Meet Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery

Jackson Gray is the creative force behind her business she has cleverly named Jackpots Pottery. While Jackson utilizes a variety of techniques to decorate her ceramic work, I just love her sgraffito tiles and I think you will too.

Jackson Gray - JackPots Pottery
Jackson Gray – Jackpots Pottery

Please Introduce Yourself:

Hi, I’m Jackson Gray, a studio potter from San Diego, CA. My pottery business is called Jackpots Pottery.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery Working in Her Studio
Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery Working in Her Studio

How did your clay journey begin?

I came to clay after years of thinking I had no artistic talent (thanks to a high school art teacher’s advice to stick with math). While hiking one day, I fell into step with an acquaintance who asked me what I would do if I didn’t have to work for a living. I told him I had always wanted to throw clay on a pottery wheel. I swear I didn’t know that he manufactured potters wheels for a living. Long story short, I have been working with clay since that day in 1992. I learned mostly from community college classes and by taking workshops in San Diego and around the U.S.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Sgraffito Platter Based on a Photo of a Heron Rookery Jackson's Husband Took
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Sgraffito Platter Based on a Photo of a Heron Rookery Jackson’s Husband Took

You employ a number of surface decoration techniques including adding texture using printmaking techniques, slip inlay and sgraffito. I am particularly drawn to your sgraffito work – your tiles are fabulous! Why not concentrate on one technique or style?

Thank you, I love the sgraffito too, but it is really hard on my body. I have carpel tunnel, but have the issue under control by using a wrist brace and taking frequent breaks. This is not to say that I would do only sgraffito if my wrist would allow it.

I’m a bit crazy when it comes to texture and am always looking for something new. One thing I do is carve lino mats to use as a template. I realize having one cohesive look would be more “professional” looking, but when I have just shown the sgraffito work at craft fairs, I couldn’t cover my expenses. My booth was gorgeous but people weren’t spending their money there.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Booth at Craneway Winter Crafts Show 2016
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Booth at Craneway Winter Crafts Show 2016

Your sgraffito tiles have a narrative quality to them. What is your inspiration or where do you find your subject matter for your tiles?

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Surfer Girl Sgraffito Tile
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Surfer Girl Sgraffito Tile

My first tiles were surfers or flowers. My son surfs and I live by the beach. Also,  I love tropical flowers, but inspiration can come from anywhere. I attended a lecture by Hawaiian bird photographer, Jack Jeffrey and was inspired to carve one of his photos of an I’iwi, which is where I started adding a bit of color to my sgraffito. It seemed necessary on that bird.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - I'iwi Sgraffito Tile
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – I’iwi Sgraffito Tile

Another time, a friend got a new dog and I had to carve it – which has led to an interesting custom option, I’ll make a tile of your pet from a photo. I recently sent tiles to a gallery that is having an exhibit entitled “Homage to the Ranches” – the night I saw the title, I lay in bed, pre-sleep with a busy mind – and an old 1950- something pick-up truck popped into my head as a “ranch truck”, which then led me to the internet to see what those lines actually look like.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - '50's Pickup Truck Tile
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – ’50’s Pickup Truck Tile

I personally love hand-building with slabs of clay, though I throw occasionally. Are you primarily a hand-builder? Why? 

I am primarily a hand-builder. I have a wheel and am an OK thrower, but I never became really good at throwing. When I try to make a set of something the same size, I just have much more luck if I start with a template – and then there’s that texture thing. It can be so crisp when put on a slab.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Carving a Linoleum Mat
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Carving a Linoleum Mat

Can we talk about your wholesale business? I noticed that you are a member of indieMe.com which is formerly wholesalecrafts.com. How do you balance the retail and wholesale side of your pottery business? 

I only have the framed tiles on IndieMe.com right now. Quite frankly, I haven’t done much there, so balancing isn’t difficult. I probably should do more to promote that side of business. I spend a lot of time with my Etsy site.

You will be teaching a weeklong workshop this summer at the Mendocino Art Center in Northern California called, “Patterns, Seams and Darts: Sewing Up Pots With Personality. Did you apply to teach, did the art center reach out to you, or how did you find the opportunity to teach at such a wonderful place?

I applied to and was fortunate to be accepted to sell at the American Craft Council Show in San Francisco in 2016. Evan Hobart, the program director from the Mendocino Art Center, was in attendance promoting their summer workshops. He saw my work and asked if I would like to teach a sgraffito workshop – which I did last summer.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Darted Tripod Textured Mugs
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Darted Tripod Textured Mugs

A few days into the sgraffito workshop, I showed the class how to make a tri-foot mug. Evan loved it and asked if I’d like to come back this summer for a longer class and teach hand-building. It feels pretty special to me since the first workshop I ever travelled to attend was in Mendocino, so I’ve circled back to the beginning.

Where do you primarily show and sell your work? Craft Shows, galleries, online?

Before this year, I would say most of my sales were at weekend craft shows, I did quite a lot of them. In 2015 I think I did 15 or 16, which feels like a lot to me. But, my Etsy shop has started doing better which makes the idea of all that packing & unpacking, schlepping and setting up the booth seem like so much more work…I am at retirement age, after all.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Water Color of Husband Taking Photographs
Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery – Jackson’s Husband Taking Photographs

Who or what inspires you? 

Nature…birds, rocks, trees, the clay itself, other potters and their enthusiasm, my husband and his love for the outdoors – which motivates me to get out and experience nature.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Big Horn Sheep Inspiration
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Big Horn Sheep Inspiration
Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Big Horn Sheep Sgraffito Tile
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Big Horn Sheep Sgraffito Tile

What do you do for fun outside of pottery?

Hahaha, see the previous question. We’ve always camped – roll out a pad and a sleeping bag on the ground. If the weather permits, we skip the tent. But as I mentioned earlier, we are getting older and bought a camper last summer. We are planning several trips this summer. After the Mendocino workshop, we’ll continue on to Oregon for the solar eclipse and a gathering of muddy friends from the EtsyMudTeam.

We also like to hike and cross-country ski. Although a shoulder injury has kept me away, but I’ve been repaired and look forward to next season.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Manta Ray Inspiration
Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery – Manta Ray Inspiration

Snorkeling – In September I had a blast swimming with manta rays on a night snorkel in Hawaii and a few days later, dolphins joined us

We also love to travel and have been lucky enough to visit several countries.

I’m pretty involved with 2 of my grandkids who live nearby – unfortunately the others (we have 8 total) are not close.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Ava Makes a Mug
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Ava Makes a Mug

I read mysteries, watch way too much television, listen to music and NPR, and humor my cats

Where can people find you? 

Online:

Wholesale:

  • indieMe.com – I’m artist #26526 and if a visitor password is needed, use JaxPots

In Person:

Upcoming events:

The workshop that I am teaching at Mendocino on August 14–18, 2017 is all I have scheduled this year since my husband will be retiring soon. We plan to explore this country a bit, but here is the link to register for the workshop: http://www.mendocinoartcenter.org/Summer17/Gray.html


I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays”. Find past interviews on the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.

2 Replies to “Meet Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery”

  1. Thanks so much for this feature, Cindy!!!

    Just a couple of small corrections, My business name is Jackpots! (the P in the middle isn’t capitalized) I also use JackpotsPottery and Jackpots-Pottery but the legal name is Jackpots!

    The super watercolor of my husband is not my own painting, but my photograph with a watercolor app applied – Waterlogue is the name of the app.

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