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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!

Filtering by Tag: John Simmons

Beat-up Old Kiln/Beat-up Old Potter

Michael Kline


As the title of this post implies, this potter is feeling like his kiln, a little worse for wear. Ironically, throwing the pots, working the clay doesn't dry my hands out as much as wadding pots and loading the kiln. Wadding the pots is hard to do with gloves on, and the frequent washing (to remove the layer of wadding and glue from my finger tips) is hard on the skin. Handling the silicon carbide shelves and all of the craggly kiln furniture doesn't help much, either. Then throw in a few times that I grab something hot during the firing with the hole-e glove and you get really dry and hypersensitive hands. My hands feel a little like the skin of this kiln!



But with that whining aside, the firing of the wood kiln went fantastically well. The crew was awesome, the peanut M & M's flowed and the meals were plentiful! John Simmons and Kyle Carpenter were on hand to help finish the kiln after I spent the first 9 hours stoking solo. We missed my Ichiban Stoker, Alan Gratz. Alan was on book tour promoting his new novel, "Fantasy Baseball"! John Simmons was the closer, stoking the kiln for the final 4 hours, while Kyle assisted with the new and improved salting system. It would have been impossible to do this myself. I should also thank my wife, Stacey, for all that she has had to put up with this last week or so, and for her constant support (and fine cookin')!!


And now for the abbreviated Index for 37:
  • Dry wood and a gusty wind helped the kiln climb fast and we finished in 12.5 hours
  • We used half the wood than usual
  • We used a bout 30 lbs. of salt where I usually use 20-25.
  • The kiln was loaded with 300 pots
For now though, it's waiting. I'm trying hard not to have high hopes or great expectations and I'm squashing any paranoid fantasies with the excitement of seeing a kiln full of new pots!

In other News: I'm taking some down time these cooling days to catch up on all the projects that need attention. One of these projects is wring the Spring Newsletter. If you want to receive it go to my email sign up page and sign up!

Unfortunately last weekend's contest didn't happen due to the attention needed to load and fire the kiln. And next weekend's contest will not happen because I will be away selling pottery in Hickory, NC.

So we will hold a 'leave a comment' contest mid week when I unload the kiln, I promise! Look for it!

Friday Message

Michael Kline


It's been quite a run these last couple of days, but the kiln and most of the pots are ready to be loaded! Everything is wadded and the first shelves are in the kiln.The weather is absolutely gorgeous with a warm breeze.

John Simmons is doing some stem and leaf designs on some flower pots and I'm doing some last minute painting. I'll posts pictures of some of the pots I've been painting as well as announce this week's giveaway contest.

So don't stray!

Meow.

Sawdust Day

Michael Kline

Here's John Simmons making a beautiful stack and standing on the truck bed to reach to top row. This is more than we will need for the firing in February but it forms a nice wall to the elements.

There's never too much wood!

Weary But Well

Michael Kline

Alas, I return with good tiding of comfort and joy. Tis the season of eggnog, quite possibly my favorite beverage, next to bourbon. They go well together, too! The wood stove is crackling, the kids hum Christmas carols as they lolligag around the house on another snow day from school, and I just listed a few more pots to replace the ones that sold today at Stacey and I's annual Online Christmas sale!


It's been a dizzying two days behind the camera and the computer to put all of this together. But now I can sit back with a cold one and pray that I have enough packing material to ship all of these orders out in the morning!

You know, being a potter these days doesn't just mean getting behind the wheel. It also means getting behind the tripod and clicking away pictures to use in an email campaign. It means knowing a little about photoshop and and little about spreadsheets. It's a whole lotta stuff I didn't learn in school. Maybe these days they are teaching student-potters how to do this stuff to stay above the waterline!

Anyway, I just wanted to check in and say that all is well on Snow Creek Rd. The chickens are all cozied up in their new chicken condo that John and I finished last week. The wind howls outside and the roads are icy. But the shop is open 24/7. Stacey and I have some great stuff for sale. click on the "shop" tab above to check some of the listings. [clicking the images will take you to ETSY.]

