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

Kind words from a couple of the people who made it to my pottery workshop
with the Harper College Clay Guild last Saturday…

From Kelly –
Well you “made a good impression” on me. I am looking forward to getting back in the studio on Monday and trying out some of the things I learned from you. Thanks again for making the trip to the ‘burbs.

From Patty –
You were a big hit! Thanks for doing the workshop at Harper.

From Tony –
Great workshop Gary. Many special tricks for throwing and stamping… Very personable and knowledgeable… Information about finger, hand, and body position… Clay movement, timing, amounts… every little detail shared will make a very big difference for me. I found tons of 3-D images from my metalsmithing to make stamps from. I am “fired up” and “ready”.

Thank you to everyone who came out and spent the day with me. I’m just glad that I had plenty to share, and that people enjoyed my incessant ramblings!… or at least that’s how it felt at times!!! Thanks again to the Harper College Clay Guild. I had a great time with all of you… and am more than willing to make a return visit some time soon!!!

Categories: workshop

My morning started early out at Harper College.
I pulled in to the parking lot and followed my directions in search of a Ceramics Department. And after kinda driving down a loading-dock-sidewalk-road-like-driveway-thing, I found the entrance… and Janice was right there waiting for me!!! Her directions were perfect.

After unloading my tools & pots from my car, she gave me a tour of their Ceramics Department. They’ve got a wonderful set-up out there. Lots of space for handbuilding, wheelthrowing, glazing and more. Plus several kilns, both inside & outside.

I wedged up some clay, trying to make mental plan of what I was going to throw, and “labeled” each ball of clay so I would remember my plan. A few mugs, a couple bowls, a vase, an oval (sides & bottom), a platter… and always open for whatever more they might request!!!

After throwing several pieces, we switched rooms for my PowerPoint presentation.
It was a quick slide show about my path to clay, visual influences, my studio, my step-by-step process and discussions about marketing, social networking and pricing strategies. It was a great chance for more questions & answers.

We then took a break for a wonderful potluck lunch.
And those Clay Guild folks sure know how to throw a really GREAT potluck!!!
Far too much food. Far too much fun… and great cookies!!!

After lunch we re-grouped and did one last throwing “demo-on-demand”…
Christmas ornaments off-the-hump.

We then switched to some stamp-making fun. I showed them some quick tips on stamp making. They made a few. I made a few. And we talked about some other fun texture & pattern making tools & tricks. Textured rollers made of PVC & hot glue. Lace patterns pressed into clay & coated with colored slip. Plastic trowels as great groove-makers!

Then it was onto my favorite part… STAMPING!!!
So we broke open my tool box filled with stamps and started stamping. The pieces that I had thrown earlier in the day had dried enough to stamp. They were still a little squishier than I would normally like… in some places. Since we had left the unwrapped for the most part, the top rims were drying faster, and the bottoms & sides were still wetter. Typically, I prefer to dry them a little slower under plastic so they stiffen up more evenly. But in a workshop situation… we forged ahead and made the best of it. So I stamped & pressed, as the students continued to ask questions. We worked our way through all of the pieces I had thrown, and were quickly nearing the end of our time.

At the end of the workshop, everyone was so helpful cleaning up. I was amazed how quickly my dirty wheel, bucket, tools, pots, tables, chairs and basically the entire workshop area was cleaned up & back in place. Everyone pitched in. Pretty amazing!!!

A HUGE Thank You to the Harper College Clay Guild.
I had a wonderful time. You were all wonderful “students” for the day.
I only hope that I offered up some information that was helpful. That I may have enlightened something along the way. Maybe showed you a trick or two… or at least made you smile?!

Remember, it’s just clay.
Make something. Make more. Do what you love. Follow your passion.
And if it’s not fun, don’t do it.

Categories: workshop

So tomorrow I’m packing up my stuff and taking it on the road.
I’m teaching a one-day workshop at Harper College for their Clay Guild members.
Let’s hope I can think of “something” to show them?… or at least a good joke?!

Categories: classes, workshop

Okay, so it’s been a “few” years…
but I must admit that I’m a little nervous & excited
about going “back to college” this Saturday!

