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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: Evelyn


Michael Kline

Where did Monday go?

It's been a very busy week with pottery making and extracurricular activities, but a good week.

Ron and I talked a bunch last Saturday on our drive to Seagrove and the Pottery Center. Ron's a great listener and by letting me blather on about this way new way of approaching my studio practice, I have come to a better understanding of how it is working. It's working really well. The way it is working is very interesting to me. Since I am making much smaller batches of pots each day while trying to finish the previous day's work, I realize that I am returning to whatever form several times every few days. Instead of making 40 mugs in a day, I am making those 40 over several days. In the same way that one "sleeps on" an important decision to get perspective, I feel that making these small batches allow me to return to the form more frequently and the pot's reiterations happen several times during the week. Each time getting closer to the ideal I set out when making a form, whether it is a cup or a teapot. In my previous model, I would set out to make 40 mugs, and somehow get overwhelmed by the number and lose touch with the freshness that that first pot off the wheel sometimes have.

I guess I talked about this in a previous post.

The takeaway from this week is that engagement is altered and focused in a much different way with a good night's sleep and the subsequent "redo".

I am anxious to introduce some surface considerations and brushwork to the daily mix. I began yesterday by doing some slip combing on some tumblers. I feel like my thoughts are still clarifying and will write again when I have my little epiphanies. But the flip side of my current process is that I am not stopping as often to ponder (i.e. write blog posts or tweets.), but moving immediately into another little grouping of pots. It's exhilarating, really, like a nice through the field with Evelyn and Lillian!

Got Pottery?

Michael Kline

I guess a lot of folks got a flip video camera for Christmas, including Evelyn! Here's a little pottery review I made before dinner last night. I can't guarentee there will be more videos here on the blog, but if I can get someone to do voice overs or if I don't have to speak I will be more motivated. It's sort of like hearing your OGM on your voicemail. Weird.

Today is a snow day and I plan on getting the girls involved in a photo shoot up in the studio!

"Film at 11"

Stepping Over the Line (the deadline, that is)

Michael Kline

When it comes to deadlines, I'm the worst. Last Friday was my deadline for last wet day, meaning, last day to make pots. But I moved it to today as there are a few things I still want to make.
  • quart pitchers
  • half gallon jars
  • tall vases
  • more yunomi and tumblers
I'm not sure if this is realistic considering the plastic that covers the pots on my table, but we'll see. I have until 3:30 this afternoon (when the girls come home from school, and maybe after supper. But the late nights are wearing me down and I'm going to try to get earlier starts in the morning during my deco/glaze days.

The girls have been working on their ornaments for the studio sale in December. Lillian was working overtime on her drawing (l) and Evelyn decided to make ornaments of her hands and feet! My little elves wanted to listen to some mood music so I cued up for some streaming Christmas tunes. I got into the fun too and mostly made round ornaments that I will paint and glaze for the upcoming firing at Courtney's.

Well, I'm off to the studio for my 24X 12! I hope everyone had a great weekend and will be as productive as I hope to be this week!

Thanks for reading!

Last Wet Week

Michael Kline

red dirt harvest!

As I head into the last wet week, I finally have a batch of red dirt, the first since November! But it looks like I won't have the time to mix it with the fire-clay and feldspar till next session! That's OK, I probably have enough left from the reclaim batch I just ran through the pug mill for the coming week. It's exciting to get this clay in my hands finally after what seems like a "non-profit" process! I just need to come up with a more efficient way to process the dirt.

new cut rim and compressed platter edge

When I make the small plates with the cut edge, all seems right. But When I make bowls or platters I don't feel that the cut edge is helping the pots, especially bowls. Today I made 10 12-14 lb. bowls and platter/bowls with wide lips. [sorry, no proud picture of the table full of big bowls. I'll try to remember to brag tomorrow]I don't intend to cut the edges. I'll just paint a design on the rim, instead. But the last couple of these I had an idea to cut the edge on the wheel directly after they were thrown and while the clay is wet. One of the main reasons I don't do this until after the foot ring is cut, is to avoid cracks that result from the downward pressure of the trimming tools. The cut edges are somewhat compromised, structurally and tended to crack at the cut edge.

