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192 Jim Boone Rd
Bakersville, NC, 28705
United States

828-675-4097

The central information hub for Michael Kline Pottery, a small one man shop of pottery making in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Thanks for visiting.

The Best of Sawdust and Dirt

A record of the goings on around Michael Kline Pottery!

Closed/Open Loop: Teacher<>Student

Michael Kline

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Working with an apprentice has been very satisfying AND very challenging. I knew that working with someone in my studio would challenge me because, ever since I was in art school, I was most creative in solitude.  What I didn’t expect was that with the right person, I actually look forward to and enjoy working alongside someone. I didn’t expect the enrichment of experience I am having as I work together with an apprentice. In an ironic twist, maybe,  I’m learning so much! But maybe teachers all over harbor this concept as to not distract from the learning that happens in front of them. Teaching and sharing ARE learning! It’s a kind of closed loop. Maybe this sounds paradoxical, but if you’ve ever taught someone or shared something that you love with someone, you have felt the satisfaction of knowing that we are just agents that pass on  knowledge/truth and are “just” a kind of custodian while we carry it and pass it on. Questioning, seeking, and hopefully answering. 

Unfortunately, Joel will be moving on to seek out his pottery fortune this September and it’s time for me to seek someone to take his place. In the coming week I will be officially opening his position up for application and will post the position and its requirements. If you are someone looking, or know of someone that is looking for a apprenticeship, stay tuned. I’m very much interested in continuing MY education as well. 😉

Link to apprentice page!

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Capping and Throwing a Big Jar

Michael Kline

Today I made jugs. (or maybe you call them bottles?)

Anyway, it made me think of one of my favorite posts from the early blog days of 2007. I still make pots in the same way, except the cordless headphones are long since gone and I don’t have the ball opener installed (yet). ;-) [See original post here.]

Enjoy. If you have questions or comments, leave a comment, below. ;-) I would love to answer them!

thanks, Michael

Here are the tools on my bench...

Centering about 8 lbs of home clay

Opening the bottom with a ball opener/bottom maker.

Here I open the bottom of the pot with ball opener in my left hand and sponge in my right hand. I forgot to take off my geeky wireless headphones for the photo shoot!?#@!

I am measuring the bottom section to match it to the previously thrown cap. I usually throw the cap ever so slightly smaller than the bottom section.

Here I am adding the "cap" that I actually made before I threw the bottom section. I measured the cap before I took it off the wheel with my calipers, then set it aside. The cap is slightly smaller than the bottom section. One advantage to capping is that the clay is still wet and can still be stretched and thrown. The other advantage is that the torque in the clay, or the throwing lines are in the same direction in both sections.

The two sections are "welded" together. With my left(inside) hand I move at the same time as the right (outside) hand and in the opposite direction.

Then I make the opposite move with the weld. This "cancels out" the marks so that when the pot is turned you don't get caught in the ruts of any makes you have made.

The section is ribbed and thrown.

After the sections are thrown together and consistent, the rim is measured for the next cap.

A new cap is thrown. The cap has no bottom and the ball opener rides on the wheel head.

Measuring the cap. Throw the cap wider at the base then you think you may need. Its always easier to narrow than widen. When I cut the cap off, and set aside I always make the table wet so the cap doesn't stick to the table when I need to lift and put into place later.

The cap is set in place. I really don't score the sections, but I make sure that the section below is scraped of slurry.

The second cap is thrown into place and the rim is set.

The whole pot is ribbed and thrown into shape. At some point I rib from the inside only , but I find that the "line" of the pot looks stronger if you can thrown the shape in rather than just ribbing it. I didn't photograph the 5 inch stand that I have to get up on while doing these final reaches for the bottom. Also either roll your sleeves up or wear a cut off shirt and mind your apron. These can snag your pot and ruin it.

Here we see our geeky potter hamming it up after the work is done. Handles will go on the jar in the morning.