Categories: artists, creativity, inspiration, pottery, process, workshop

This weekend was a two-day workshop with Julia Galloway.
Let me just say, this was my third two-day workshop with Julia Galloway!

Each time I’ve seen her working, I’ve been at a different stage in my own ceramic career.
She was also my first workshop ever – just a few sessions into my wheelthrowing classes.
My second workshop with Julia was a few years later when I was addicted to clay, but not
really sure where to take it from there. This weekend was another experience – now as a
working potter with a whole new perspective. And quite possibly, ready to actually “hear”
all of the tips she’s so good at putting out there.

First off, her three word artist statement du jour : domesticity, conversation, beauty.
And that’s what she makes. Pots that can be used for nourishment, that create a conversation
and are inherently beautiful. Sounds like a good plan to me!

We started with Julia doing some quick throwing. In Julia’s studio, she throws for two days
on the weekend & then spends rest of the week decorating those pots. In a condensed
workshop like this, she had to make pots quickly to have something to work on later.

As the pieces began to set up, she then started to alter the forms by pressing, billowing
& squaring the forms. In her mind, she had a plan for each piece. And she explained to
us that many of her “plans” are created by a “predicament.” A conflict that needs to be
resolved. A hurdle that needs to jumped. A limitation that needs to be pushed. It wasn’t
always clear to us where she was going with the demos… but the exploration & discovery
was part of the fun. Many “ah-ha” moments as they came together.

Not only are Julia’s pots very gestural & animated, but so is she. Her ability to be informative
& approachable at the same time is refreshing. She has so much information to dispense that
it could easily be overwhelming. But instead, she instills so much humor & passion into her
presentation. She’s one of those people that I find so endearing & engaging… so much so,
that this is my third workshop with her. Sure, her work is incredible. But I could just listen
to her talk. Seriously. Give her a topic and let her go. She’s thoughtful, insightful and giving.
Always willing to share. But I digress. Enough gushing. Back to the workshop…

An added bonus… she also showed us a few new, groovy handle making techniques.
Handles with textures?!… I loved ’em… and watch for me to be “appropriating” them soon!

Day Two… back for a second day of too much information flying our way…
and she’s still making beautiful things. Even more beautiful as things come together!

As her pieces are now leatherhard, she started attaching, stacking, cutting & combining
pieces. Creating some of her signature pieces… also making pieces that will accentuate her
surface decorations! And all the while, she’s talking. And talking. Sharing stores. Sharing
insights. Sharing her path. Again… I could just listen to Julia talk. And I did. I’m impressed
by people who can express themselves verbally & eloquently. And yet never condescending
or demeaning. Always willing to answer a question. Always willing to share concepts, tips,
secrets & opinions. Everything you want in an educator. Everything I want to be as a teacher.

In between the demonstrations, giving the clay some time to stiffen up, Julia took time
to share some art history with us. She brought her PowerPoint collection of pottery
through history. To give us a basis of understanding, to offer up historical reference on how
pottery had evolved and changed along with the world. How surface decoration is as old as
pottery itself. It was somewhat amazing to how pottery has remained the same, and yet so
completely different over the centuries. When I was in college, art history was all about
painting & sculpture. We never talked pottery. Who knew how much it was all connected?!

Then, as she started decorating her pots, she also explained how ALL surface decoration
can be summarized into four categories. And since we had just seen centuries of surface
decoration, it was fairly obvious… yet great to have it pointed out clearly. Here they are…
1. dots.     2. lines.     3. floral representation.     4. pictorial imagery

So, starting her own surface decoration, she wanted to show how “easy” it can be..
and that sometimes you just need to dive in and do it. No hesitation. Don’t overthink it.
So her pitcher slip demo is just that… dots, then lines, then floral, then object imagery.

And then it was on to some of her signature styles in surface decoration.
With a lot of slip painting, slip trailing, incising, wax resist, slip inlay, shaving, layering and
more! All the time talking. Talking about styles. Talking about techniques. Talking about how
you need to make a lot of pots. How you need to try a lot of different things. Try, try, try again.
How you need to commit to the techniques when you start. Don’t be timid. Don’t be hesitant.
All suggestions I give my own class of beginners… don’t be wishy-washy… commit… it’s just clay!

