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192 Jim Boone Rd
Bakersville, NC, 28705
United States


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

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The Best of Sawdust and Dirt

A record of the goings on around Michael Kline Pottery!

Filtering by Tag: Courtney Martin

Episode 6 - Courtney Martin

Michael Kline

In this episode I talk with my friend, neighbor, and fellow Snow Creek Rd potter, Courtney Martin. We talk about cooking and the pots we like to use serving meals to friends and family, as well as my recent trip to DC, Courtney’s beginnings as a potter, and some of Courtney’s thoughts on pattern. We also answer your questions! We hope you enjoy the conversation!

Names We Drop

Bowl by Matt Kelleher

Show Links


 Follow Courtney 

Follow Michael 
Exhibition and other Show Links

POW!!! kickstarter project
"Days of Endless Time", at the Hirshhorn Museum 
Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show 
Pottery on the Hill 
Spruce Pine Potters Market 
Signature Show 
TRAC Studio Tour

"Thank" Courtney  on Twitter!

Thanks for listening!!

Check out this episode!

Episode 3: Courtney Martin

Michael Kline

In Episode 3 I begin a series of conversations with my good friend and neighbor Courtney Martin.

Episode Highlights
  • the economics of reclaiming clay scraps
  • trying to keep up with popular culture while living in rural NC
  • graffiti and 80's hip hop
  • hoarding bisqueware
  • living near in the Penland School community
  • puttering vs. getting straight to work
Episode Rsources
Names We Drop
 Follow Courtney 
Follow Michael 
Exhibition Links
"Two", Lark and Key, Charlotte, NC
"Greetings From North Carolina" Santa Fe Clay Santa Fe, NM
"Designed and Crafted 14"Signature Contemporary Crafts Atlanta, GA

"Thank" Courtney for the conversation on Twitter

Thanks for listening!!

Wood, Fire, and the Potter

Michael Kline

wood yard
It's been a dizzying day that began way to early after an all-nighter  firing over at my good neighbor, Courtney Martin's kiln. It's about over as the sun heads over the hill, thankful for a little longer days as Spring nears. I've burned a lot of wood and cut a lot of wood today. Tomorrow I head to Asheville to help Kyle get his kiln ready for his next firing. If the business of my potter neighbors is any indication, the economy is turning itself around. But are we potters good barometers of economic prosperity? Many of us are in this business for better or worse.

As we fired Courtney's kiln in the wee hours of morning, we lamented the reality of this unusual vocation. So much work.

We were heavy with the long day and the stress of the unknown outcome of a kiln reluctant to climb in temperature and a woodpile that, despite it's loaves and fishes miracle, eventually succumbed to our zealous stoking. The stress will, hopefully, be redeemed for some pots that might reveal it's potter's love for the process.

We weather the storms of hard times because we live for the fire and the clay. With the door of the kiln bricked up the process of the firing is somewhat abstract. Temperature, pyrometric cones, smoke, heat, and light are the elements that concern us for the time being.

But with the door of the kiln opened, revealing it's bounty, we remember why we  endure the process.  the pots.

Funny Numbers and Fresh Clay

Michael Kline

I'm a bit behind reporting on the happenings leading up to the next firing and the Cousins in Clay reunion, but here goes in a matter of a few photos!

I was happy and a bit overwhelmed to have two helpers yesterday, my intern Adam MacKay and his partner Molly Belada. Molly and Adam are undergrad ceramics majors at App State, in Boone. Adam has been helping me every week and Molly has been helping my neighbor, Courtney. After some number crunching and clay body calc, we set up the mixing area where I proceeded to find not one, but two wasp nests in two open bags of clay. Ouch. After some thorough paranoia and nest removal M and A mixed up enough of the fireclay mix that will be added to my red dirt in a week or so (I hope!)

The girls came up with a friend to make some pots (read: show off their pottery skills to their friend) but their wheel was covered with reclaim clay, so I set up my Shimpo banding wheel and hand turned it for them. It was just the thing and soon they were off to the woods to do some exploring and I was back to work.

