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

This week in my Lillstreet Throwdown class, they all returned with their “blindfold-thrown bowls” as they had to refine & trim them a bit. I think most of them thought we would be working on decorating them in class as “part two” of the assignment. Instead, I had them spray their bowls with water and wrap them up with plastic. We “might” decorate them… but not right away!

Instead we switched to tile-making!!!
They were tasked with making nine 4″x 4″ tiles in twenty minutes. The goal was even thickness, clean edges & good corners. So they started by wedging their clay, throwing slabs and then cutting them into flat tiles. It was fun to see them approach the task… most with rulers… none of them considering the slab roller… and Melanie making a template to use to cut them all nice & square!

After we critiqued & judged the tiles, they began to decorate them with colored slips. They had 45 minutes to finish all nine tiles… which sounds like plenty of time, until you start figuring out how many minutes per tile that works out to be! The challenge for this project was that their group of tiles should coordinate with a common color palette. Their tiles should NOT match as they had to utilize a different slip application technique on each tile. We were looking for creativity, technique, style, cleanliness and overall impression. Basically I was looking for people to embrace the spirit of the challenge… and have a good time exploring different slip possibilities!

Just a couple tile close-ups… loving the textures, patterns and techniques!

At the end of their time, we went around and looked at all of the sets of nine. Some people kept it simple with one color, some went for multiple colors. Some when over-the-top while others kept it minimal. Some kept exploring a common pattern in different ways, while others went for deconstructed versions of the same!

Alwasy fun to see how they all approach the project… and then what they come up with. And with a bit of a time-restraint, they also had to work a bit faster and not over-think things too much. Maybe have a little more fun… and trip upon some new, fun decorative techniques!



Categories: classes, stamped, textures, tiles

This week I challenged my LILLSTREET THROWDOWN students to make a set of tiles. They needed to throw a slab and cute nine perfect 4″x4″ tiles.Many of them have never made tiles before, so it was fun to see their thought process as they only had twenty minutes!

A few of them thought THAT was the challenge… but the smart ones knew there would be a twist! So I challenged them again with textures & tools…. err, well ONE TOOL!

They each chose randomly to see which of these tools was going to be theirs
Some were excited.. .some were scared. And then I gave them the challenge guidelines…

They had to decorate all nine tiles with that ONE new tool.
All of the tiles should go together as a set, but none of them could be the same!
And for this challenge they had thirty minutes! And GO!!!

And there we have them… a fun collection of textured tiles. And a LOT of fun & camaraderie along the way. They were very entertaining… some times frustrated… and very ingenious about how to use that ONE tool. Some used both ends.. some took them apart… some broke them in half… and some pulled out the small wire from inside!!!












Categories: Taylor, tiles

After we finished installing the textured tile wall in the family room… Taylor was emboldened by her skills and decided to install a few tiles in her bedroom! As she’s still a teenager, we wanted to make it “somewhat removable” in case she changes her mind and decides to remodel her bedroom somewhere down the road. We had a partial box full of tiles, so she chose the ones she wanted to use and laid them out in her own design.

We started installing them with Seal & Peel adhesive… but that proved to be too slippery. The tiles kept sliding down the wall, and popping off “of their own free will” whenever they wanted to. We only got a dozen tiles on at the bottom… and they kept falling off. So we stopped to reconsider the options. Scott decided that they could use 3M Command Velcro Tabs to put them up. And so they did…


Categories: family, soda-fired, Taylor, textures, tiles

So I’ve been making tiles for quite awhile now…
a slightly larger size for a slightly larger installation!
Lots of slabs. Lots of textures. Lots of soda firing!!!

It took me awhile to get them done, but I finally did. The original estimate was about 520 tiles… so I didn’t want to start until I had more than that. As we got closer, my brother-in-law did a bit more math and decided that 380 tiles should be enough for the installation. WHEW!!!… I had plenty!

We started with a template. Scott made a piece of foam core that fit into the space perfectly. The tiles were going to fit into the space within their built-in bookcase and surround the television. So he made a template – and then popped it out so we could layout all of the tiles on the dining room table to fit.

And then we started to fill in the template. Tile by tile. Square by square.

Placing them all onto the template to fill the foam core. Trying to place them all so that they “appear” to be random. So it’s a jigsaw puzzle of sorts putting them together so the textures are spread out, the colors are not too close to each other… and so on. I like to call it “forced random.”

And it looks like we have a good start… in the top right corner at least!!!

With the top corner “done”… we still have a lot of surface to cover!!!

And then once the template was “full”… it was time to start finalizing it. Trying to “force” the random look.