As the workshop began to draw to a close, we had a much larger vocabulary of techniques,
as well as a lot of historical reference to draw from. We looked at some of her pots from the
gallery – now understanding exactly how they were made, as she explained some of the
steps of how she made them.

As we all found out, so much of Julia’s work is about making beautiful things.
Beautiful forms & shapes. Beautiful lines & details. Beautiful layers of patterns & shapes.
Her quest for beauty is admirable. Her willingness to share is impressive.

With the workshop encapsulated above, I still feel as though I haven’t covered it all.
It’s her dynamic personality, her passion for clay, her willingness to share everything, and
her eloquent turn-of-phrase that does it for me. It’s impossible to grasp that in a blog.
And I do think that the third time was the charm. I feel at this point in my ceramic career,
I was ready to “hear” what Julia had to say. And now confident enough in my own skills
to now stat trying more of her techniques. The trick will be making it happen. I can’t wait to
see what happens, and how I can incorporate her tricks into my own styles. I don’t want to
make “Julia Galloway Pots.” But I am looking forward to seeing how she influences my work.

Thank you Julia Galloway for another wonderful workshop.
I know that everyone in the room was as enchanted as I was, and learned a lot along the way.
Everyone in there has their own path that they’re on, and I’m sure we all got something
different and yet equally important out of the two days we spent with you.

For more information on Julia Galloway, check out her website in my “Links” section.
As well as the “Link” to Montana Clay which highlights her surrounding ceramic community.




Categories: artists, pottery, workshop

I was very excited to get an e-mail the other day from Kristen Kieffer.
Not only did she announce that she will soon be publishing her first instructional DVD…
which I will need to add to my collection as soon as it’s published.
But it also
said that she’ll be coming to the Chicago area for a two-day workshop in September!

It’s already on my calendar. I can’t wait to see her working and showing off her technique.
She’s the queen of elegant stamping, beautiful slip trailing and other surface decorations!
Still a summer away, but something great to look forward to – September 22-23, 2010.

Categories: artists, pottery, workshop

As I was writing the past couple posts, I was reminiscing about some of the potters
I’ve met over the years. In particular, the workshops I’ve attended that were taught
by “famous” potters. Being kind of new to the clay scene, I was impressed that the people
teaching were also the one’s showing their work in the gallery at Lillstreet Art Center.
Let alone, the potters you see in the pages of Ceramics Monthly. Clay rock stars!

Each workshop takes on a different tone – based on each artist and their perspective.
The very first one I went to was also left the biggest impression – Julia Galloway.
I had seen many of her pieces in the gallery, very detailed, elaborate and intricate.
Beautiful formed porcelain, altered, attached, carved, inscribed, drawn, glazed, etc.
I thought it a bit little too-“foofy” for my personal taste, but amazing & inspiring nonetheless.
So I signed up for the workshop… a little apprehensive because I thought it would
all be WAY over my head. I was still just a beginner.

But as soon as she introduced herself and started her shpiel… I was mesmerized!!!
I’m always intrigued & inspired by people who are truly eloquent, passionate about life
and can express their personality through the words the choose. Julia is one of those!
The workshop was incredible – a little beyond my skill level, but I could have just sat there
and listened to her talk. I had my first pottery crush.

So a few years later, when I found out that she would be coming back to Lillstreet for
another workshop, I was right there, the first one volunteering to be her workshop assistant.
So not only did I get to hang out with her, listen to her musings, assist during her workshop,
but I also got to help her set-up her gallery exhibit – and go out to dinner! But I digress…

The coolest part of her gallery exhibit was her new “installation” of tumblers.
A not-so-simple grid of 112 tumblers. Each placed on the right shelf. Each in its place.
Here’s the cool part… when they were all in place, and you stepped back to look…
it created one large glazed image on all of the tumblers. And oh, but wait there’s more…
if you turned all of the tumblers around 180-degrees, the same image would appear
but this time in a simple line drawing, not colorfully glazed! Crazy, I know…

As I have been cleaning, organizing & labeling my collection… I’ve been reminiscing
about the potters I’ve met. Some of the “Clay Rock Stars”… Julia Galloway being the first.
One of the favorites. And I got a couple of her beautiful tumblers as a souvenir…