of songs. Many of which I had to try REALLY hard not to sing outloud with. Tried… not always successful…

Click here for the song that made them “famous”… “The Twelve Days Of Christmas.”
Click here for their hysterical “Broadway Medley.”
Click here for their version of “It’s All About The Bass.”
Click here for their “Lady Gaga Medley.”
Click here for their version of “Sittin’ On The Dock & Proud Mary.”

Here’s a shot of the audience the group took from onstage. Their idea was that they would post it on their Facebook page, and then you “Tag” yourself on your page to spread the word… and with that, this is their marketing plan!!! I love that they’re using Social Media as their plan. A grassroots plan… spread the word. They were also the very first concert that I’ve had tell the audience at the very beginning that they WANTED you to take pictures & videos during the show!!! More videos.. more photos… more “free marketing” for them!!!

And if you look close, there we are… third from the left, second from the back, behind the tall guy, next to the big woman singing with her hands up, beside the lady in red, around the corner from the family of four… behind a COUPLE THOUSAND other concert goers!!! So?… do you see us?!!! Ha.

Categories: Mom & Dad, Taylor

I know it’s been awhile, and I’m glad she’s a patient girl…
But I “finally” got around to glazing the cute little pots my niece Taylor made during her latest visit to my studio. She finally got to work on the wheel and make a couple pots of her own. My Dad got to make a couple as well… and the center blue bowl was my demo. But here are the results :Taylor’s finished pots… finally… and her well-made & thought-out instruction sheet of what colors she wanted for each.

Categories: holiday, Taylor

After a fun morning at Step Class, and then a not-so-fun afternoon memorial wake,
I got to spend some fun Valentine’s time with my niece Taylor!!!

We went to lunch after the wake to the Cheesecake Factory… my favorite!
I gave Taylor a couple heart cookies…

And she gave me a handmade Valentine Card… and a LOT OF LAUGHS!!!
We had a great time at lunch with her Mom & Dad (my sister). Maybe a little too much sugar was involved.. or at least a silly iPhone app or two!!!

Categories: family, pottery, Taylor

Today was a fun day at the studio. After a hectic holiday, it was great to get back in the mud again. And today, my parents brought my niece Taylor into the City for a day at the studio. She’s been there a few times before, but this was her first day working on the wheel. I gave her the choice… hand-building or wheel-throwing?! Never afraid to get dirty… she chose to spin fast with wet sloppy clay.

We started out with the basics. A demo of wedging, followed by a step-by-step tutorial on the wheel. With quite a few mentions of how “frustrating” this is going to be. And that my adults take a 10-week class to learn, and she’s got just a few hours. My Mom bowed out of the fun, but Taylor and my Dad stepped up & hopped onto their wheels.

As always, centering is the hardest part to learn. Both were struggling. See?… not so easy.
I was just happy that they were both keeping at it… and Taylor was still smiling!
Already wearing clay in all the cutest places!!!

More centering. More throwing. More goofing up. More splattering.
More wedging. More centering. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Whoops…

A few hours later, Taylor was still focused. Eyes on the prize.
She wouldn’t give up… as my Dad was quickly reaching the end of his adventure.

Still smiling… and still making some sweet pots.

At the end of the day, they both had the “fun” of cleaning up their workspace. They cleaned their wheels, tools, buckets, splash pans AND the wedging tables too!!! It’s all part of the process, right???

And I was left with a couple ware boards of pieces to finish up for them…
and a sheet of instructions as to how she wants her pieces glazed!!!

Another great day at the studio… and hopefully another great memory for Taylor!!!

Categories: Chicago, family, friends, holiday, Taylor

After a couple weeks of making holiday magic at Navy Pier, Winter WonderFest opened tonight for invited guests. It’s a beautiful, indoor holiday “escape” form the elements with festive fun for kids of all ages.

My sister Jen brought my niece Taylor down for the Opening Party, as well as my friend Kristin who brought her two kids AJ & Lizzie. It was fun to show off our holiday designs and play with the kids. The rides were all open and we had a great time. Taylor started out slow… a little overwhelmed by all of the people, lights and sparkle. But once we got her on the classic Tilt-A-Whirl, she was in!!! Wanting to do nothing more than the Tilt-A-Whirl over & over again. Her Mom went once… dizzy… queasy… and that was MORE than enough for her!

On a following Mom-free trip to the Tilt-A-Whirl, Taylor went no-ands!!!

So I of course thought it would be great to catch the laughter, crying & excitement in a video in my iPhone. So I clicked on the phone app, set it to Video and shot away… Not realizing until after the ride that with all of the bouncing & spinning, it must have slipped over to Panorama. And this is what I got… spliced up, but still pretty funny!!!

At one point, AJ decided that he wanted to go on Zero Gravity. A large spinning, tilting, stand-up, stick-to-the-wall kind of ride. His mom Kristin said “no way” for her… but that didn’t stop AJ and I from going on it together. He looked a little trepidatious at first, but loved it once he had made a few revolutions!

After a few rounds on the Tilt-A-Whirl,¬† Jen & Taylor slowed it down (for Mom’s dizzy benefit) on the Ferris Wheel.

AJ on the other hand wanted to go rock climbing instead of the Ferris Wheel. So while “the girls” were riding the wheel, AJ went rock climbing and made it pretty close to the top!

All three kids had a great time… that is until the party ended, and the fun came to a screaching halt. So glad that our months of preparing & weeks of decorating for Winter WonderFest are done. And that the kids and their Moms could come down to join me for the Opening Party. Yep, them and hundreds of other festive party-goers!!!

Winter WonderFest is now open on Chicago’s Navy Pier through January 11th, 2015.
Click here for more information.

Categories: family, Taylor

In the category of “Things To Be Thankful For” today…
my niece Taylor is definitely in that category. She did a school project,
and apparently I’ve made quite the impression!

To quote little Taylor… HILARIOUS!!!

Categories: art fair, Taylor

We had a great day yesterday at ART IN THE BARN.
Lots of great customers, beautiful weather, tons of laughs, a funnel cake and my niece Taylor decided to be my new “Artist Assistant” for the day. She did great… and my booth has never been so “lined-up” and organized.

Categories: food, Taylor

Surprisingly, it was Taylor that had them, and NOT me!!!
Although in hindsight… I think I made a mistake!!!

Categories: music, special events, Taylor

Who can resist an adorable 8-year old singing Les Miserables at the school talent show?
Not me.

So when Taylor called to invite me I knew that I had to make the drive out to the ‘burbs tonight to see her big stage debut. She auditioned & decided to sing “Castle On A Cloud” from my favorite musical. And although she had a few technical “issues” along the way, I think she had a wonderful performance! And could she be any cuter??? Really?

Click here to see the video footage from her big debut!