Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: friends, soda-fired, stamped, totem pole

Back at the start of the Covid Pandemic, my very first art fair friends Gerry & Rosene had a little “incident” in their back yard. A storm blew through Central Illinois and took out one of their largest trees. As if that weren’t bad enough… it also smashed my ceramic totem pole that was residing their yard! We had installed it in their back terraced garden about a decade ago. a beautiful addition to their incredible garden treasure. But that big tree coming down did a LOT of damage to their garden… and what with a pandemic just starting to take-over! Bad timing!

Luckily, we had cemented the totem pole into the ground… so their insurance claim covered as it was a “permanent” piece of their landscaping. With funds coming from the inurance company, Gerry & Rosene had me start making a replacement totem for them I threw the pieces, stamped them and started decorating them.

Once they were soda-fired, I packed them up in crates and stored them in my basement until Gerry & Rosene were ready to install into their yard. Turns out yesterday was the day!!! I I packed up my car with all of the stamped & soda-fired sections… grabbed my cousin Kim… and drove down to Peoria for the day yesterday!!!

After a tour of the garden… a lot of chatting & catching up in our masks… and some food, it was time to get started with the totem pole! So we set out all of the pieces in the beautiful sunshine and got the project started!

I started by digging the hole for the pole to be planted into. I used a great auger tool to make the hole, and a sledge hammer to pound in the pole. We then added a bag of cement around the pole to fill the hole and secure the pole.

Rosene & my cousin Kim worked to organize and sequence the pieces in the right order… not that there is a right & wrong… just a preference. They looked at colors, textures, patterns & shapes and tried to randomize them as much as possible to it all stacked together nicely. Not quite as easy of a project as it sounds!

As they continued to organize the pieces, Gerry & I started to stack the pole from the bottom up. Piece by piece, section by section. I finally made it to the top to put on the every last piece. The topper to the totem pole!!!

And then we were done… and ready for our “photo shoot.” It was so nice to give them back the totem pole they lost in the storm. I do think that this “version” is much nicer than the original. The pieces have a bit more stamping &detailing on them. The colors are a bit more vibrant… and they chose a fitting spot for it right in their front yard! They were SO excited… and SO CUTE!!!

So there it is… their NEW replacement totem pole. Bigger & better than the firs tone… thanks to State Farm and their homeowner’s insurance!

However, they also still had a few pieces left from the original one that had “survived” the tree crash! So I planned ahead and made a new base & a new topper for them “just in case” we could re-stack the survivors and make a smaller totem in the back yard. It worked great… as it is very close to the original location of the first totem. In fact, in the next photo, you can practically see the “dead space” where the tree fell!!!

So no they have TWO new totems in their amazing garden!!! It was a wonderful day playing in the garden, chatting, eating all the while trying to keep our safe distance with our masks on. Okay sure, we may have gotten a little close a couple times… but we tried... we really tried!!!

But in the end… THEY HAVE A NEW TOTEM POLEor two!!!

Categories: garden, totem pole

Another totem pole finds it’s new home!

My friend Chris finally got around to having her new totem pole installed into her front yard! It looks pretty great standing as a sentinel to greet guests surrounded by her blooming flower bed!

Categories: stamped, totem pole

Tonight I painted all of the parts & pieces with a few different colored flashing slips. It will be fun to see how the colors interact with the soda-firing atmosphere in the kiln. Creating cool flashing marks on the pieces… adding a bit of “random” to my kinda obsessive control issues while stamping! Ha!!!

Categories: stamped, stamps, textures, totem pole

Stamping just one cylinder is fun, but stamping a whole table full of them is AMAZING!!! So much fun seeing these pieces transform with new textures & patterns!

Categories: pottery, totem pole, wheelthrowing

So after playing hooky all day on my bike while it was gorgeous outside…
I finally made it into the studio for a very productive evening!
Throwing LOTS of parts & pieces for another big project!

Categories: friends, nature, totem pole

After a “sweet” stop in Eureka on Friday, I continued on to see my very first art fair friends in Peoria. They’ve been “locked-down” with a tight quarantine and definitely needed a virtual hug! They’ve had a tough go… remember they’re the ones who have a gorgeous garden… now with a huge tree that fell down in the middle of it all. And if you look close… you might just see my ceramic totem pole that was in the way!

Luckily, they’re going to get a new one!!!…
totem pole that is, not another fallen giant tree!

Categories: friends, garden, totem pole

So it was a tough day down in Peoria for some good friends of mine when the gusty winds blew through last Sunday! They have an amazing terraced backyard garden with large trees, tons of hostas & flowers, and a LOT of rustic decorative accents all over the place… even a ceramic totem pole made by “you-know-who”!

Well… after the gusty winds…
they now have a few less trees and one less totem pole!!!

Yes, the storm took out one of their largest trees, which in turn took out portions of other trees… and totally smashed my TOTEM POLE!!!

But like I tell my students… “It’s just clay!”

I was just happy that the tree fell where it did… damaging the trees & totem… and NOT my friends or their house! Could have been so much worse… luckily, they had a beautiful green bowl of chocolate to help with the aftermath… also made by “you-know-who”!

Categories: flowers, friends, garden, totem pole

This past weekend was a great chance to get away for a few days…
not too far, but far enough.

So much fun to visit my “first art fair friends” and their amazing garden
in Peoria ablaze with Spring colors!

Oh, and look… a ceramic totem pole in their terraced backyard garden!
Wonder how THAT got there???

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Categories: totem pole

So the students in the  the Montessori School of Lake Forest, Adolescent Program have been working hard on their totem pole. My friend Claire has been working with them to create their final masterpiece. They’ve used my blog as inspiration & reference as I’ve made a few totems in my day. So I was excited when Claire contacted me to tell me about their project. And now they’re in the final stretch. And plans are in the works for the installation of their totem.

It was a rather dreary day when they assembled their totems. First with a rebar pole down the center, then stacking and filling it up section by section.

At some point along the way, the people that purchased their totem decided they wanted three shorter totems instead of the one tall one. Of course I would prefer the  one tall one, but that’s just me. And since the kids had planned on just one totem, they had made just one topper. So now they need three!!! Unfortunately, the additional toppers can’t be made “immediately” so they decided to top them off with blue potter’s buckets. Safe keeping to protect them from filling with water. When the final topper pieces are built and fired, they will finish them off… and hopefully send me more pictures!!!

So for now their totems are “done.” Standing proud.  And they look amazing!
Congratulations to Claire and all of the adolescents who took part in this special project.
Thanks for sharing your totem pole adventure with me! I can’t wait to see the finished totems!

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Categories: terra cotta, totem pole

My friend Claire works with a great group at a local Montessori School. Her students decided to build a totem pole for their auction project. Claire saw one of the totem poles my Summer Camp kids made a few years back… so she’s been using my blog as a reference for her totem pole project. I can’t wait to see the final results by the students at the Montessori School of Lake Forest, Adolescent Program. Their slab-built sections look great so far… even better when they’re glazed, fired and stacked!!!

Slab-built terra cotta sections… rolled into a hollow cylinder with a slab base. Each section will eventually be stacked into the finished totem pole.

To see more about my own totem pole adventures, click on the “totem pole” category in the column to the right.