I'm managing to get some nice pots made in and around carrying out final plans for next months Cousins in Clay Show. There's a lot to do but I'm so looking forward to seeing my old buds, Mark Shapiro and Sam Taylor, and all the pots they will be bringing. Check out our Facebook page to find out more.

OK, time for some lunch, then more pottery this afternoon.

Princess Grae and Queen Anne

Michael Kline

I'm yawning as I try to remember some of the thoughtful thoughts I had during my day. It was a great day, but it's late and I'm fading. [no nap] Courtney and Grae stopped in today and 1 y.o. Grae thought she would help an old guy out and wedge some clay.  Her ambition is amazing! My kids just ignore me when I ask them to do anything. ;-(

I went back to my old way of stacking sections and it was just fine. I have been using the more traditional capping technique for a while now, but I wanted to get a more ovoid shape. With capping I tend to get a taller shape, not as round. I was pleased with the shapes!  I'll put collars on top of these tomorrow to finish the necks.

On my walk home this evening I took some pictures of the Queen Anne's Lace in the field. Seems to be a bumper crop this year. Maybe it's on some kind of super productive cycle this year?! I love the lines of the drooping blossoms and the delicacy of the leaves and flowers. But in the coming days I will have to cut it all down as I prepare the grounds for next month's Cousins in Clay!! Mark and Sam are coming down from MA and Bruce and Sam(antha) are coming over from Seagrove. I'm totally consumed with planning, but it's all coming together and it should be a blast.

Just have to few pots before then!

Unloading the CMP

Michael Kline

Courtney and I unloaded the kiln and we were both very happy to see the multitudes of pots! We weren't very happy to see the pool of glaze around pots glazed with my alkaline ash glaze, though. I think the shelves will be OK after some grinding, otherwise I'll be shopping for some new shelves!

courtney and her multitudes

Courtney was busy getting her pots set up in the showroom of her husband John's glass shop, when I was there grinding the glaze off the bottoms of the runny pots. John has refinished the walls in the showroom with beautiful walnut and cherry boards that he got from Milan Street up in Buladean. Milan runs the small lumber mill and brings us the bundles of wood Courtney and I burn in our kilns. The walls and shelves look super beautiful! The pots and the glass looks so good against the walnut and cherry! (sorry I didn't have my camera to get some pix.) Maybe I can visit over the weekend during the sale and get some pictures.

The Toe River Arts Council December Studio Tour begins tomorrow at noon, and John and Courtney have lots of beautiful work. They are hosting Penland resident metalsmith extraordinaire, Amy Tavern.

We were busy getting the pottery shop set up to host our friend Wendi Gratz who will be joining Stacey and myself for the tour. You can see Wendi's work here! In addition to all of the new work we've been making for the tour, we have lots of goodies for our customers . We've also "spruced" up the shop with a Christmas tree and lots of boughs of balsam fir grown just up the hill from our house.

If you haven't been to a TRAC studio tour before you really should treat yourself to a trip to the mountains to ramble and visit the over 100 studio artists and 9 galleries in Mitchell and Yancey counties!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(exclamations by evelyn!)

I'll take more pictures of the fresh pots and try to post them tomorrow. Maybe I will shoot a video.

Painting/Glazing Highlights

Michael Kline

As usual, I'm completely (well, almost) tapped from getting the pots painted, glazed, and ready to fire. Lucky for me, Courtney loaded the entire kiln! I don't have a lot to say. I just wanted to post a few pictures of the painting session (in no particular order) and make some ever so brief comments and then it's off to dreamland so I can be an effective stoker in the a.m.!



couldn't go wrong with the brush marks in this one.

trying to incorporate my style of leaves.
combing included free of charge.

we'll see if these wiped highlights show up
in the fired article.
a visitor to my studio recently asked if I took notes.
If you are trying something new, take a picture!

