Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: bowls, flowers, soda-fired, workshop

Cassie brought these tiny little flower dishes to fire in the soda kiln! They were made with different kinds of clay, and glazed with different colors. Individually they were great kiln filler… but when put together I like them even more!!! Like a floral tapestry!

Categories: classes, pottery, soda-fired, workshop

Last night we unloaded the soda kiln, cleaned, scraped, etc… and then took some time to admire our newest treasures! My students were excited to see their new soda-fired pieces – and the randomness that happens during the firing! There were some pleasant surprises… and some not-so-pleasant surprises! But here are just a few of the pieces that came out of the kiln last night. Kudos to my students on their beautiful pots!!!

Categories: classes, kiln firing, pottery, soda-fired, workshop
Categories: classes, pottery, process, soda-fired, workshop

After they had all the FUN of unloading their newly soda-fired treasures… they also got to experience the “FUN” of cleaning the kiln, scraping & kiln washing the shelves, and making the kiln room better than we found it – ready for the next loading team to come in. So they learned a lot in this workshop… and they also got to participate in this sweaty GLAMOROUS side of soda-firing!!!

Categories: classes, pottery, soda-fired, workshop

Once the door was finally taken off, my workshop participants got to see all of their freshly soda-fired pots! Some of them had never soda-fired before… some had never even loaded a kiln before! So this workshop was a great “taste” of the soda-firing process in a short time! Lots to learn. Lots to experience!

Categories: classes, lillstreet, soda-fired, workshop

Tonight was the final night of our SODA-FIRING WORKSHOP at Lillstreet. My students finally got to unbrick the door of the soda kiln to see their new treasures inside! Its always an “emotional-adventure” when you start to see your new pots “revealed” as the door comes down row by row by row! Lots of oohh’s & aahh’s along the way… and a few ughh’s as well. I always tell students that just because it may not have turned out how you “expected” it to be… doesn’t mean it’s bad. Sometimes they just take a little longer to win your lovin’!

Categories: classes, lillstreet, stamps, workshop

Well, not quite as much fun as teaching face-to-face, but it did feel good to “teach” again as I just finished teaching my first “official” ceramics workshop on ZOOM for Lillstreet Art Center! It was a one-hour workshop on making clay stamps… from my studio. A little jittery at times as I tilted by laptop screen up & down for demos… but I’m sure these ZOOM classes will get smoother if we need to keep doing them for much longer!

Categories: stamps, television, workshop, YouTube

Getting ready to teach my first online workshop for Lillstreet Art Center… CLAY STAMP MAKING! Okay, so I may be showing my age here… but I just can’t get THIS out of my head! And you can thank me now… for I’m sure it will be stuck in your head now too for your next ZOOM Meeting online!

And… you’re welcome!!!

Categories: artists, friends, pottery, workshop

If you’re looking for a little clay inspiration tomorrow while you’re still social distancing… I think you might want to watch these two Instagram Live videos. The first one will be at 2:00pm CST with my former teacher Steven Lee who is now the head-honcho at The Archie Bray!

The second one will be my pal Mikey Stumbras starting at 4:00pm CST. I know we’re all looking for good things to fill our days & spark our creative spirits. Here are two good ones! I know I’ll be watching both of them too!

Categories: classes, kiln firing, soda-fired, workshop

I started firing the soda kiln early in the morning…
trying hard to “schedule it” so that my students would be returning in the evening at the “right time” to help add the soda mixture into the kiln. The firing was pretty smooth… everything going as planned. Cones were melting & dropping as planned. I was checking the kiln every half hour to make sure everything was good.

Unfortunately, when I went down to check on the kiln at 6:00pm…
it was OFF!!! Yes, the entire kiln was OFF!!! Shut down!!!

Of course… panic ensued. Students were arriving… asking how it was going… I was freaking out. Luckily, Fred & Levi were in the building… both skilled soda kiln firers… and they helped diagnose the problem. After at least 20 minutes of the kiln being off… plus the time it took us to diagnose & fix… Levi finally got the kiln turned back on!!! Whoo-hoo!!!

HUGE THANKS to Fred & Levy who finally got the kiln up & running again.

However, it took awhile for us to get back up to temperature… and then to get it to move even further. We were right around cone six going down when the kiln shut down. All of the workshop students were there waiting… watching… asking questions… but we all know… A WATCHED KILN NEVER FIRES! At some point, you just need to open up the air & gas and let the kiln do its own thing. FIRE!!!

So we waited… we chatted… we hung-out… we waited some more… Those who were Lillstreet students had projects they could work on while we were waiting. But Charles & Cassie were stuck doing nothing… until Jacob offered up two bowls that needed to be decorated. So he decided a little “collaboration” would be great… giving them each a bowl he made for the LILLSTREET THROWDOWN class and some black underglaze!

Finally we were up & running… temperature rising, cones going down. My students weighed-out and mixed-up the soda mixture of soda ash, soda bicarbonate, whiting & wood chips. As the kiln got up to the top temperatures, we started adding the mixture into the kiln using a long angle iron inserted through the peeps on the sides right above the side fire boxes. Safety fire gloves & respirators were added to keep everyone safe!!!

When we had finally inserted all of the soda mixture into the kiln, I let it fire for about a half hour longer so that the soda mixture could float around a bit longer to “soak” inside the kiln! They loved the flames shooting out of the kiln. A lot of reduction going on. A lot of soda flying about.

After that, I shut it down… on purpose this time! It was a VERY long day of firing with a bit of panic in the middle. My workshop participants were very understanding & helpful. All with fingers crossed that this kiln “issue” in the middle wouldn’t affect their pots in a negative way. I guess we’ll find out on Monday when we unload the kiln as a group.