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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: Cynthia Bringle

the timelessness of night

Michael Kline


 The thaw is happening, I think. During the #hunkerdownbythewoodstovepolarvortex the kids got home schooled and I beat a path from wood stove to wood stove, studio and house, respectfully. I also checked water pipes, chickens, road conditions, email, calendar. Seems like I would have had plenty of time to make pots, to get that studio hoed out and crystallize my vision for a bump free flow.

[insert perplexed, vexed, and cross-eyed emoticon]

On the heels of my declaration of a 500 word guarantee here on ye olde blogge, I stood there like a deer in the headlights of the big brain freeze, mental frostbite. So, just as one rubs hands to create friction, thus heat, thus thawing, I will try to rub some brain cells together and make a clickity clackity sound with this keyboard to illustrate a few "thaw-ts".

So, here we go. [pause, deep breath, now go!]

Something interesting happened at the wheel the other night. Yes, I did say night. That time of my day when it is quiet and all are asleep, except for me. The darkness of night has a timelessness that, MS and I used to jokingly referred to as "3 o'clock in the morning". Timelessness in the sense that the darkness (outside) is not specific, compared to the light of the sun, glaring morning light through to pink o'clock, then dark.

Unable to train my thoughts on much through my day, I was able to sequester and focus on the pots later that night. With headphones on, some music playing in my head, I was able to get some pots made. Some really great pots, IMHO. I know what you might be saying. "This guys has some kind of mental problem, either distraction, or maybe something worse!" Could it be that I go through a brief period of ADD or PTSD before the highly prized momentum flows? I'm sure someone more qualified than I can diagnose what potters, like moi, might be experiencing.

[note to self: don't stray, get to the point]

Oh, right. I do want to share something other than a pathology of distraction with you.

So, I've heard potters speak about the wheel as their sketchbook and I would say, yes! It's the only way I can "draw" pots. Some potters are very good at portraying pottery in 2 dimensions, I applaud them and I think that a 2D sketchbook is a must, but in reality I don't draw pots in mine. I use my sketchbook to work on patterns and loosen up my "brush-mind" (I'm about the start a new one that Stacey gave me! A beautiful new sketchbook (made by John Hartom) for Christmas!) So, yes, put me in that group who think that the wheel is a better sketchbook for pots. Ha! Maybe our wheels are the original 3d printers!

In the past I have certainly played around with this notion of the wheel as sketchbook. Throwing a series of pots can result in a board of pots all the same or all different, depending on one's intentions AND skills. I've written about the impact that first pot can have on the rest of the pots and how there is redemption in a series of the same.

The other night I had a bit of fun chasing down something that happened unexpectedly. Rather, maybe it happened from some sort of prodding by my sub conscience?(the best kind of prodding?) Maybe I was bored with the way I usually make swirl ware and that boredom exerted itself and prompted me to take a risk, after all, it's just clay, as Cynthia Bringle would say. But I tend to think, or better yet, obsess, of the times that I have failed when I take a chance.

I never think of those momentous times when my whole body of work has shifted because of something I tried that was out of the ordinary. Hmmm, more psychological evidence of pathology...But why are we afraid of risk if the outcome of something wonderful, something truly personal, and new can come of it?

Most people would probably say that pottery is a pretty safe business. But think of the speculation, the risks that a potter makes/takes when submitting our pots to the kiln?! Not to be too melodramatic, but, instead, to make the point that potters aren't to blame for playing it safe because of this looming risk of the kiln, but does playing it safe promote healthy living pots?

[OK, now I've done it. Which rabbit hole should I take?]

Let me reel (real?) myself in just a bit. Which risks do I decide to take, which sleeping dogs do I let lie? We can't always work at the edge. We can't always run at full clip. Pace is everything. Change is slow, Just ask Carl Sagan. But when we, as potters, are ready for change, we make it happen, perhaps prompted by a kind of boredom, perhaps triggered by our sub conscience.