big pitcher with random leaf and
dots deco

lillian and her ballerina cup

iron, copper, cobalt

the stack

Coffee Break vol. #30

Michael Kline

Bailey's Peak, aka the Peak, is always the focal point when I go in my walks around the field with Jack. Today I took this beautiful Courtney mug with me! It came from the firing last month that Courtney and I shared and has become a regular in my coffee break rotation. The handle fits my hand very well and the size is just right for an afternoon jolt-o-joe. Although you can't see it from this picture it has a nice liner glaze. I think it might be called salt white or white salt. The white glaze is a good way to tell whether the coffee is brewed strong enough. If I can see through the coffee to the glaze I might as well toss it out 'cause if I wanted tea I'd brew a pot of Earl Grey!

By this time next week Courtney and I will have loaded the kiln at her place and we'll be taking the holiday with family and friends. We'll return to fire the kiln on cyber Monday!

Back to work...

[ post posting note: here's another shot of CM's mug showing more detail in the glaze, etc! as always, you can click the pic to get a closer look]

Results From Courtney Martin Kiln

Michael Kline

The following videos were shot the other day by moi and I wanted to edit them together into a super spectacular home movie with nice transitions and insightful comments, maybe even some cool music.

But the week flew by with various projects and I just wanted to share the results of the firing of last week, so I've uploaded several of these so that you could see some of the pots. Please forgive my mumbling comments and raw unsophisticated footage.

There you have it, for what it's worth.

A Good Fit

Michael Kline

I went over to Courtney Martin's kiln and helped her load the kiln yesterday. It's almost the same size as my kiln, just not as tall and the footprint of the shelves is 48" x 36" whereas my kiln is 48" x 48". And like most kilns it ate a lot of pots! I found it interesting how pots fit together in the kiln and how I am aware of the various shapes that I make. So when Courtney was loading her kiln and trying to find the right pot for the right spot, it took us a while to get a sense of how these pots would fit together. But it didn't take her long to get to stacking. It's a 3 dimensional jigsaw puzzle!
Today we fire!

(I guess CM is over there stoking already. I'd better get over there and get to work! ;-) Have a good Friday!

No More Blues, Just Green!

Michael Kline

After all of the whining about expectations and such last week I have good news concerning my most recent endeavor, the Spruce Pine Potters Market, or SPPM, pronounced, "sppm". Going in with moderate expectations, taking lots of pots, and putting my best foot forward, it did not disappoint! This years show was probably the best ever.

I finished unwrapping the few pots that were left and jumped right into fixing the e-kiln so that I could fire the pots I made last week. The 150 or so pots will be heading up the road to Courtney's wood kiln for a firing on Friday! So away with the bins of wrapped pots and onward with my brushes and some glazing!

I'm real excited to fire again, for a lot of the ideas that came from the last firing are still freash in my head. It was also nice to look over the pots at the show the other day as John and I set up the booth. The pots continued to reveal themselves and I had some nice convos with some of my fellow potters who always brings different perspectives. I'm looking over some notes and getting pots dec-o-rotated today as I nurse this old bisque kiln through one last firing before I gut it and replace all of the rusted parts and faulty switches, etc.

The old L & L's been under a roof, out of doors for the past 8 years and it shows. After taking the first section apart to replace elements, I realized what I feared to be true. Rust, rust, rust...The terminal covers have to be replaced, but I also realized that the terminals themselves were corroded and need replacing. Maybe it is time to replace this old kiln? Well, replacing it is way more expensive. And besides how out of place would a new kiln look surrounded by all of my other equipment that hales from the late sixties (Paoli mixer) to early seventies (Shimpo Scream™, and original Peter Pugger Classic)

I guess it wouldn't look all that bad!


Back to the brush! Thanks for checking in.


BTW, FYI, OMG! please sign up for my email newsletter to receive special offers and such in the upcoming months! thanks!