So my idea was to cut the edge while it was wet and then slowly compress the rim from both above and below the cut edge. As my friend Pat would say about now, "You with me?"
The result was pretty nice, I thought, so I made another. By compressing the edge just a bit I might avoid cracking, but the firing will have the last say on this matter!
After supper I made a few knob and all pill box jars. These were some of my favorite pots in the last firing, so I want to continue to cover this one to see where I can take it. Well it's very late as I write this but I wanted to jot don a few of these ideas before I went off to dreamland! Tomorrow is a short day as I get to pick up the girls from school and do something fun with them.

The girls were practicing their bike riding tonight. Evelyn is riding well on her own and Lillian is still on training wheels. But they're both are getting a lot better! It's hard around here to find a flat and safe road without a lot of traffic. So we wait till after supper when traffic slows down to get out on our stretch of Snow Creek Rd. Stacey bought some bright orange traffic cones for the road and I think I'll leave them out there. It's amazing how much slower (and quieter) people go around them!! But that may not fly for long.

Well that's all for now. The week ahead promises to be kind of crazy with the deadlines approaching, so hang on!

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.

One Thousandth Post

Michael Kline

Good morning/evening everybody, wherever you might be, and welcome to the 1000th post here on ye olde blogge! Some have hinted that it better be a good one, but I'm afraid it's just going to be a quick one, as so many of the "1000" have been. A potter has to make pots after all, nobody is paying me to do this! Well, OK, I do get massive kickbacks and subsidies from Pottery Barn...

Well the secret is out now. This is the person giving me all of the ideas! Here's a shot from Evelyn's inspirational whiteboard presentation that kicked off yesterday today's painting marathon!

I'll try to get some glimpses of my pottery-supa-crunch-time posted this afternoon during lunch. Some very exciting things are happening with the brushes! Check back when you can. Also don't forget to take the poll from last Friday. There's one more day till it closes.

Ellen Denker is back tomorrow to sit in for me with another intriguing post. So check that out sometime on Friday!

Thanks for reading the blog. It's been a thrill so far and I hope that the next 1000 posts will be as much fun! Have a great one!

Family Tradition?

Michael Kline

evelyn at the treadle!

Today was a snow day and the girls were home with yours truly. Stacey had a pile of work to mow down up at Penland and we thought it best that I stay home and try to supervise the chaos!

Evelyn had quite a day! The girl was in the flow. She made up a cake recipe this morning with a lavender chocolate frosting. Hmmm, I know what your thinking, because that was my first thought, too...but it was pretty tasty. By some kind of trial and error she's getting better at her epicurean lab work! It will do her good when she starts glazing her pots! In my mind I saw us all heading up to the shop at some point and I could tend to my pots while they played quietly in the corner! Ha! Well come 3 o'clock we finally made it up there!

We got Evelyn set up on the wheel John Britt gave us and she fit it without any adjustment. Then we came up after supper for more and she ended up with a decent board of pots. In the past I would help her center and sometimes show her where her fingers should be, but today she was on her own. I was across the room handling pots myself.

some of E's pots

some of my pots

Here are Monday's mugs with handles. I thought I would dip and comb the pots before the handles to get a better combing on the handle-less cups. But then the handling got to be a challenge. I may try dipping just the handle part of the mugs. In my experience that seems to work OK.

Still not sure about the stencils. It was exciting to cut the paper and apply them and was fun to see the contrast of the clay and the slip, not to mention the sharpness of the stencil design. Some of the patterns reminded me of some patterns on a dress that Stacey has. The dress has white lace or crochet??? flowers on a black fabric.

The stencil-play intrigue me as anything new and different to one's experience can be. I thought about all the folks who do a stencil treatment with their pots and also thought how I could incorporate some brushwork. Placement of some of the stencils seemed awkward. I didn't handle one mug because I couldn't decide which design would have to be covered up, all in the cyclical experience of making pots. These things can get worked out. I also thought that I could use plastic for the stencils and reuse them. I guess we'll just have to wait until after the firing to make any judgements.

Well I'm back tomorrow for a full day. I'm hoping I can get my 12 pots made. There is a one hour delay to school in the morning but I'll be at the Shimpo! See you there.

Afternoon Visitors

Michael Kline

The girls came up to the studio after school for some earthenware fun. They both made a bunch of pots on the treadle wheel. Can you guess who did the kicking?

Even after all of the fun, Evelyn said she would rather be a jeweler, like her Mom! I guess you can't win'em all.

Last Day of Summer

Michael Kline

Today is the last day of summer and tomorrow Autumn begins! To attempt to cover what happened over the weekend would be futile. So many thoughts go through my mind as I work, I wouldn't want to bore you, but I'll try to mention a few things.