So I guess I was ready to insert the wrench into the way I make my swirl ware. It wasn't something I put on my to do list that night. It was something that happened spontaneously. Maybe this emerged from the noise of the day, from the "urgency" of the day, or maybe from the desire to see something different.

This new "twist" on my technique was kind of thrilling. In this small way I am changed and I am motivated, jazzed, pumped up! The hexagonal wheel makes a light bump and down the road we go. It's an exciting thing when this happens in the shop. As potters, it is our challenge to make this happen, over and over again. Give life to the pots. Give our life to the pots. No pressure, as my friend Scott would say!

When we talk about giving life to our pots, what do we mean? When we talk about pots having something special, what do we mean? I guess we mean that something from our soul has somehow been transferred to the clay. Something that can't be written, something like a quality without a name. Maybe it's simply an excitement we feel when we are making . Maybe it's a kind of joy we are experiencing?

Hey, come on, it's just clay, right?

Loading Day

Michael Kline

By now the kiln should be loaded and I should be resting for tomorrow's firing. But instead I'm just now beginning to load. It usually takes 8 hours, sometimes 10. As things are going it will take 10. Stacey has promised to bring my peanut M & M's this afternoon. A tradition started by Cynthia Bringle in the early days if this kiln. CB would also bring salt for the kiln and salt for the potters along with her pots which I happily loaded among mine.

Not all the pots got glazed but time waits for no one, especially potters who have no respect for its determination and vigilance.

A few weeks ago I confidently stated that I would not rely on kiln "magic", but instead would inject a certain intentional quality into my work. After a week or so of 18 hour days I'm hoping for not only a little wood firing magic, but a minor miracle to boot!

it's on to the next one, firing XXXVI !

Penland Ramble

Michael Kline

SO it's been a while since I spent several days at Penland firing the sinks. I've wanted to post some pictures from those times, that seem so long ago, now, but I've lacked the time and resources, until now. (and even now I should be loading a bisque and getting the pots made) But blogging and potting are two different sets of hands, one pair covered in slurry, another copying and pasting! It's a situation I find myself in more and more. When to blog, when to pot, when to be with family, when to walk the dog, etc. You get the picture. There is sort of an inverse outcome of actions at play here. More blogging/less potting. More potting/less blogging. Until I get an "administrative assistant" here wedging the clay or handling the photo processing, Blogging may be slow in the coming weeks, cause the potter must make pots!!

Blah, blah, blah, on with the Penland ramble and in the garbage with the whining ramble!

jocelyn, kenneth, and jana posing by the
hot kiln with sinks on one of the
hottest days of the summer!

two guys, two hands, two scars.
Zack Lopez (l), Adam Whitney (r)

product placement: obviously this potter is sponsored by MudTools!
who really needs this many ribs!

cute kiln loiterers!

cups from the kiln.
love the soda on the edges!

famous bay area artist visits!

new Penland guest house
(where my sink is installed,
more on that next week after the ribbon cutting!
party people at the guest house

pink o'clock at Penland


Michael Kline

slipped plates
click on image to enlarge

Sometimes, in the course of working, things don't go as planned or the pots aren't as money as they could be. Sometimes the "not caring" after one of these pots leads to more daring maneuvers. Sometimes those maneuvers pay off and leads to other creative paths. The other thing about ceramics is the time lapse of cause and effect. What may "feel" good, often may not work technically. The materials change so much in the process that experience and careful observation have to come into play. Aha, empiricism. Can you "see" the one that's not like the others. I didn't center that one on the banding wheel before I scratched through the slip. But I liked it and went for it. What had I to lose? After all, as Cynthia Bringle might say, "It's just clay." So I try things and wait for the kiln's final say and go from there.

Working within the pottery's restraints requires faith.

If you're a potter, what do you think about the nature of experience and the creative moment? If you're not a potter, how does the nature of risk and discovery effect your work?

Back to it!