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

Okay, so I stopped off at the grocery store this morning on my way into work. I noticed a cardboard endcap display, empty but partially filled with empty cardboard boxes to fill in the bottom. Normally, one would just walk by wondering why the store would leave an unattractive & unfilled cardboard display on the store floor. But THIS time… my eye was caught by a very familiar logo. And, oh but wait there’s more… one of my favorite words next to it.

Are you kidding me?
So I looked a little closer. Closer than any “normal” shopper would…
Only to find that the cardboard boxes were completely empty. Mwah, mwah, mwah…

So then I set out on a somewhat frantic search throughout the store.
They have got to be somewhere!!!

Check the candy aisle. Check the seasonal foods. Check the endcaps.
Check the check-out lanes. NOTHING!!! I searched everywhere… salivating.
Only to find out that they were no where in the store!!! They must be taunting me!!!

So here’s the deal…

You can mail them, ship them, drop them off in person.
Don’t care. I MUST have them!!! Simple as that.
Of course I “welcome” multiple submissions, but keep in mind…
the FREE MUG is only for the very first person!!!

And so the challenge has begun!!!

Categories: bike, sunrise

This morning was quiet & subtle. Layers of clouds that continued to change as the sun kept trying its best to pop through the low lying cloud layer. Some pretty color early on before the color of the day turned to gray.


Categories: bowls, classes, lillstreet, process, production

So we’re in Week Four of the new Spring session of classes at Lillstreet Art Center. My Beginners are doing so well this time around. Catching on really quickly and progressing quite nicely. So last night we had a full discussion about making bowls on purpose instead of “accepting” cylinders gone bad. That a “good” bowl has a really nice curve on the inside. Not a flat bottom cylinder with corners that then swoop out into a bowl. No “beginner’s” ledge on the inside from where they pinched their fingers together to lift the clay. So I showed them how to throw that good basic bowl.

After we finished that first bowl demo, my students went back to their wheels to start practicing. While they threw their bowls, I continued to throw mine as well. I used up a full bag of clay… throwing seventeen basic round bowls, each about 1-1/2 lbs. Once I got them all thrown, we reconvened so I could show them some quick tricks on how they can alter, design & personalize their pottery. Anyone can make a basic round bowl… but the fun part is making it your own!!! So I showed them the tricks, introduced them to colored slip, and tried to beat it into their head that “IT’S JUST CLAY.” Don’t be too frightened to try something. It’s not precious. Make lots of stuff. Try lots of things. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, just squish it up and do it again. Don’t be afraid. IT’S JUST CLAY!!!

Bowl #1 – Fluted on two opposite sides.

Bowl #2 – If two flutes are good, maybe eight would be better?

Bowl #3 – A simple flared out rim… becomes a great “canvas” to decorate later.

Bowl #4 – A much wider flared flange… for even MORE decoration later.

Bowl #5 – A combination of the flared rim and fluted edges. Gives it a bit of an undulating rim.

Bowl #6 – This one was squared off a bit. Who says bowls need to be round? The shape and edges will be refined and decorated later as the clay stiffens up a bit.

Bowl #7 – A simple flower pressed into the bottom with a metal dragonscaling tool. Always a fun little surprise for someone when they get down to the bottom of their bowl of soup!

Bowl #8 – A split rim using the point of my wooden knife. Then pinched back together.


Bowl #9 – The same split rim trick, but then rounded out between the pinches.

Bowl #10 – Another split rim bowl. This time the shape was altered outwards in four corners, and inwards in between.

After playing with the shapes & edges of the rim, we switched our focus to colored slips. And the huge options thisopens up for them. The fact that colored slip is like adding a new “skin of clay” on top of your bowl. An easy way to add color to your pottery at this stage. It will dry and be fired onto the pot… and then create some new effects when glaze goes over it.

Bowl #11 – I coated the inside of the bowl with some basic white slip. And then dragged the rounded end of my wooden knife through while the bowl was spinning to create this fun spiral. The color contrast between the white slip and the darker clay body will show up after glazing.

Bowl #12 – Another bowl with white slip, this time with horizontal banding.

Bowl #13 – White slip with chattering through the slip. Chattering is rhythmic tapping… I use my rubber rib tapping up & down through the glaze, moving upwards while the bowl is spinning.

Bowl #14 – A thicker layer of white slip with some squiggly finger grooves.

Bowl #15 – Another layer of white slip with finger grooves sliding up the sides. I didn’t like the way the lines met up in the center, so we added the little circular “medallion” in the middle. My original intention was to clean up the top edge, but my students really loved the texture the rough slip edges created… and they were right!

Bowl #16 – A simple newspaper stencil stuck onto the clay with water… then painted over with slip. I waited a couple minutes for the slip to set up and then carefully removed the paper stencil.

Bowl #17 – A colorful ombre effect blending white slip with some iron red slip.

And there they are… seventeen bowls that all started out very basic & round. Just a few minutes of altering and voila’… seventeen different tricks & techniques. Now go play with your clay!!!

At the end of the night I had to carry them all upstairs to my studio so I could wrap them up for the evening. Only took three trips up the back stairs… not so bad. So now all seventeen bowls are under plastic so they don’t dry too fast. I’m still planning on doing some extra detailing & stamping to some of them.



Categories: production, stamped, vases

Finally got around to finishing up my latest batch of wall pocket vases. Remember, they were thrown “upside-down.” So now I’m cutting them of the bats and doing a little detailing.

I start by trimming off some of the excess clay and  smoothing out the rim.

Then it’s time for some stamping around the rim, which will now be the top of the vase when it hangs on the wall.

After stamping, I do a gentle “squishing” on my table. I want one side flat, and the rest a smooth rounded curve. I keep setting them aside as I move on to the next one.

So they’re stamped and squished… ready for Round Two and some “finishing” touches.

For Round Two… I go back into each one of the,. Put a hole through the back for hanging, and add some colored flashing slip accents for my upcoming soda firing.

Categories: special events

My taxes are now done for another year… with a full two hours to spare!!! Loved the three-day deadline extension this year… obviously it just gave me more time to procrastinate, huh?!!! And at this point, I would be THRILLED with the $20.

Categories: production, vases

Started a fresh batch of wall pocket vases. They kind of look like an oversized version of my Christmas ornaments … but they’ll look more like vases when I stamp & squish ‘em!


Categories: bowls, lillstreet

A quick Selfie from one of the “lucky” people to snatch up my donated empty bowls last night at the EMPTY BOWLS fundraiser. Thanks for sharing your Selfie Lisa! Enjoy your new bowl… and thanks for contributing to a great cause. I’m sure your hot fudge sundaes will taste SO much better now!!!

Categories: flowers, nature

A welcome harbinger of Spring… So sunny. So yellow. So cheery.


Categories: bike, nature, weather

Another beautiful day. Another wonderful bike ride.
Another great excuse for putting off my taxes for one more day.


Categories: bowls, lillstreet

Lots & lots of bowls spreading out all over the place getting ready for the EMPTY BOWLS fundraising event tonight at Lillstreet Art Center from 5:00-8:00pm. Proceeds go towards hunger programs through the First Slice Pie Cafe. Stop by and enjoy the scavenger hunt to find your favorite empty bowl… and then get it filled with some soup!!!