Thursday Meow

Michael Kline

Getting back to work isn't so easy. Ron's having a good discussion over at his blog about "warming up". Pottery 4play, if you will. Go on over and enter the fray. In the meantime I was reminded of this quote by Chuck Close (thanks go to adjunct potter John Simmons):

CC: Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work and the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will, through work, bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never dream up if you were just sitting around looking for a great art idea. And that a belief in that the process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel everyday. Today you know what you will do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday and tomorrow you are going to do what you did today and at least for a certain period of time if you can just work to hang in there, you will get somewhere.

'nuff said. Thanks Chuck.

Now it's on to the next one.
Speaking of next one's, Courtney Martin and I are joining forces for the next wood firing on Snow Creek Rd. It'll be at her place on the 15th. Time to get busy decorating and glazing all of the pots that didn't make it into 36 and make a few more to fill out the showroom.

My show officially opens in Asheville tomorrow night and it's also online. Looks like there are still a few pieces left. ;-) Hope to see you there!

Also I sent out my latest Mail Chimp e-newsletter. If you didn't get it you're not signed up for my list. Click here to receive your copy!

Random Thoughts While Waiting for Bread To Bake

Michael Kline

12 by 12? Did I say 12? LOL, as they say!

Another searing blue sky today, yes, but not as clear in the shop as to which direction the day would take. It goes that way more often than not. Yet a good day over all. Got the jugs handled and threw a few boards of big cups. These are the one's that became know as breakfast cups after I received a fax from the chain store, anthropologie, back in the day. That's what they were calling it in their catalog and it stuck. Recently I had an order for more of these cups from a store in Rochester, except they called them chowder mugs! Hey it's fine with me whatever they call'em as long as the check is in the mail! Speaking of mail I sent a bunch of pots out from the Etsy sale today! More will head out tomorrow.

After lunch, I talked to Kyle, who was firing his salt kiln today, and we came up with some dates for our October firing in my kiln. After much thought, I was confident (or crazy)enough to think it was all possible! lol [With my adjunct potter, John on board, all things seem possible.] Wood is almost cut, there's plenty of clay on hand. But will I hold up? (or will Stacey put up with me working ALL the time?) Ah, such is the season of revving up and going for it. Xmas is coming up and all of the galleries have their exhibits, after all!

Come January, the only thing going on in the studio will be the cat chasing mice!

While I was at it I thought I'd better ink in this next firing, XXXVI and alert crew members! Sept. 18th (yikes) Better get going. Seems like Courtney is going for a deuce this coming month, too. I guess the the kilns (and the glory holes)are always busy this time of year. The potters are all getting ready the annual Potter's Market in Spruce Pine! Not sure what our neighboring glassblowers are getting ready for since they don't have their own pottery show, here! ;-)

Anyway, back to pottery! Last night I was clearing the decks, putting stuff away and found 3 bags of fire clay lurking in my tool shed, so I mixed me up a batch to pug into my red dirt. After all, with just a few days left in my making cycle, I might as well mix some clay! [evidence of insanity] This dry weather is great for drying out the wood and the pots, and it's already dried the slip I mixed last night quite a bit. Maybe John and I can get it through the pug mill and wedge it in time for some red dirt pots for this kiln load.

Well, no pictures for this ramble. Left the old camera op the hill, but the smell of fresh baked bread is filling the house and the heat of the oven is taking the chill out of the cool night air. The timer has just gone off so I'll pull it from the oven and pull the plug on this for now.

I would promise pictures and further evidence of pottery being made after I finish later tonight, but maybe I'd better cut my losses.

Bread out, I'm out. Back up the hill for some late night pottery!
Talk to you tomorrow.

Oh BTW, don't forget to take the poll. I want to compare the numbers with the same poll taken over the winter. Thanks!


Michael Kline

Here are a few pictures from blog posts that never happened. That happens when a pottery bloggery guy gets busy! We had a big storm blow through the other night with hail, high winds, and a whole lot of rain! There was so much of the above, that I had to mop all of the rain that came blowing into the show room and studio instead of working on my pots that night and I had to retrieve "all"of my window screens from the field below the studio the next morning! But all is dried out now.