Time to make my rounds and check on the animals before I call it a day. Tomorrow it's shipping day! I bid you a good night!

Human Sandblaster

Michael Kline

John has taken on my derelict kiln shelves and his mission is to make them like-new or least "newish". After 36 firing in my kiln and who knows how many firings in the train kiln down in GA (where I picked them up second hand), the layer of kiln wash and wood ash, kiln wash and wood ash, had built up quite a bit. After a ridiculously absurd kiln shelf demo by moi, John went to work on them. About a half hour and a couple of shelves later, John came in to report that we should scrape those suckers completely and start over with the kiln wash! And he was absolutely right. I realized that I was blind to my own kiln shelf status quo (that's Latin for status quo)!!




John pointed out that not only did the layer add weight to the already heavy silicon carbide shelves, but it was also pretty brittle and would come off without too much effort. Well, it's a lot of work, but in the end, the shelves will be a bit lighter and we will gain a little real estate!

Some math: With the current layer of wash on the shelves at about 1/8th of an inch, maybe more on some, I figure with 24 shelves, that's about 3 inches in height! As you can see from the picture on the left there will be a whole lot of kiln wash crispies. I've started a bucket to save them. When John's done we'll weigh the bucket to see how much weight we'll not be lifting every time we load and unload the kiln!

Now it's time for some bisque ware rustling and hustling, some wax resisting and some crockery slipping.

Later.

Still Waiting

Michael Kline


I sort of took a day off on Tuesday.

There's much to do to prepare for the solo show in Asheville, attend to all the business stuff that I dropped to focus on the final push, etc. There's still a mess of slip and glaze to be mopped up in the shop. But I put a few things away and made room for the pots!!

All in all, though, it was a restful day. It felt odd not to be pushing so hard every minute and felt good that the work had been done. As it always does. There's so much satisfaction and relief that comes when that last brick goes into the door of the kiln and the fire is lit. As if the hard part was done and that the firing would be the frosting on the cake. But I can only say that because I always have a great crew that helps out tending to the fire. John Simmons brought all of his wood firing experience to bear and allowed me to take a nap while he single handedly made the transition from the lower firebox to the grates. A job that usually take two!

Alan Gratz made his first appearance since his teaching trip to Japan last Spring. He was focused and steady with his stokes and claimed at one point that he was "born to burn"!! (T-shirt idea!)

Micah Cain stopped by and helped us develop the new salting technique. While John cut the 1/2 inch thick boards to length, Micah loaded the boards up with salt. We then inserted the boards between the opposing stoke doors and rested them there so that the salt vaporized almost completely before the board was consumed. All the while Alan kept the firebox full of wood. [I have pictures on my phone to put here later, sorry]



Last night I took a peek into the kiln which was still about 450°F. Without melting my lense, I got this shot of a big jug with some pinkish blushes from the back of the kiln! I will get it unloaded on Thursday. With 3 inches of fiber insulation, it takes a while to really cool down, and I'm still a little gun-shy from my dunting in the past.

Details

Michael Kline




While adjunct potter, John Simmons is stoking up the kiln, I'm taking some downtime and downloaded a bunch of pictures from the last couple of days deco-rotation highlights. But I wanted to quickly share with you new strategy I'm employing in this firing, soda ash rocks!

I'm not sure what to call these things, but Emily Murphy uses them to salt (soda) her kiln. But basically they're a mixture of soda ash, baking soda, and whiting (calcium carb) which is mixed with lots of sawdust (but no dirt). Here's a link that explains the whole deal. Check it out.

Ironically I've been having trouble getting good sodium penetration in the upper part of the kiln. Hopefully these will take the place of salt cups that I've used in the past.
Here is a contextural shot showing the balls in place.

I'll try to get around to posting more deco highlights on the cooling days as well as some before and after! Follow the firing on my twitter feed, where I will make updates throughout the day.

Thanks.