And let me just say… it’s kind of a slippery slope that could last forever!
Every time you move & switch-out one tile… then another tile looks out of place…
and then another.. and then another…

At some point you just need to call it DONE!… and apparently, we’re not there yet?!

Yep… still switching them out… like I said… SLIPPERY SLOPE!

Finally calling the template done… and ready to start installation.
So here’s the bookcase… and our work table all set-up and ready to go!

So we started at the bottom, using tile spacers from the hardware store!

We followed the picture on the bag, as well as our own gut-intuition, using the spacers flat against the wall. But soon realized that THAT wasn’t going to work. After two rows, it appeared that it was going to get tough to pick-out the spacers as the tiles dried to the wall. So we quickly switched to sticking them in between the tiles parallel to the countertop.

Squirt-by-squirt… gluing them directly onto the wall. We found that it helped if we let the adhesive stiffen up for a few minutes before we squished them to the wall. If we did it too soon they seemed to be a lot slippery-ER.

So then we continued… row after row… until we had three done. We decided to take a little “break” to let them set up a bit before the stacked more tiles on these bottom rows. Long ways still to go…

A few more rows and we were up to ten rows! Leaving a space in the middle… space that will be covered by the television when it’s put back onto the wall.

And then we made it to twelve rows! Glue, squish, stick, repeat…

Luckily, I had my niece Taylor there as my more-than-able-bodied-assistant!
She did a wonderful job all say with the installation!

After crossing the span above the “TV” space… with the help of a well-spaced strip of foam core… we finally made it to the top. Well, “close” to the top of the wall. However… not close enough to leave as is… not big enough to squeeze in another tile…

So we ended up cutting a few tiles… some with a Dremel, some with an actual tile cutter!
Let’s just say it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped it might be! We had to do a full row for the top edge, as well as two cut to fit around the granite countertop part way down.

Taylor did a great job putting the finishing touches on the top row,
while I fudged the two to go around the granite counters.

So finally the tiles were up… spacers keeping everything in place. Since all of the tiles aren’t quite “perfect”… we also employed a few toothpicks to help even out the horizontal lines. Look closely…

As well as a couple custom-made tiles with initials on them!

After the tile adhesive cured, it was finally time to pull out the tile spacers & toothpicks.

What a difference it makes when all of that “support material” comes out.
So here’s the finished look… the dark lines between the tiles is merely the painted wall color. There will be no grout… just the “floating” illusion from the paint.

After re-installing the television and speakers along the bottom, the whole project is finally completed. It’s been a long time coming… lots of tiles, lots of textures, lots of soda-firing… and lots of wadding as every tile needed to be wadded before going into the soda kiln!

Thanks to my sister Jen, brother-in-law Scott and niece Taylor for their patience in waiting for the tiles… as well as all of their assistance & patience while we were installing this masterpiece. I hope they will LOVE it for many years to come!!!




Categories: soda-fired, textures, tiles

While unloading my soda kiln I practically filled a box with textured tiles.
The larger ones are already “spoken for” with an upcoming installation…
but I need to pull something together with these smaller ones for next weekend’s
HOLIDAY HOME SHOW. A couple new ClayQuilts coming soon!!!

Categories: process, textures, tiles

Spent part of my day yesterday wadding individual tiles for the soda kiln. Each and every tile… one by one… wad, wad, wad… all ready to be loaded into the kiln. The perfect “kiln filler” in between all of the other pots! Sure, it takes me longer to load the kiln, but by the time I’m done barely any of the empty shelf surface is showing!

Categories: art fair, artists, tiles

Halloween is a’happening here at ART IN THE BARN.
Got this groovy pumpkin tile from my friend Mike Skiersch…
he’s in the Lower Barn #A02 with his collectible tiles!!!

Categories: art fair, tiles

Early morning sun on ClayQuilt tile boards at ART IN THE BARN.

Categories: soda-fired, textures, tiles

I started off my day today putting together a few last minute ClayQuilts to bring to the art fair this weekend. Sure, I already had enough made… but I couldn’t help myself! More is more!!! So I spent the morning arranging & assembling hundreds of handmade textured tiles to make these wall pieces look “perfectly random.” Just in time so they could dry while I went out to Barrington to set-up my booth!

Categories: collaborations, textures, tiles

One of the best parts of doing a small show like ART IN THE GARDEN is that we get to play with the other artists and do some amazing collaboration projects… not encouraged at regular art fairs! I know we’re all frantically working on pulling them together as the time draws near… and here’s a sneak peek of what mosaic artist Kristin Conneely has been doing with some of my textured tiles! Mark your calendar for September 8th & 9th to see the final results in Glenview!