These pots have been sitting around for a while and the sulfur (or whatever is in the clay) is coloring the slip decoration. Pretty nice.
Courtney hosted NC Clay Club and showed off her new shop and presented a fabulous slideshow of her and John's trip to Okinawa, Japan. She showed a bunch of pictures of potteries they visited and friends they made and the meals they ate. I'm not sure if they ate this snail or not? (if I hadn't been trying to get the right exposure during a dark slide show I could probably have told you about this snail!)


A fascinated audience of clay clubbers!

Well, I just wanted to share these pictures of the ones that almost got away. There are many things that happen at the pottery and during my weeks that I just don't have the time to share. Maybe I'll get around to post some of them that aren't so time sensitive and when things slow down and I have time to edit the pics. But in the the mean time...the firing train (No. 36) is on schedule and will be rolling in the station really soon, so I'd better stay close to the wheel and make sure all of its passengers are ready to board! I hope you will be along for the ride!


Backstory: 34, The Firing

Michael Kline

the stack for #34

As I gather my thoughts about the events surrounding the loading and firing of the kiln, my first thought is that you wouldn't believe me if I told you. But I guess I've decided to try to tell, anyway. Since I took a bunch of pictures of all of the calm moments, but none of the near disastrous ones, you'll just have to give me the benefit of the doubt. OK?

Tim Ayers came down from Penland to help me glaze my pots and eventually load the kiln. Tim and I worked steadily, mixing glazes and dipping pots. But I must have been in la-la-land to think we could glaze all 300 pots (usually a long days work anyway) and load the kiln (usually a ten hour job) in time for me to get a few hours sleep before starting the firing early Sunday morning! It just didn't add up, but we carried on. [Maybe this is a clue as to why I didn't make it in engineering school so many years ago??!! But, wait, this is simple math! ]

Not to dwell on long ago failures........after a couple of speed bumps during the loading (read: after stopping to glaze more pots) I found my energy lagging as I began the second tier of shelves. It was after supper and I continued to feel a kind of dread. I was thinking at the time that almost every step of the way during the past week had resulted in some minor disaster due to my poor planning. My resolve to work at all hours was getting me only so far and time was crunching down on me.

Then out of nowhere, the storm hit. My kiln shed is pretty big, but it doesn't have siding and it completely open to the weather. When the rain comes down (and horizontal) everything gets wet. And it did that night around 9 p.m. I couldn't cover the pots with tarps, because the wind would gather up the tarps and sling the pots away. I just held on and prayed that the storm would pass quickly. It didn't. Just when things seemed to calm down so I could focus back on the loading, another wave would come through. Very high winds and lashing rain continued. Like sea captain tied to the steerage of his ship, so I seemed tied to the kiln. I stayed on course to get the pots out of the rain and into the kiln!

As I worked through the storm I noticed, and was very grateful, that it was fairly balmy for this time of the year. I should have know what that might mean. shortly after this realization, of course, the thunder and lightning came! So now I'm listening to the "thrash metal band" of trees being bent over by the high winds, tin roofing that covered a wood pile flying away in the dark, and thunderous cracks exploding all around. No one should have been out in that, much less loading a kiln. But being in the state of denial that I was in, I kept telling myself, like the little engine that could, to "keep going, that the storm would pass", etc.

The storm continued for more than an hour and then the next plague: power outage! HA! Of course, just when I thought it couldn't get any worse it did! When any rational, sane person would seek shelter and say the hell with it, I thought in my own seemingly rational way, ..."well, let's see, I can get a flashlight, headlamp, kerosene lamp, etc" So I did. I retooled to finish my job.