Just a Coupla Pics Before I Unload the Kiln

Michael Kline

"Now everything's a little upside down
as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
What's good is bad, what's bad is good
you'll find out when you reach the top

You're on the bottom."--Bob Dylan, Idiot Wind


OK

I've been dragging my USB cable and digital camera baggage around all day and failed to post the other pictures and make further comments on the crazy weekend I had. I guess the "after the firing" recovery has taken more time than I thought it might. One shocking realization is that I'm not in my twenties anymore, and an all-nighter has serious implications on one's memory and alertness. The next firing will be different, I swear. [Or my sweet wife, may cease to be sweet to me]

Here is a series of pictures showing how my plates are wadded and fired. This technique was developed by my buddy Will way back when.


First my wadding station has a soft surface that won't chip the slip off of the pots. The wads are made with stiffer wadding so that they won't collapse under the weight of 4 or 5 plates.


Then glue is dropped on all of the wads, then sea shells from Pawley's Island are placed on the wads to make a nice flashing mark where the wad would have left just a dry white dot. The shells resist the salt and keep the plates from sticking, too.


Then the plates are carefully stacked. Just as with the kiln shelves where the posting has to be supported one above the other, the wadding has to be in-line.


Here is the actual stack placed in the kiln. On top of the stack are some cups that also have shells glued to the wadding.

Speaking of posts, aka. kiln furniture. I wad all of the posts so they will stack without wobbling. Also the soft wadding conforms nicely with crooked, warped shelves! Since I use a lot of these, the wadding process gets expedited by rolling a coil of wadding and the running the wadding along each corn and pinching off a little bit rather quickly. There's no need nor time for carefully rolling wads. These wads are glued on as well so that they won't fall off as I stack them into the kiln.

Link
My neighbor Tom Dancer brought over by a little box of glass from his days as a glassblower. I sprinkled some of the blue granulated stuff on these plates as an experiment. I also took some plate glass on the upper edges, hoping it will run down into the center a little bit.

Here's John Simmons, one of the heroes of the firing, coaxing the pyrometer into the 2000's. Not only did John bring a trailer load of kiln dried 3% moisture oak and poplar from Johnson City. He helped cut and stack it as well. John has a few pots in the kiln, and I hope he'll be rewarded for his giant efforts.


Here's John Geci, a neighbor and glassblower getting it hot at the end of the firing.


Here's Courtney Martin, Geci's newlywed, and I kicking some cone nine azz [as gary would say]. We're also sporting some Ayumi Horie His/Hers T's. Git your magic firing shirt here.

Well that's all for now. I'll unbrick and unload the kiln in the morning.

Quick Pix

Michael Kline

Night photo of wildflowers on the "walk home"

During a run of pottery making, it seems ironic that just when I feel invincible and able to make anything on the wheel, I have to stop and paint and glaze pots! I know at this point I am most likely repeating things I've said in the past. I guess we'll have to accept that. After all, this is post # 839. If I could just go for a couple more weeks I could probably make the same amount of pots I've made in last four or five. I'll be doing that next Spring preparing for my first kiln opening. (tentatively slated for May 8th of next year!!! Save The Date!) I'll work from January through March on making pots, April will be painting, glazing, and firing!

Meanwhile, back to the present...

I cut wood with John Simmons who is the current studio assistant up at Penland. John not only brought me a trailer full of kiln dried oak, but helped stack it this evening. John is a painter and a potter going to ETSU over the mountain in Johnson City, TN. Check out his web site here. Mad props to you John!


I managed to paint a whole bunch of pots tonight and snapped a few pictures. It takes me a day to get real, real going, and it takes me that long to get the designs flowing. To someone reading this blog for a while, it may seem hat the designs are always the same, vines, vines, vines! But subtle changes evolve and it's just a matter of me remembering it all, yet leaving enough room for new things to happen with this genre. So here are a few things that are fairly pedestrian and hopefully I'll explode tomorrow with more new foliage and maybe some birds. wooohoooo! Who knows what else may emerge during the coming days?