It rained mostly and pots sat wet on their boards. Mighty Micah came over Saturday to help cut and stack wood. We got a good amount done, and will finish later this week. We'll see how it burns being just about two months or so from being completely green and also getting a fair share of rain as it sat in the wood lot near the kiln. Hey! two months is plenty of time to cure out a pile of poplar, right?! Well, I know it will burn (eventually), it's just a matter of how much green wood I'll use compared to fully aged, ripened, dry and snappy poplar that I've had for the past two firings this year.


I decided to build a fire in the shop on Sunday in an attempt to dry out the place after all the rain. The doors were sticking too much from the swell! When I opened the lid of the wood stove, I was shocked to see several expired bats. They must have come into the vacant chimney pipe and gotten trapped. I love bats and depend on them to keep the mosquito population down around here. But, I'll have to put some screen around the chimney opening so this won't happen again. Mea culpa.
Speaking of winged creatures, it has been a banner year for them with all the rain, I suppose, but also the beacon that is the shop at night. Here are a couple of interesting moths that I captured on "film" the other night. Any moth experts reading? I've never seen these before.

Seagrove potters and bloggers, Meredith and Mark Heywood stopped by for a visit today, but I failed to snap a picture of my buddies because I was busy working my jaw. Hopefully Meredith will send me a picture. I saw her snapping some. Penland potter and neighbor Catherine Dotson was their guide! It was a great rainy Sunday afternoon visit.
Evelyn came up to fetch me away from my work and take me down to the house for supper. But she was captured by what seemed like a lot of fun: listening to loud rock music and making pots! So I gave her some clay and kicked the treadle for her and she made a few pots before we headed down the hill to eat. She was telling me how she wanted to decorate them for the firing. That's my girl!

I finished off the weekend by cutting feet on some little bowls and realized that the tool that I bought recently to replace the old "Dolan" trimming tool is not the same as advertised. Maybe it's one size bigger than mine. It's certainly sturdy and made of good materials, but the size of the "ribbon" is quite a bit larger(compare the two where the metal goes into the handle) and a bit clumsy compared to the old one. I do like the bigger handle on the new Kemper, fits good in my big hand. The old one is so worn out that it's just now hitting its stride and cutting beautifully. So I split the difference using the new tool as much as possible, usually beginning the cut, and finishing (and conserving) with the thin fragile edge of the old one. I guess I'm hoping to have a sort of changing of the guard at some point when ythe old tool breaks through. Hoping that when that time comes, I'll have worn down the new one sufficiently. ( I guess I could file it down, duh)

I head into that second and last week of making before I switch to shop over to a decorating and glazing venue. I've filled the kiln in two weeks before, but it's a frenzy. I'll try to keep you up to date on the "fun".

Let the Cleanup Begin

Michael Kline

Micah Cain came by this evening after his stint with Barking Spider Pottery and their Hamada-matic ram press to help me finish glazing the pots. There are a few cups and a few bowls that still have to be painted and glazed, but they're low priority. Friday is loading day and if there is room in the kiln I'll glaze'em then. Tomorrow is also clean up for the party day.

keeping the kids busy so they won't play in the street

Evelyn got a jump on her chores by mopping the showroom floor with the Turner Spic'n'Span Special. I love the red dirt color the mop is taking on. Maybe it's time for a new mop head?

Here is the library, well what Stacey could fit in to the new to me book case! Stacey found it at the local Habitat store! We're not sure where the book case will finally rest, but for now it sits on top of the old library table with some pots.

Getting A Handle On It

Michael Kline

bucket on rolling cart with Mud Tools rib

A board of little mugs that I had made the other day, Saturday(?), awaited me this morning. After circling around and looking for the right arrangement I ended up with this setup to add and pull handles on them. I score the pots with a big serrated rib that Michael Sherrill gave me last Fall. I like using it because it's stiffish (is that a word?), it fits nicely in my grasp, and makes quick work of scoring. It simply feels better than the small serrated rib I had used for years.

scritch, scratch, poke, poke

Speaking of "feel" my daughters were hanging out the other day when I was throwing these mugs. Lillian decided she would help me, so after a short training session, she controlled the speed of the wheel, as I said faster, slower, etc. It felt like a team of glassblower's working in tandem on a piece. The crank on the old Shimpo is pretty stiff, but I must say the little gal got pretty good it. While she sat on the stool crankin', she also poked at a couple of the mugs. After a few of those, Evelyn wanted to get in on the fun. The mug at the right is poked by Lillian, the one on the left is Evelyn's design. I found it interesting that Evelyn decided to make a different mark than Lillian. After E made her marks, L gave it a scratchy try on the next one (always copying her older sister).