The volunteer firemen had the road blocked down below with a powerline down from a fallen tree and the only lights were the flashing reds and my florescent battery powered lamp I was using to load my kiln. Eventually, the rains slowed and the winds moved on to terrorize the next county over. Eventually the firemen got curious to know what was happening with the back and forth moving light up on the hill. They drove up my road thinking they was some kind of arcing power line or something, but they just found a half crazed potter trying to load his kiln. What a strange sight that must have been, to walk up to this dark shed with this big shadowy hulk of a kiln and chimney and a funny looking soaking-wet guy with a hand held lamp going in and out of said kiln! I tried to explain my dire predicament. What part of deadline and loading a pottery kiln did they not understand?! Ha! They were glad that everything was "OK" and chuckled as they walked back to their truck with their flashlights. I got the kiln loaded eventually by about 2 a.m. The power company brought their cherry picker to fix the line and I sadly watched as they drove on down the road, but still no power. Damn. I guess there were more lines down. So I decided to rest a bit and wait until the power came back on to put the door up. It came back on around 4 a.m. and I woke up and went to work on bricking up the door. The door bricks are in pretty bad shape and I made a firm note to replace the bricks before next firing. Also I noticed the door of the kiln is spreading a bit. So the picture below shows how much chinking I needed to fill the gap!

After making this epic confession of poor planning and bad luck, I'll try to keep the rest brief and leave it to the captions. After all, I have a kiln to unload today!

this is how it all starts

balmy sunrise through the pines after the storm

like a dog soaked to the bone, my shed

my clay pit flooded with about three feet of water.
proof of the big rain!

later that afternoon the weather had another surprise, sleet

Lindsay Rogers stoking, notice the smile on her face and the
snow/sleet on the ground?

Lillian tooling up for her stoke!

staying warm by the kiln

Salt! Success!

I realized that our damp stack of wood was disappearing and that we needed maybe another half hour of stoking to get the temp we needed. So I used my "phone a friend/lifeline" and called Courtney and John up the road to take them up on their offer of dry wood. Courtney's kiln is just 0.8 mile up the road and it has the same firebox length, so the wood is the perfect length for my kiln, too! We barely used half of what they brought and got the kiln even all around thanks to Lindsay's great stoking. The Snow Creek Pottery Posse rides again! Thanks Lindsay, Thanks Courtney!!

By 11 p.m. the epic firing was over, and as all potters must hope in a moment like this, when all has been done that can be done, I hoped for a good firing.

Check back (if you have the time) to see pictures from the kiln!!!

If you're still reading, thanks for indulging me to recount this crazy epic.

Loading 34

Michael Kline

Just a brief note to all of y'all keeping score at home!

Yesterday the fabulous Tim Ayers came down from Penland where he is assisting Tom Spleth, to lend his help getting the pots glazed and ready for the kiln. Lindsay Rogers came by, too, to finish up some last minute details to some kiln shelves, etc. but by 4:30 I was still glazing pots and realized that the loading wasn't going to happen and that I needed a good nights rest. So I put the firing off until Monday.

Unfortunately that means that my main fireman, Alan Gratz won't be able to make the change to Monday because he'll be going to Japan! He'll be badly missed but we wish him a Bon Voyage. Alan is mainly going to teach a writing workshop there, but maybe he'll get to fire some kilns in Japan while he so does his writing residency. I heard they have a few. Have a great trip Alan. We'll save your stoking slot for #36.

That brings us to who will be there to fire this kiln and once again the Snow Creek Pottery Posse will save the day! The posse includes Lindsay Rogers, Courtney Martin, and yours truly and we all live within a mile of the Snow Creek Road Pottery Corridor. Seems like we should get one of those fancy highway signs like they have in Seagrove to direct the masses who crave our pottery!

Well, speaking of traffic...the weather was really wonderful for glazing outside and we had a few visits over the last few days as people are starting to come out and tour the early spring landscape! The first visitors since the New Year!!!

The shop will be closed today, but I'll be around back at the kiln getting it loaded up with pots, if you care to stop in! But expect to wad some pots! I'll try to send some pictures of the loading as I go along. You can also follow my twitter feed (to the right in the sidebar) for quick updates.

Other News: last weeks Poll is closed. The tallies were pretty consistent from the beginning with about a third of potters who read the blog having internet connectivity in there studios! Wow, it was a higher percentage than I would have guessed. Thanks for everybody who took the poll. I'll try to post my next poll tomorrow.

That's all for now.

Thanks, as always, for reading!