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

Throw five matching cutie-patootie vases off-the-hump in 10 minutes.
It was Katie versus “sit-in ringer & former “Throwdown Champion” Christine!

Categories: challenge, classes, wheelthrowing

Wheel throw the tallest cylinder… with a bottom & straight sides in 10 minutes!!!

Categories: clay, wheelthrowing

Balls of clay… with such potential… before & after!

Categories: bowls, classes, wheelthrowing

Once again, my favorite class demo every session for my Beginners & Advance Beginning Wheelthrowers. We start by talking about how to make a “bowl on purpose instead of a cylinder gone bad.” No flat bottoms. No corner edges. No accidental flare-outs. No indented beginner’s ledge. Just nice and smooth ALL the way through the interior of every bowl, every time!

So I made one sample bowl and explained it all as I was throwing the bowl. Once they had all asked their questions, they went back to their wheel to give it a try. Meanwhile, I kept throwing a bunch of bowls. The goal is to have plenty of bowls to “play with” during the second portion of the class…. altering, fidgeting, decorating, making it “theirs” and not just some random round bowl that the wheel kinda made for them!

After awhile, we re-grouped for Part Two of the demo… and we let the fun of playing begin!

Bowl #1 – The original plain bowl… yep, they ALL started kinda like this one.

Bowl #2 – Four Fluted Edges… just a quick pinch & twist with two fingers in four places.

Bowl #3 – And if four fluted edges looks cute… maybe Eight Fluted Edges would look even better?!

Bowl #4 – A flared-out flange…just a smidge over a inch wide. Just bent out over a steady finger on the outside of the bowl at the grooved area.

Bowl #5 – And if a thin flange is nice, maybe a much wider flange would be cooler… kinda like those restaurants when you get this hug impressive bowls with a small scoop of ice cream in the bottom for $50!!!

Bowl #6 – The we combined the techniques… a thin flared flange, with four fluted twists.

Bowl #7 – A simple “denting in” with the side of my wood knife… showing that a round bowl does NOT need to stay round!

Bowl #8 – The we started splitting the rim… using the pointed end of my wooden knife. After splitting the rim, I pinched it back together in eight places.

Bowl #9 – Another split rim, but this time with eight fluted edges to give the rim little undulating waves pattern.

Bowl #10 – Split rim but then dented in at four places with the side of my wooden knife, and then dented out in four other places… kinda creating a little bit of a squares “lotus” feeling!

Bowl #11 – Another split rim pinched together, but then “bulged” outwards bit between the pinched areas.

After altering the rims of the first half, we moved on to using colored decorative slip as a surface decoration technique. I tried to encourage them to “play” more with their clay… and to decorate their pieces more… colored slip being just one simply technique.

Bowl #12 – I covered the interior with a solid layer of white slip. And then dragged the rounded end of my wooden knife through the slip to reveal this spiral as the wheel was spinning.

Bowl #13 – Another full layer of white slip.. . and then we did a bit of “finger painting” with a simple squiggle of my index finger through the slip as the bowl was rotating.

Bowl #14 – While adding the layer of white slip… I started just “plopping” the slip on with a wide paintbrush. And we were all kinda enamored with the random texture that it was creating. So we left it! Might be a tad too subtle for my liking… but…

Bowl #15 – After adding another layer of thick white slip, I did a bit of chattering… rhythmic tapping…. with a rounded plastic rib. Tapping the edge of the rib through the clay to reveal the darker clay body. The speeds with which you tap & spin the wheel both affect the pattern that shows up.

Bowl #16 – Thick white slip with the rounded edge of a plastic rib dragged through it upwards to create these lines. A little “clean-up” in the center… and it was all good.

Bowl #17 – After using a lot of white slip, we then talked about mixing & blending… so we did a simple ombre’ blend of black & white slips. We left it smooth & plain… however… I kinda feel like I might do some decorative carving through the slip after it dries to leatherhard.

Bowl #18 – For MY last demo bowl, we did another ombre’ blend… and then dragged a tool through it to create a spiral… cuz’ everyone LOVES a good spiral!!!

And then the tides turned…

I had one last bowl to decorate, and a classroom full of eager students. So I flipped the game… and told one of them that that THEY had to decorate the final bowl!!!

Bowl #19 – I gave my last bowl to Priya to decorate… and she kinda panicked at first with too many options & too many people watching!!! But then she did a simple layer of black slip over the interior… and made a very fine & tight spiral drag through it. We all LOVED it… well done Priya. And now she gets to keep & finish that bowl too!!!

So there they are, all of my class demo bowls!!!
Remember, they all started out very much the same… simple & round. But after “playing” with some fun surface decoration techniques… they all look different now! And for now they are all in my studio… and there’s a “very food chance” that there “might” be a bit more stamping & detailing on these before I call them done. MORE IS MORE!!!

Categories: process, production, wheelthrowing

Hoping to crank out one last batch of hybrid mugs… quick, quick, quick!!!
Fingers crossed that I can get them done in time for next weekend’s soda kiln?!!!

Categories: clay, summer camp, wheelthrowing

Of course it wasn’t all fun & games in camp… as Isla didn’t quite pull her hair back far enough while throwing at the wheel! Her hair dangling too close to the spinning ball of clay. After several warnings… she ended up with a glop of clay tangled up in her curly locks!!! I gave her three options…

1. scissors

2. wash it out in the gross slop sink

3. let it dry completely and crumble it out later that night at home.

She chose option three… so this chunk dangled in her hair all day!!!
A good reminder for the other kids with long hair… listen to Gary!!!

Categories: challenge, summer camp, wheelthrowing

Because I had such an amazing group of summer campers this week, I decided to go a little further with them… as they “requested” to do the Blindfolded Wheelthrowing Challenge! Turns out that Isla was one of the kids in the hallway that saw us doing a couple weeks ago. She brought it up.. and everyone jumped on the chance to try it out!!! So much fun to watch them throwing… and they all had a WONDERFUL TIME giving it a whirl. Most with good success & plenty of giggles!

Categories: summer camp, wheelthrowing

This week in summer camp, I had a great group of “first-time” wheelthrowers! However, one of them was struggling a bit the first day and kept opening the ball of clay too wide and kept ending up with a “doughnut” of clay in their hands. Over & over again!!! I made a deal with Avery… that if they could figure it out and stop “ripping off doughnuts” I would teach them how to throw doughnuts on the wheel on purpose!

Avery figured it out… and many of my summer camp kids made clay doughnuts to celebrate Avery’s sweet success!!!

Categories: classes, friends, wheelthrowing

After the party, as we all got back to pottery class & projects, I invited Nirali & Sarah to stay and try their hand at the wheel. Sure, they can bake up a storm, but can they throw a pot?!!!

Turns out they can… even with a silly party hat on!!!

Categories: challenge, classes, summer camp, wheelthrowing

After they knocked out the lidded jar project, I knew they would be up for an even bigger & better challenge! So I pulled out the blindfolds (and towels?) and I challenged Summer Campers last week to wheelthrowing while blindfolded. I think they were a little anxious at first, but quickly realized it’s not as hard as it sounded. As long as you take it step-by-step, you realize that you can throw just my touch & muscle-memory. And they all did a GREAT job… and had so much fun that they asked if they could do it AGAIN!!!

Of course I said YES!!!