But all of this has me thinking how much these and other small pots are all about the finger tips. Maybe it's the relative scale of our hands/fingertips and the pots they encounter. Maybe this is a little bit vague. hmmm. One of the things that resulted from my accident a few years ago, was the difficulty of throwing tableware. (cups, bowls, production work) My fingers got sore from the repeated finger work required from throwing these smallish pots. My reaction was to make bigger pots that I could turn with ribs or a curled hand holding a sponge, hence a transition into larger pots that continues to this day. Now, though my fingers are stronger and smaller repeat ware isn't a problem.

Just a few thoughts on throwing, which I will now do since my lunch and this post are done!

where's that lotion??!!

Friday Settlins'

Michael Kline

I just stopped into Terry Gess' studio for a chat and saw all the pots he's getting ready for a firing. I must admit I was extremely envious of all the pottery he's made! I'm very ready to have this moving/construction behind me. Also, it's been a real blessing to teach this last week, I've enjoyed meeting everyone, adding to the cash flow, but now I have to get down and make some pots! For one, that's my job, my livelyhood. For two, it's difficult to find material for the blog when I'm NOT making.


It's also been tricky to do demo's when I haven't really worked in the studio in earnest for a few months now. September? Making pots, for me, is all about momentum, repetition and hope that the next pot off the wheel will be the best yet. This can only happen if I darken the doorstep and go straight for the clay. Unfortunately as many potter/bloggers report on a regular basis, life gets in the way. All of this life stuff is good, though. It all goes into the "pot". Is that what people mean when they use that very annoying phrase, "It's all good?" I've always felt that phrase to be a "cop out" but maybe it's just a way to say that some things are beyond our control and that in the end things find a way of either working themselves out or not. Maybe it just means "that's cool." Maybe I should go look it up on Wikipedia!


Teaching is a great way for me to "test" half baked ideas and share what may be perceived of as wisdom. Sometimes the thoughts are clear and helpful, other times clumsy and misguided. But , ha, "it's all good!" When I walked into the clay studio at Haywood the other morning, Bob Dylan was sounding from the stereo and I liked that. The song, "Idiot Wind" was playing and I hoped that it was a bit of advice and that I would keep the verbiage to a minimum. Well, I guess I talked a lot. Oh well. I did manage to get almost all of the pots made and finished, which was a good thing.


Stacey's in Raleigh til tomorrow so I'm the alpha parent for a couple of days. That's fine. The girls and I had fun making the Fatoush last night in preparation for Evelyn's first grade "Egyptian Festival". Unfortunately she melted down this morning as she realized there wasn't enough time to finish her 'tunic' and we had to go. I tried to explain to her that it wasn't the end of the world. That it was a lot to ask a first grader to make their costume all by themselves, without help from their parents. As the tears streamed and her eyes became redder than 2 tomatoes in a glass of buttermilk, I completely related to her, but when I said that it was "all good" her crying became louder and the trickery of that phrase was loud and clear. We made it to the truck and loaded up with her handmade sandals, which were awesome, and a big piece of fancy fabric that I was tried to convince her that it looked very "egyptian". I grabbed a safety pin and off we went. I sang a few nonsensical rhyming songs about applesauce perfume or something like that, and gradually the smile came and the laughter began.

It's all good.

Sawdust, Again

Michael Kline

After making a handful of pots last week, I realized that I needed some places to put the pots when they're finished. In the words of Gomer "gawwwwaaaawwwwleeeee". Or in the words of Homer, "DOHHH!" So this Gomer/Homer moment spun me into a sawdust mode and I installed a couple of remnants from the old shop over the weekend. Below is a tidy picture of the new /old counter top where I almost immediately installed (temporarily) the dusty old analog stereo system. What is it about horizontal surfaces? Gravity? I just want to fill them up with whatever is around...

LinkTo the right of the door is the drybox/storage rack. When the pots are finished and ready for the kiln I can slide the ware boards of pots all the way in and stockpile'em. Below, Evelyn tests the strength of not only my ware boards but the dry box rack itself. I wasn't worried about her furry friend(above) but I was relieved when all hell didn't break loose after she put all of her 40 pounds down upon the board. Phew! I guess it's a go!