Here Now

Michael Kline

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Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, Healthy, free, the world before me, The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. -- Walt Whitman

...the road goes on forever and the party never ends -- Robert Earl Keen


There’s nothing like travel to open my eyes to what is possible and there’s nothing quite like 10 days in California to present an alternative to home. I just returned from a workshop tour in the Bay area and have so much goodness to rememeber and reflect on.

Traveling gives me a particular point of view that I think is essential to understanding the world “out there” and as well as understanding what I call home. It is a contrast and a comparison of what is familiar with what is new. In a parallel way, teaching gives me perspective. Sharing what I know and do with my workshop students, challenges and reaffirms what I believe. Teaching expands my understanding and often I find myself the student in a funny twist. Maybe you would agree?

For now I will write in a general way because my goal, today, was to send my gratitude out to all of the folks that I met along the way. Gratitude to all the folks who took care of me, and supported me. To all the folks that laughed with me.

Although for most of the time it rained, there were many rainbows.

to blog or not to blog

Michael Kline

Hi everyone. 

I really love to write. I do! For several years I stretched my mind and crafted words to express and translate what was in my head and what was happening in the studio.

blogging in Petaluma with a  Perry Haas  mug

blogging in Petaluma with a Perry Haas mug

But I don’t make the time to write these days,  aside from captions for social media posts on my Instagram and Facebook pages. So, I will give it a go and take the time to write and keep a studio journal here in the long form blog varietal.  (little voices in my head battle out with “just write, fool!” and “but what if it’s lame?” lol)

are you tired of algorithms? Do you have time to read something longer than a caption? Maybe Instagram and Facebook are enough?

I will try to write at least once a week about what I’m thinking about and doing in the studio and beyond. a fresh start.

Please let me know what you think in a comment below.

OK. Thanks!



 

First Out

Michael Kline

before the extraction

before the extraction

The adventure of fire continues tonight while during the 23rd firing of my gas kiln a mug fell from the fire wall into the fire box right in front of the burner.  I apologize for the pottery jargon. Let me briefly explain. The fire wall, aka, “bag wall” is a short wall of bricks that separate the stacks of pots from the “fire box”. The firebox is an area where the fuel is combusting, whether it be wood, or gas.

OK, so I decided to try to extract the pot by the handle and had to reheat the mug so it would release from it’s newly bonded surface of the kiln floor. You see, the kiln and the pots at 2400°F are sticky because of the soda glaze that coats everything in its path. I wasn’t able to move the mug because the firing was over and the molten union of mug and firebox floor had already solidified. So I reignited that burner and slowly, carefully reheated the mug. After about 10 minutes, the pot was glowing red (again) and I was able to pry it off the floor. Wow, I was super excited that it seemed to be in one piece despite its fall to the floor from about 15”. When ceramics is fired and at a temp of 2300-2400 degrees, its in a state known as pyroplasticity. I suppose the mug was more like a rubber ball than the dense ceramic object we all know after a pot has cooled. I can’t think of a better way to describe my theory.

After using a steel rod that I use to pull draw rings out of the kiln during the firing, I moved the burner aside and lifted the mug out of the kiln and laid it in a nest of leaves that were nearby, just like you would do if you were doing a rake firing, right? 😁

 

I covered the hot mug with more leaves and a clay sagger. It smoked quite a bit and then I heard a loud crack and thought to myself that the mug must’ve just popped, being in a thermal “shock”.

Sagger smoking

Sagger smoking

I couldn’t wait to see the mug even though it might be ruined, there was no turning back.

But, by some kind of ceramic miracle, it came out fine, with just a couple of rough spots from its landing on the floor of the kiln.

Painting Video--Rough Draft

Michael Kline

I'm loading my kiln today, but managed to have Lillian take some video of my brushwork. I think I need another take or two, but for now I thought it would be nice to share this with my readers as an advance rough-cut, and when I am finished firing I will put these together in a more polished version.



 I will be in Seagrove this coming weekend for the 10th Annual Cousins in Clay. More info on that show can be found here! I hope to see some of you who can make it.

Edges

Michael Kline

History of Ceramics

Michael Kline

Adam Field Onggi Demo

Michael Kline